I’ve mentioned before how I used to live in Richmond VA & attended VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) many moons ago.
Near campus is the James River – and Belle Isle. People like to go there during the summer heat and swim around in the water and lay out on the big rocks near the shore.
(It actually looks kinda dumpy here but it was cute. Maybe it was also kinda dumpy, too. But that’s just good ole Richmond charm for ya.)
Anyway so right after I moved there, one weekend my two roommates Peggy & Autumn and a group of other friends decided to take the day and go hang out by the water.
There was a particular part of the river that had a huge jump-off rock with a deep pool underneath to jump into.
There was also a part of the rapids that allowed you to jump off of the rock and into a channel of water that brought you under and then down farther down the river.
(That swirling part on the bottom is where you jumped in. Yes. Absolutely terrifying, you’re right.)
On this particular day, the water was extremely rough. Very fast-moving and very strong.
I, am not a very strong swimmer. I can swim. But, not very well against a particularly strong current. So I should have been smarter and just stayed on the rocks.
I’m usually fairly cautious when it comes to this kind of stuff. I try not to put myself into fairly clear dangerous situations.
Usually I’m like,
( I’m kind of a old fuddy-duddy like that.)
Instead, that day I was bit by the “adventure” bug. The, “Oh! I’m young and free and should be doing wild and crazy stuff! Allow me to jump off these rocks into a swirling river current that leads into an even larger body of water somewhere who knows where! Vamos everybody!”
The thing was – in order to get to the big rock that allowed you to jump off, you needed to first swim across a large part of the river. Because the large jumping rock was smack dab in the middle of the dang river.
I thought, “Oh, no big deal. I can do this.”
I started across with my roommate’s boyfriend – who was probably about 125 lbs soaking wet – and we knew right away that we were in trouble. We tried to cross the river holding onto some of the smaller rocks, but obviously the farther in we got, the stronger the current was.
Eventually, we got about halfway between the shore and the big jumping rock. We were both clinging to this smaller rock with the jaws of life.
We were terrified of letting go, because we most definitely would be swept away in the current, into a very large portion of rocky rapids ahead.
Felt like they looked like this.
But they probably were more along the lines of this:
Whatever. Still scary.
One of my roommates – Autumn – is already on the big jumping rock and is yelling at me to continue over to her.
My other roommate – Peggy – was on the shore, screaming at me to ABORT. ABORT. GET BACK TO SHORE IMMEDIATELY.
Alas, I am stuck on the rock.
This is another one of those stories where I should have known better than to do something that I am clearly not prepared for.
It’s pretty clear at this point that the only way I’m leaving the rock that I’m clinging to is to literally let go and let the river take me where it may – and pray that I can swim towards the shore at some point down farther.
A friend on the shore yells out to me, “Hey! Just let go and the water is going to take you down the smallish rapids ahead. Just float on your back and let the water guide you down into the wading part.”
So, I let go.
I let go of the rock and the water takes me quickly. Along the way, my friend Peggy is trying to reach out and grab me from shore, but she’s still too far away.
So I brace myself for impact with the rocky rapids ahead of me. I try to grab onto any kind of rock along the way that I can – but there is too much moss n’ junk all over them and they are too slippery to hold onto.
I fall down the rapids and though it hurts – it’s not too bad. I think, “Okay! At least the worst is over! Now I can swim back to shore!”
Nope. Now the water is getting deep, as well as fast. I just keep floating down the river. I look up and the rock shore is super close but I’m going too fast still to grab it.
People are legit just watching me float down in amusement. I’m literally yelling out, “HELP. ME.”
And the people on shore are like,
Meanwhile all my friends are watching like,
The big problem that is because I was struggling so much before to grab onto other rocks and swim horizontally – I’m exhausted and don’t have a lot of strength left.
Finally I see a man and his family sitting on the shore near enough to me and I reach out and am like, “I. NEED. HELP. GRAB. ME.” and he finally recognizes that I’m not joking and runs over and pulls me out of the water.
(It felt a little like this, tbh.)
When I’m finally up and out of the water I look across the river to my friends and yell a bunch of mean things and then vow to never get into that river. Ever. Again.
I’m fairly scratched up but otherwise fine. Notably shaken and also slightly mortified, but fine.
I literally have NO IDEA what happened to my friend’s boyfriend who was clinging to the rock with me, by the way. LOL. I have no idea how he got off of the rock. I mean, I know he did. He’s not still there. I don’t think. 😉
So, moral of the story?
- If someone is yelling for help – they probably need help.
- If you can’t swim all that well – don’t get into a potentially dangerous fast-moving body of water.
- Again: If you can’t swim strong enough to survive, period – don’t go into the strong and deep water. Dummy.