While growing up in Orange County, California, my mother always took us to Huntington Beach, aka Surf City USA. We would pack baloney sandwiches, potato chips and Cokes wrapped in aluminum foil because we didn't have an ice chest. My mother would sit under the hot sun for hours while my little brother and I built sand castles, body surfed or boogie boarded. I remember how shockingly cold the water was at first, but then afer a few minutes how wonderful it felt. There was a sandbar in H.B. in those days. I would walk about 50 feet into the surf to a steep and deep drop-off into even colder water. Then I would swim as fast as I could for another 30 or 40 feet past the the first group of surfers whizzing by my head and imaginary sharks and sting rays brushing against my legs to get to the hidden sandbar that was about two feet underwater, about 20 feet wide and who knows how long.
From the sandbar I would stand in knee-deep water and look at the tiny people on the beach, which seemed like a mile away, or I would look out at the second group of surfers farther out. I felt on top of the world. Very few kids my age dared to venture past the underwater chasm and onto the sandbar. After standing there for a while, the hot sun and dried salt on my back would start to sting. Only then would I make the dreaded swim back to shore, exhausted but proud of my accomplishment. Swimming in the ocean creates quite an appetite: sandy boloney sandwiches have never tasted as good as they did back then. I don't think I ever made it home from the beach without swallowing a little sea water but it was a small price to pay for lifetime memories. Although Main Street and the H.B. pier look nothing like they did back in the 1970's, the ocean stays the same.