My daughter Kai and I were perched at the top of the drop-off laughing uncontrollably. She was in my lap and we were about to slide down the algae covered surface into a swirling pool of water. The water rushed past us as we barely kept ourselves from shooting down the natural slide. She is good at letting me know when I’m pushing her too far and too fast. She said she wanted me to go first and then let her know how it was. We’d watched an older local man slide down numerous times with no problems, and he’d even gone head first a few times. I was confident it would be nothing but fun, but still acquiesced and went down alone.
After an exhilarating drop I landed in a small pool. Laughing, I waved at Kai and started to climb out. The surface was steep and covered with algae and I slipped back in. Suddenly, I was pulled by a current back to where the water entered the pool in a small waterfall. It pushed me down for a moment and I popped up back near the rock. I motioned for Kai to hold off until I was out and made a second unsuccessful attempt. Suddenly, it wasn’t so funny. I felt like I could get myself out eventually after trying some other strategies, but wasn’t at all sure that Kai could. And I was pretty sure I’d have some trouble getting both of us out if we circled around and around together in the hydraulic.
On my fourth attempt the older gentleman appeared on the side of the pool and nonchalantly extended a helping hand so I could scramble up on the dry rock. All I could think about was Kai, with her little body being pushed by the water into the slide. I looked up and she was barely keeping herself from sliding down. Running the calculation through my head I motioned for her to stay in place and asked the man to stay where he was in case I didn’t get to her in time. I could hear her laughing and yelling that she couldn’t hang on. I scrambled up the steep, rocky surface and got to her just in time to see her manage to pull herself over the back of the rushing water to the safety of the pool behind it.
After several very vivid nightmares about this I’m coming to terms with how close a call this was. I’ve spent most of my life honing rescue and prevention skills and have saved several hundred people. But, in this case, I did what we always advise tourists who visit our beaches not to do. We were having so much fun hiking and swimming and playing that I let my guard down and took a risk that could have caused something serious to happen to either my daughter, me, or the man who pulled me out.
A momentary lapse in judgment around water can be a big deal.