My Hasselhoff Moment

Some people stand in the darkness, afraid to step into the light. On the other hand, some people need to help somebody when the edge of surrender’s in sight.

Don’t you worry – it’s gonna be alright.

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So the other day I was swimming in the Black Sea at Solar Beach in Kilyos, Turkey. It’s a really nice beach – I highly recommend it if you get the chance to go – and apparently Paul Oakenfold did a show there this weekend, which is impressive because he’s like the most famous DJ ever, and one of a very small number that I have actually heard of.

Anyway, I’m in the ocean, sort of wading and having a good time, when a man swimming with his son a few meters away says something to me in Turkish. At first I ignored it and assumed that if it was important, my friend, who I was swimming with, would translate it. When the guy shouted again his voice seemed urgent, and I asked my friend what he wanted. “He needs help,” she said.

So what had actually happened was that the guy somehow ended up in the part of the swimming section with like a weird cold undertoe that tries to pull you out to sea, and where it’s deep enough that I can only just touch my toes to the bottom and that only when there isn’t a wave. I don’t think the guy’s life was ever actually in danger – I mean, his son (who was maybe four) was in a flotation device of some kind, and there was a rope between the two of them and the watery oblivion of the deep blue sea. If anything the guy could have let the current carry him to the rope and then used it to pull himself to shore.

However, being in water is scary sometimes. It’s disorienting, it’s not like what you’re used to, it’s all around you, and it can kill you very, very easily. I think the guy just panicked a little because he was worried about his kid and was maybe not the most experienced swimmer. Also apparently there are a lot of drowning deaths in the Black Sea.

So I went over and got him and towed him and his son back to the shallows. It was surprisingly challenging – I forgot how much you rely on your hands for swimming, and so actually trying to swim one-handed against a current is generally a bad idea: you’ll tire yourself out in no time, and then you also have to be rescued.

I grew up on the Atlantic coast. My dad started taking me to the beach at a very young age, and I also had a pool in my yard, and so I was basically raised to be comfortable in the water. My dad used to take me out past the breakers, and after the second or third time I was no longer abjectly terrified by the experience – once I found out how peaceful and rhythmic it is out there, where the waves carry you gently up and down. When my parents got divorced, my mom remarried and her second husband also used to take us to the beach, and since my parents shared custody that meant that I actually had two teachers to show me when to jump over a wave and when to dive under it, how to use the motion of the waves to get back to shore quickly and with little effort, and what to do in various situations of danger or potential danger. “Don’t swim against the current,” my dad would always say.

This guy and his son reminded me of my dad and I, a little – except that my dad was a stronger and more experienced swimmer – but I realized that I’m now at the age – 29 – that my dad was at when he was teaching me how to swim at the beach, when I would cling to him, relying on him to be mightier than the ocean. I’m now at that age, and I have managed to follow in his footsteps in this particular case.

So I held the man’s hand, and when a wave came I used the low in front of it to dip down and kick off the sand, and pulled him along with the wave front, and then I set myself to resist the outgoing current that followed the wave. Like a ratchet – using the ocean to gain ground and saving my strength to avoid losing it again. It took maybe four or five waves before we got to a point where he could safely set his feet down again. For me, it was pretty easy – second nature, to someone who’s been swimming in the Atlantic for two and a half decades. I wasn’t even winded.

I felt like David Hasselhoff.

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Yeah, I know people find him kind of hilarious these days, but I grew up watching Knight Rider. Hasselhoff was the fucking bomb if you were a kid in the 80’s (although MacGuyver was superior in every way to Michael Knight, KIT blew everything else out of the water.) The Hoff kept scoring these roles where he played reasonably competent but mostly average characters who were, by some sort of cosmic stroke of luck, surrounded by awesome cars, beautiful women, and all sorts of other awesome hedonic things. I often feel like Hasselhoff – that I haven’t really done anything to merit the various highs and lows of my life, that I’m just going along for the ride and that the car is the one doing all the thinking for me. This time I got to play the lifeguard instead of the passenger. Cool.

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