One City One Story 2016 Writing Contest: “A Vivid Memory”
Category 2: Grades 6-8
“A Whole New Underwater World”
by Alyssa Ho
Emperor Elementary School
It was a crisp, clear Tuesday morning as I was dragged onto the beach of Toyon Bay in my tight, tight wetsuit. I waddled backward like a penguin into the clear blue waters of the ocean with huge flippers that made a trail in the sand in front of me. I could not believe they were making me go snorkeling in the ocean when I had never gone snorkeling before! I thought we would practice in a pool or something first, then go out into the real ocean. The cold water was up to my knees now. I turned around, already seeing some of my classmates swimming toward our instructor. I was waist deep in the water now. It was now or never. Yet, I still could not get my body to flip over and swim. I thought about the reason I wanted to go to Catalina Island with my sixth grade class in the first place. I should enjoy snorkeling, but why was I so nervous? The worst that could really happen are getting mouthfuls of saltwater, getting stung by a jellyfish, or bitten by sharks. I took a deep breath, put on my snorkel, and my belly flopped into the blue waters.
The water was freezing. If I had not worn a wetsuit, I would be frozen into a human popsicle. The second problem was: how in the world was I supposed to swim with flippers three times the size of my feet? I struggled to swim. I swam about thirty feet into the ocean and just like that, my right flipper fell clean off! I stopped and floated like a buoy feeling the panic rise. With a shaky voice, I yelled for the instructor, Alex. I watched helplessly as she retrieved my flipper. Once I had my flipper back on, I continued swimming. Now it was time for step two: to start breathing underwater. I put the tube in my mouth, put on a brave face, and dunked my face into the icy water.
My eyes felt like they were going to pop right out of my face. It was a whole new world down there! There was too much to see. Schools of blacksmith were swimming to and fro underneath me! Garibaldi swimming aimlessly in the water while the kelp danced on rocks. I saw kelp bass, opal eye fish, senoritas, and even a lobster! The lobster was trying to run away from us, and while it was at it, it collided right into my chest. I guess it was too scared to see in front of itself. All in all, it was an amazing sight! So much color: black, orange, yellow, green, and red. I looked down and around, not paying attention to anything else, when BAM! It happened so quickly that if I blinked, I would have missed it all. Someone’s giant flipper smacked me right in the face! I sheepishly felt like that lobster that was not paying attention to where it was going. I there went my mask. I gasped and grabbed for it, but all I got was ocean water. Feeling desperate now, I searched frantically, and then I felt something solid. I grabbed it and pulled it out of the ocean. Fortunately, it was my mask. I quickly put it on, more secure this time. As our group got farther and farther from the towering cliffs, all I could see was nothing but sand. It was like looking down upon an underwater desert. The sand looked like powdered sugar. There were a few algae here and there and one or two fish swimming randomly like they were lost. I felt like I crossed over to the countryside of the ocean. The reefs were like the big cities. I searched for any signs of rays to entertain myself. It was like a game of hide-and-seek. Not surprisingly, someone else found the ray first. We all crowded around to see. To our amazement, it was not even a ray; it was a halibut, or as I liked to call it, a sideways fish. The gray halibut was half buried in the sand when we found it. It was almost perfectly camouflaged, but the bulging eyes gave it away. We stared at it for a good thirty seconds. After the discovery of the halibut, we discovered a bat ray. The bat ray was huge and it looked like it was eating something. A group of fish kept distance watched like sea scavengers. While we were headed back to homeland, I realized how tired I was. My legs felt like rubber. As I got closer and closer, the fewer animals I saw. I felt discouraged as my day was coming to an end, but suddenly, our group halted to a complete stop. There was only sandy bottom when I looked down. I slowly looked down in front of me. I gasped in surprise that turned to excitement. Leopard sharks!
My heart skipped a beat, and all that tiredness swam away from me. There was a whole pod of them. I counted eight. The sharks were like cats prowling in and out through a haze of dust. Their tails were swishing side to side on their massive body. I could not believe I was actually swimming with the sharks. As much as I was interested in them, I kept my distance. Our group cautiously swam around the sharks. Soon they were little specks in the distance.
The sandy bottom seemed to rise as we approached the beach. I let the waves push me the rest of the way. Soon, I could feel the bumpy rocks rubbing against my belly; that was the signal to stand upright. With my back to the beach, I walked up to the shore backwards, back to reality, but still my eyes fixated on the view of the ocean. I stumbled a bit from the powerful waves and remembered for just a moment my fears at the start of this adventure. I smiled.