And now, standing upon the dunes, our eyes have wandered over the expanse of ocean with a glance more critical and inquiring as it drew near the shore. The salt savor of the breeze is at the same time a tonic and an anodyne; we are drowsy, but the sea yet draws us to itself with an irresistible impulse. The waves are rolling straight in, and breaking high and clean. Shall we plunge into their cool depths? Shall we combat their strength, or ride them as they come galloping from the blue to the green, and from the green to the white, until at last they fall spent upon the gray sand of the beach? Surely! Who is there can stand by and resist such temptation ! But wait! Surf-bathing is not a solitary sport. See ! the beach is thronged with gay toilets and bright sunshades, and the water has already given place to many. Watch that couple as they run gracefully down to the shore. They dash confidently out; now they have almost reached the line where the waves are breaking; he takes her hands, and they stand prepared to "jump" the breakers - and then! and then a big, foamy crest curls over them, and falls with a roar; and, as it rolls in, you think you see a foot reaching up pathetically out of its depth, and now a hand some yards away, until at last, from out the shallows of the spent wave two dazed and bedraggled shapes stagger to their feet, and look, first for themselves, and then for each other. A broad smile runs along the line of pretty toilets, and the gay sunshades nod their appreciation. There stand some men, just where the breakers comb; and, as each wave succeeds its precursor, and rises into a crest, you may see the half-dozen brownarmed figures shooting over, like so many porpoises, and plunging head foremost under the advancing hill of water. Look! there come some big ones - one, two, three of them! The bathers see them, too, and press out a few yards into deeper water; and then the diving commences. It is sharp work this time; the big ocean-coursers are running close upon each other's heels, and the heads scarcely emerge after the first before the second is curling directly above; now they have passed, and each breathless bather looks around to see how the rest have fared - three, four, five - but where is the sixth? A roar of laughter floats shoreward as a demoralized form is seen to gather itself up, almost upon the beach; that last breaker of the trio struck too quickly for him. He cannot tell you just how many somersaults he has turned since the ocean proceeded to take him in hand, but he is sure that they must have numbered somewhere among the
Figure 4 twenties. Yes, it is brisk sport, and we must "go in."
But then it does not look comfortable to be thrown; nor will it please our conceit to so minister to the good-natured mirth of that gay company. It is pleas-anter to be among the laughers; and so we shall be. To that end a few hints will perhaps be found useful; and even though what I shall say may, when said, seem to be obvious enough, yet it is amazing how few people will of themselves perceive the obvious, and utilize their perceptions. You, my scornful friend, who think you know it all, you will go to Southampton next summer, and, - the spirit of prophecy being upon me, - you will be thrown, ignomin-iously thrown, eight times inside of two weeks; so remember that much that is "obvious" is yet fairly occult after all, or at least might as well be, as far as practice is concerned. , And now to return to the ocean and to didactics.
We shall assume, in the first place, that you are able to swim; and further, that you are not minded to follow the inglorious, yet really dangerous, example of those who wait for a calm interval, and then, rushing through the line of breakers, spend their time swimming out beyond.
Well, then, take your place just where the seas comb. This point will vary somewhat with the height of the waves; but you will stand, for the most part, in water about waist-deep (as shown in Fig. 1). Should a particular breaker look to be heavier than the preceding, remember that it will strike farther out, and that you must push forward to meet it. Then, if you are where you should be, it will comb directly above your head. Wait until it reaches that point of its development (for if you act too soon or too late your chances of being thrown are greatly increased), and, with the white crest just curving over you, dive under the green wall of water that rises up in front. Dive just as you would from a low shore, only not quite so much downward, - say at an angle of twenty degrees off the horizontal (Figs. 2 and 3), your object being to slip under the incoming volume of water, to get somewhat into the "undertow," and yet to run no risk of running afoul of the bottom. The heavier the wave, the deeper will be the water in which you stand, and the deeper you can and should dive. If your antagonist be very big and strong, you will find it advisable to strike out the instant you have plunged, very much on the theory that as a bicycle will stand when in motion, and fall the instant it stops, so a man can, by swimming under water, keep control of and balance himself much better against the peculiar vibratory motion which one experiences when under a big wave, and surrounded by conflicting currents. Swimming will also tend to bring you to the surface again under full control; and, provided you have acted with judgment, you will find yourself, when the wave has passed, standing on about the line from which you plunged.
A thing good to remember, but difficult to explain the cause of, is, that extraordinarily heavy waves almost invariably travel by threes; that is, very often, when you have been standing at one spot, and taking perhaps a dozen breakers, you will of a sudden see, rolling in from the bar, a hill of water and foam much higher and heavier than those that have gone before. Then be sure that there are two more of similar magnitude close behind it, and push forward as fast as you can. If it seems very heavy, and you have time, you may try to get beyond the break, and ride them in comfort; but if this is impossible, you must dive low, swim, come to the surface promptly, dash the water from your eyes, and be ready for numbers two and three; and when all have passed, if you are still in good shape, you will find some long draughts of air very agreeable.