February 10, 2012 by  
Filed under ForLife, GuamWatermen'sClub

Hafa Adai,

Let me start by saying that I consider myself forever a student in the water and though I feel I’m not anyone to say—im going to say it anyways. In a 32mile long island where the beach is inevitable and never more than 30minutes away—Its in our islands best favor to make a harder push for improved water safety awareness and water safety education.

My name is Roman Dela Cruz and aside from bodyboarding for the past 25years I have been standup paddling TumonBay the past 5 just as often if not more than anybody else and after seeing a growing interest– just wanted to give some proper caution to folks possibly looking into surfing those waters and also for some insight on that reefline in general.
I was paddle surfing over the reef at Tumon Bay this past weekend and had to run the risk of spoiling what might’ve been some serious fun when aggressively advising 3 younger paddlers (in 2kayaks) to leave and to go back towards shore. I don’t really care to yell at anyone and generally hate aggression towards people but had to take drastic action because of a drastic situation. You were heading towards the real impact zone, enroute to freak sets that were much bigger than they might have appeared from shore. Maybe you could’ve landed a backflip gloriously for a photo finish and story of a lifetime or you could’ve been enroute to a violent thrashing between coral heads. The kayak that you capsized would’ve been a hundred times more difficult to turnover in the whitewash even if you could’ve held on to it, the tide was fast pulling out and there was less than an hour left of sunlight..

\I’m not sure if it was the same bunch that came back out regardless or if it was a different one but though you did catch some nice waves true—you were extremely lucky that the bigger ones had backed off because the waves you caught and the place you were waiting were done so in the danger zone.

As inviting as the waves might look and as sunny as the sky might’ve be—it’s a real bad call to chance those waves unless you are fully prepared for the dangers that come with it.
Undercurrents most aren’t aware ,a razor sharp coral reef, and the unbelievable power of sizeable surf can turn a moment of paradise into a state of panic and disaster in a second. The reef were dealing with has already scarred countless strips of human flesh(including mine)—and just yards away from another surf spot on the reef that unfortunately claimed the lives of two young paddlers barely a year ago January 2nd of 2011.

It has been more than a year since this heartfelt tragedy and unfortunately still—many of us haven’t learned from a mistake too often made—the underestimation of our surrounding reefs and waters. Almost a year to the date—our papers almost had to write the headlines of another 2 tragedies in Tumon Bay—this time with 2 standup paddlers last Saturday afternoon. Had it not been for the fine work of our Department of Parks and Recreation lifeguards—we might’ve been starting the new year with another hard lesson in water safety.
Launching off the same beach on the first weekend of the new year—with waves double overhead over the reef and the tide outgoing…without the sensibility to at least have a leash to your board is an extremely bad decision. Obviously we all still need a lot of work…
The dangers of the reefline at Tumon Bay are no joke when its flat and can be a real monster, especially when waves are in that picture. In the midst of enjoying the paradise of where America’s Day begins–We gotta try to remember to not allow alcohol and the spirit of adventure cloud the air of common sense. Death defying acts unfortunately don’t always defy death but if adventure must be our pursuit then we should at least go to far measures to be prepared to do so.

When approaching water—remember that we are dealing with something very much alive and something very much capable. It moves in many ways, and what works for uscan just as easily work against us and vice versa. To arrive properly into its dynamics it’s always best to have a god understanding and/or to get a qualifiable opinion of its current conditions. If you’re planning a day at the beach—at least understand what the tides are doing. Its on page 6 of the pdn or if youre frequent—keep a tide chart handy. Know what time the sun is setting so youre not venturing into the darkness and always always always keep an eye on the kids. It’s not much but its definitely a start.

Tumon Bay seems to be more active than ever…The paddlers are blazing up and down the coast, as they avoid swimmers getting their, while skimboarders slide along the beach where friends and families might be barbecuing. The hotels are having their dinner shows, the tourists are taking their photos, while a growing amount of runners continue to enjoy the view as the stand up paddlers happily enjoy the best seat in the house (haha)…

The waters of Tumon Bay are truly a place to be but, like anywhere else, are to be done so with extreme caution. From the reef –the lifeguard towers are a lot further than they look and people far and away cant necessarily recognize your screams of help if a situation over the reef goes bad. When in doubt—don’t go out. You’ll live to ride another day.

Im not gonna lie—I’m the guiltiest guy of going over that reef when its cranking but im putting in a ton of work and preparation before doing so…and still im just asvulnerable. Suuuuper stoked on Tumon Bay and its waters…and knowing for sure that its best enjoyed when done so responsibly, preparedly, and in effect truly respectfully.

Lets not wait for another tragedy and progressively exercise better awareness in water-safety to pave the way for less if not zero tragedies in the future and to work hard to develop the tools and skills—for a better chance to turn the monster into majesty, for a better understanding of what to do when a situation goes bad, and for the humility and sensibility to sometimes just sit back, watch, and appreciate.

Roman Dela Cruz
Tumon Bay Resident
Concerned Citizen


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