Papa and the Shark

I learned how to swim really well when I was 7 years old…and I LOVED IT ! Sometimes in the swimming pool, sometimes at the beach, but I would spend hours and hours enjoying swimming. My favorite place to swim was at a beach called the “Army/Navy” beach, when we lived in Puerto Rico. (That’s an island in the Caribbean Sea. Look it up on a map.)

It was at that beach that I also learned how to snorkel. The is a way to swim around on top of the water with your face looking down. I would wear a mask so I could see under water just like I can in the open air every day. I could keep looking down without raising my head up to breath because I also wore a snorkel. (That’s like a long tube you put into your mouth that sticks up out of the water through which you can breath). I also wore flippers on my feet that would allow me to paddle very fast and move me through the water.

I really loved to snorkel. When swimming in shallow water I could touch the bottom with my hands where I would run them under the sand looking for sand dollars (These are round creatures in a hard shell that live just under the sand.)

Sometimes I would gather up many sand dollars, put them in a bucket back on the beach and take them home. (Until one day when the sand dollars I took home all died and they began to stink and my mom told me I couldn’t bring any more of them home.)

There are so many beautiful and exciting things to see under the water! There are all kinds of fish, each with different shapes and colors. There are many different kinds of crabs that crawl around on the bottom. Sometimes I could even see little tiny sea horses too.

One of the more interesting kind of creature looked and felt just like rocks! They are called coral and they can form hard rock-like structures under water.

And then there was different kinds of plants that grow under water with different shapes and colors.

So you can see why I liked swimming at the beach so much and snorkeling too. It was a whole different world down there. Every time I would go I would have a hard time making myself quit swimming and go back to the beach, and then home again. But there was one time I didn’t have any trouble at all getting out of the water. It was the day I came face to face with a ten foot long shark !

I was swimming and snorkeling along just like I always did, but I lost track of time and the direction in which I was going. I just kept swimming and swimming, looking down and around at all the beautiful and interesting creatures. Suddenly I noticed that the bottom was getting farther and farther away from me. That meant that I was moving away from the beach instead of toward it! About that time I looked up ahead of me and there right in front was a great big metal net with iron bars blocking my way.

But what was one the other side of the net is what really caught my attention. There, not more than twenty feet in front of me was a ten foot long hammerhead shark !

Boy, did I turn around and swim as fast as I could to the beach !

I got out of the water and told my mom and dad about the big shark, but I was so out of breath and excited I could hardly talk. But they told me not to worry because that was what they had put the net in the water for. It was to keep all the sharks and barracudas away from the people swimming.

Well, I can tell you, I still loved to swim and snorkel, and I still went to the beach and did all the fun things I always did. But it took me quite awhile before I would let myself swim out close to the shark net again. In fact, I’m not sure I ever did after that.

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