Wade Rouzer: God in the riptide

Published 6:54 am Sunday, July 24, 2016

By Wade Rouzer

Special to the Salisbury Post

I have always loved adventure, especially in lakes and the ocean. That’s where Mom and Dad brought us up during the summers at Windy Hill Beach and High Rock Lake. Dad gave us a flat-bottom row boat to learn how to navigate through the surf and to enjoy the beauty of the beach from beyond the crashing waves.

In my second career as the youth minister for St. James Lutheran Church in Concord, I was glad to follow their tradition of going to the U.S. National White Water Center. We always had a great time, knowing we were just steps away from a lifeguard.

Did any of this prepare me for a riptide adventure that was far away from the protection we might need?

I recently retired and bought two ocean kayaks. I made it sound like I did it for my grandchildren.

This summer one of my four daughters went to Windy Hill Beach with her friends and her daughter, Amy, an outdoorsy girl preparing to attend Purdue University and major in forestry. Amy was excited about finally getting to kayak in the ocean by learning to guide the boat over and through the white foaming waves.

We planned to get up early and put the kayaks out into the oceanfront of Windy Hill. The ocean was rough, so to be safer we went to the back waters of Cherry Grove Beach. The tides would be going out, making it easier to paddle out to the ocean through the inlet at the north end.

The clear blue skies gave us a beautiful day, with the winds lightly blowing at our backs. By the time we got to the inlet, the tide should be ready to start coming back in and we would have another easy paddle back to our 53rd Street boat dock. The 5-mile trip would take a maximum of two hours.

As we approached the inlet we decided we had time to let this tree-hugger granddaughter experience a part of a 1,100-acre land preserve and its windstorm-shaped trees. We paddled our way in the shallow water around the island and went to the ocean side with ease.

The view would almost take our breath away, seeing Cherry Grove’s northern beach from almost a mile away. Now we could easily get through the smaller waves and reach our dream of being in the ocean and riding in on the incoming tide.

As we began to ride the waves in, we found ourselves getting little closer. We paddled harder to get into position with the waves.

All of a sudden, the waves got bigger and started rolling farther away. Then the waves seemed to come at us from several directions and rolled us over and out of our kayaks. Again and again we tried to get control of the kayaks, paddling harder. But the waves got higher and stronger.

We thought we would sit it out, but another wave tossed us both off the kayaks. Again, we managed to get back on board and paddle.

Then one wave slammed harder. It knocked Granddaddy hard and carried his kayak out of sight. He lost his Shrimp Boat ball cap and both water bottles. The glasses he can’t live without managed to hang onto his ear.

Granddaddy calls out, “It’s time to admit we gotta have some help. What do you think?”

A sweet giggle and a smile says, “Yeah, you’re right. Soon, Granddaddy.”

The experience of a lifetime is not what we planned, but God’s plan was to teach us something more important. The God of Heaven was our true lifeguard and he has helpers.

Amy had Granddaddy turn around to see a tall young man on a paddle board coming our way.

Smiling, he asked, “Do you need any help? We were watching you from a tower on the end of the beach with our binoculars and decided to check on you. I’ll give them a signal and get a Jet Ski to help you. “

Fifteen minutes later, two more lifeguards show up on a large Jet Ski to take us back across the inlet, giving us water and doing a quick exam to be sure we are OK. They find our kayaks and pull them to the beach side for us to load.

One more angel showed up, the beach policeman. He asks, “Do you want to paddle back to the dock or would you like me to load them up and take them back for you?”

He read our smiles before we could say yes and quickly took one end of a kayak and suggested with a nod that I get the other. Some questions do not need answers, right?

Was this five-hour trip an experience of a lifetime for us? What do you think?

Like the Whitewater Center, whose staff and lifeguards kept us safe and controlled the water flow, do you think God was looking out for us with the help of his angels?

Do you really need us to answer that question?

Wade Rouzer lives in Salisbury.