Another Warning to Northerners on the Great Lakes Vacationing Near an Ocean

It’s not a lake.

Krista Bennett


Photo by Sean on Unsplash

I grew up on Lake Erie in northern Ohio.

I moved to Ventura, California, right after high school.

I knew nothing about the ocean.

Zuma Beach, California, 1984

An Ohio girl flies to L.A. in 1984 to follow a guy. He picks her up and takes her to their new home in Ventura, California.

A commune of hippies and Navy folk sharing a living space.

The first weekend I was in my new home, the group I lived with decided to head to Zuma beach for a day of sunning and drinking.

I was on the swim team in high school and loved to swim growing up on Lake Erie.

But a chlorinated pool and a lake are much different than the powerful Pacific Ocean.

A few housemates were into body surfing, and I wanted to try it.

The first wave I caught, I was hooked.

I body surfed for hours. Over and over, we swam out into the surf. Turning around and swam hard towards shore before the wave would pick us up in the froth and catapulted us forward on top of the cresting water.

I learned quickly the straighter and stiffer I held my body, the further I went on top of the wave.

It was awesome, dude!

By Author in Canva

I have no idea how much time had gone by. It felt like I had been swimming for hours.

Growing up on Lake Erie, I wasn’t accustomed to tide schedules and undercurrents. Or “rip tides,” as the native Californians in my group called them.

I remember noticing that the water was getting deeper. Not that I was going out any further, but the tide was coming in, and the water was rising up above our chests.

I thought I should get closer to shore and tried to swim towards the spot where everyone was hanging out on land.