In the summer of 2008, after I, my mother and my sister had been in London for a week, going on The London Eye and visiting The British Museum, we traveled to the small seaside town of Eastbourne to relax away from all the hustle of big city tourist attractions for a few days before returning to Norway.
We relaxed, went to the cinema, I ate boar-steak at a restaurant, we watched the season finale to series 4 of Doctor Who in the hotel lobby and, crucially, tried to go swimming.
The wind was pretty bad that day, but it as sunny and warm. Due to living so close to the beach we had been wanting to go for a swim for some time, but now this desire was overwhelming to the point where no mere wind could ever deter us.
Our mother wanted to relax and read in the hotel room that day, and she mistakenly thought that her eighteen year old son would be able to keep himself and his sister safe for an hour by themselves.
I seem to remember that someone had even put up “Do not swim!” warning-flags by the beach, but we figured they had just done it early to be safe, that the weather was going to get worse later.
The waters seemed quite calm after all.
We entered the sea, and within seconds I was getting tossed around like a rag-doll. We were still in shallow waters, so I sometimes got knocked down in the sand and rocks.
When I was not getting knocked into stuff, I was having trouble orienting myself, not knowing up from down.
I feared that my younger sister was having an even harder time with the forces of nature than I was. I feared that she, or both of us, would never be able to get out of the sea again.
After what felt like ages, but was probably just a few seconds, the waves finally calmed down enough that I could break free and stand up.
I spotted my sister, who had also just managed to stand up, and we quickly started wading towards the shore.
When we reached dry land, I heard snickering.
I spotted a small group of guys sitting on the beach, laughing at us, and I realised how silly and non-threatening it all must have seemed from an outside perspective.
After all, the waves seemed quite safe to us before we entered, so for them to see two tourists tumbling around in what seemed like mostly calm waters must have been hilarious.
Well, lesson learned.
Take warnings seriously, even when all seems safe.