Bulgaria, Pt. 2: Waves and Other Offtopic

Sometimes, when I come to the beach, or just let myself relax for a moment, I have a feeling that some little nosy minions (like the ones from Despicable Me) open a journal and start writing there, pushing one another away, and all this inside my head. Fellow minions are definitely interested in water safety issues, as well as in wavesurfing techniques and fun sun facts. They also like food. But who doesn’t? In general, they’re big fans of structuring stuff that is not usually supposed to be structured. Still, gotta give the little ones some space for self-expression…

There have recently been an impressive amount of vampire-related movies and TV series created. As phantasmagoric as they are, one detail from vampires’ everyday life may seem very familiar to those who travel or live in southern cities. That very special relationship with the sun.
It’s almost 4 pm here, in Sozopol, and the sun is bright and shining. In fact, too bright. That special daytime brightness that makes you want to stay at home, which I am gladly doing. It makes you feel that if you walk out of the house, your skin will catch fire. And actually, no matter how much sun protection you’re wearing, the feeling will still be unpleasant. I guess all these siestas didn’t appear out of nowhere. Or, say, as my friend from Saudi told me, when people switch daylife to nightlife – due to religious matters, in time of fasting. But this time also happens to be the hottest in the year. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
I remember visiting Washington – at the exact same time last year, early August. On day 2 I seriously doubted I would make it to the shadow. It felt like my whole body was melting down, and there wasn’t enough oxygen in the air, and I was moving like through some thick steamy substance that took too much effort to get through. When I finally made it to Smithsonian Natural History museum, I just sat down on the cold stone stairs and it took a while before I could stand up. The vampire in me was definitely close to true death. The museum was beautiful.
Well, maybe all of the above was to justify my sitting at home right now. My life in here begins after five pm – I go to the sea, I have awesome dinner, I walk, and so on. And it’s not even as hot as Washington. Interesting, but in Thailand, which is way hotter than Bulgaria, I felt like going out all day long. Oh wait, there were trees all the way down the road, and lots of shadow…
Anyway. Sounds like there are waves out there. It’s really hard to swim this year, the water just won’t stay calm. With the green flag up which means “do whatever you want” you still feel the motion sickness if you try to swim with your swimming goggles on, diving into the water after each breath you take. When the yellow flag comes up, you can’t really do even this, because whenever you raise your head, a wave smashes into your face, and you can’t take another breath. So when I say I’m swimming here, it’s actually an exaggeration. I wavesurf here, and the waves are best at sunset.
BY saying “wavesurf”, of course I don’t mean that real board surfing. Firstly, no such huge waves in the area; secondly, I can’t keep normal balance on my two feet, and – a desk on the water?!
Nevermind. So I’ve been watching people for a week now, and I can say with a firm that they’re doing it wrong. When an awesome big wave approaches, they mostly jump up, or dive under it. Trust me, that’s no fun. The real fun is estimating the wave’s potential and thus choosing the right way to deal with it. If it’s not very big, the best way is to “fly” over it. To do that, you have to face the wave, “climb” it with one fast paddle with your arms and then completely relax your body (press activated) so that it slides down the wave from the other side. And keep your arms spread like you’re a glider. However, if you try to do this with a big wave… Just don’t. You’ll be thrown back and may get hurt. It’s also fun to put your head down in the water during the process, preferably if you’re wearing goggles. It creates a full illusion of zero gravity.
However, it happens quite often that while you’re approaching the wave with open arms, it starts falling down – and that white foamy top appears. No matter what size, but it won’t be pleasant, whether you’re trying to jump over it or slide under it. The only way to not be dragged away and stripped off your swimwear is to dive right under the foamy top, in the middle of the wave. And keep your head down. Always keep your head down when you dive under the wave.
There are also a few tricks for the confident ones. One is to face the wave with your legs towards it and let it slide under you. Works fine with small waves. Big ones will just make you eat some sand – or inhale some water, which is no way safe.
Another trick is when you’re half-way “flying” through the wave but realize that it’s a bit bigger than expected and you may not be able to keep the balance. In that case, you quickly collect your legs and pull them to your chest. This way the wave goes through you (almost), and because of the movement you stay at the same spot where you were.
And, the one I really like, but that can end unwell if you underestimate the wave power – the 360 degrees turn. Say, you’re getting close to the wave, preparing to enjoy it, you’re almost there… But it starts falling down, and it’s hella big and that load of foam goes straight your way. Generally, it can carry you all the way back to the shore, with you mainly underwater. So what you do is you jump up, turning around at the same time. If done correctly, you meet the wave with your shoulder, and when you finish the turn, it’s already gone.
And yeah, wavesurfer’s rule number one: a wave never comes alone. Usually the amount of big waves coming your way (we’re talking about regular calm sea, right?) ranges from three to five, but there might be more. So no respite! Losing control in the middle of the wave “session” may get you in trouble no matter what depth it is. Also, there should always be oxygen in your lungs, so use it wisely and make sure to refill at any opportunity. And follow the rule: nose is for breathing out. Mouth is for breathing in. So if the bad thing happens and you inhale some water, stop the reflex: no breathing. Concentrate on getting your head out of the water, exhale forcefully a couple of times, and then inhale with your mouth.
My worst wavesurfing experience was on Mallorca. It was a beautiful beach with snow-white sand, hot as hell, near the famous Arta caves. And there weren’t usually any waves. Well, we were lucky… Or “lucky”. After half an hour of struggling, I crawled ashore with a feeling that I was just beaten with baseball bats. My whole body was in scratches and my head hurt. A wiser friend was philosophically watching me from the shore. What happened was that I didn’t really think of waves’ strength, underwater currents (!), consistency of sand… and yes, goddamned stones, into which the wave threw me underwater. If I was smaller, or a worse swimmer, or had certain health issues, or was less lucky, that could have ended real bad. In fact, I think that safety on the water should be a part of kindergarden talks and school life safety classes (together with first aid, which is also absent). And parents should actually attend…
Anyway, the sun looks less aggressive now, and I’d better go for a waverace until it gets chilly. I’m planning to go to the Old Town (that very ancient part of Sozopol) later today.

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