I was one of those kids in high school who did not fit into a particular social group. I played water polo, swam on the swim team, played in the band, a lifeguard at the beach and was a science nerd. I even had a landscape business on the side. I was not one of those popular kids. By anyone’s measure I had it together and was successful but inside I was empty and lonely. But I always had the dream of doing something great like going to the Olympics or creating some new energy source.
At the end of the summer of playing lifeguard at Huntington Beach Jr Lifeguard program between my sophomore and junior year in high school, I had the opportunity to participate in the ultimate marathon, or in todays terms an “Extreme Marathon,” with 15 other lifeguards. We spent most of the summer training so I thought I could do this. It was a race from Point Conception in the middle of California to Huntington Beach. It was about 210 miles of running, 20 miles of swimming and about 20 miles of rock hopping. 15 of started the trip and only 5 of us made it to the end and we did this in 5 days.
The trip started at Jalama Beach just north of Point Conception. Our first major hurdle was getting around Point Conception. If you look at a map of California, you see the coast of the state come to a point. It is one of the roughest points on the coast the northern current and southern currents come together and go out into the ocean. The water on one side was 52 deg F and the other side was 62 deg F and on a calm day the water goes up and down 15 feet. There are numerous shipwrecks in this area. Despite the cold and the 15-foot surge it was not too bad until we hit the southern current, it was warmer, but you would swim for 10 minutes and get about 10 feet. Helping each other we all finally got around the point and then it was miles and miles of empty beach. I was the runner of the group, so I was out ahead of everyone else. It was strange I was alone but for some reason I did not feel alone. As I found out later, I wasn’t alone.
On this adventure I had 3 separate circumstances where I could have died but it was like someone was looking out for me. The day before we started, we stopped by Point Mugu to check out how difficult it would be to go around and while we were there a fisherman hooked a 8-10 foot shark which kind of makes you think twice about swimming around the point. When we finally got there, we ended up in 2 groups one swam around, and one climbed around. I was in the climbing group. I was about halfway around when a large set of waves came in and almost knocked me off the point into the jagged rocks below but somehow, I was able to not fall. The next life-threatening event took place at Hueneme Fishing Pier I started swimming around the pier and the fisherman started yelling at me. I figured that they were not happy with me disturbing their fishing. When I got back to shore the lifeguard came running up to me and said “they hooked a 9-foot blue shark earlier and it was chasing you around the pier. I remember seeing something in the water behind me I thought it was a bird I was glad that I caught that wave in to shore. That was a little unnerving, but I still did not tell the guys behind me.
If you have ever been up the coast to Carpentaria there is an island called Rincon Island where there is an oil drilling rig about a mile out with a bridge out to the island. There were 2 more piers next to it. We called it a bridge, but our leader called it a pier. Because the rules state that we had to swim around all piers and places we could not run around. The water was in the mid 50’s. When I got to it I started swimming and about ¾ the way through I was suffering from hyperthermia. I did not have much excess insulation. I was probably a ½ mile out when the last thing I remember was thinking that “I am going to die.” And I blacked out. The next thing that I knew was I found myself lying on shore not knowing how I got there a pale shade of blue and my body in spasms. I managed to make it to our next stop, and they had to pour hot chocolate down my throat because I was shaking so bad. They told me just keep running that I would eventually warm up. Which I eventually did. Coming that close to death starts to make you think about spiritual things. I was wondering if angels were real because I think one just saved me.
Along the way after the 2nd day we would have news crews stop us on the beach and interview us. I guess if you have 15 lifeguards running down the beach people start asking questions. 5 days later there 5 of us left out of the 15 and the last mile the other 10 guys joined us to finish the race. There were hundreds of people lining the beach and, on the pier, cheering us on with the TV cameras on the pier capturing the moment.
I got back a few days before my 16th birthday and my girlfriend gave me a bible for a birthday present before she was off to college. I was thinking “Bible what do I need a Bible for?” But she wrote a note Infront that hit me it said the following:
“This is the best present I could ever give to you because love is never-ending and life is eternal when you believe in God, live with Him and He will be with you always.”This described the kind of friend that I was looking for one that would love me and never leave me. My best friend Mark invited me to Church with him and I asked questions about God and they explained that He died for my sins and If I believed in him that I would have eternal life. After almost dying you start to take these things a little more seriously. That night I said to God “I don’t know if you are real but if you are I will give you a try. Please forgive me of my sins and come into my life. I remember the next morning waking up and that emptiness that I had felt inside was gone and it has been a wild ride with God ever since.