I remember going to the beach as a kid growing up in Southern California. I have very fair skin and usually sunburned before I was there very long. After a few summers I became proficient at building sand castles, skim surfing and surf Frisbee, and as a teen I would head to the piers as often as I could to fish for bonita. That wasn't very often.
The last time I visited Long Beach while I still lived in the L.A. area, it clouded up and a curtain of lightning bolts appeared on the sea's horizon. That storm closed in pretty quickly and I shot to my car and raced it home. The lightning and I arrived at the same time, with bolts striking towers and trees all around me. It was terrifying, but I did get to see ball lightning for the first and only time.
The oceans were created, according to current scientific thinking, millions of years ago by the escape of water vapor and other gases from volcanoes and the molten rocks of the Earth into the atmosphere, surrounding the cooling planet. Adding to this condensation was water and ice delivered by asteroids and comets over centuries or millennia. Without this phenomenon, it is unlikely life would have formed on earth, and we wouldn't be here.
According to NOAA, the ocean produces over half of the world's oxygen and absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere. It transports heat from the equator to the poles, regulating our climate and weather patterns. From fishing to boating to kayaking and whale watching, the ocean provides us with many unique recreational activities. The world's oceans provide more than just seafood, with ingredients from the sea found in foods such as peanut butter and soymilk. Many medicinal products come from the ocean, including ingredients that help fight cancer, athritis, Alzheimer's disease, and heart disease.
But the waves! Waves are most commonly caused by wind. We have all seen cresting waves during a wind storm over a large lake or ocean, and this happens continuously somewhere in whatever vicinity you are located. Waves can also be caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun (tides), by a weather or land disturbance off shore, such as during a hurricane or after an earthquake (tsunamis), or with large ships or land masses pushing the ocean ahead of them.
There is a long, detailed explanation as to why we have crashing waves at our shoreline, including orbital motion of the ocean's kinetic energy, but I find the mystery and wonder more appealing than the minutia. One need only stand on the beach or a cliff's edge for a few seconds watching nature's magic to get lost in it. The combination of the rhythmic pounding of the waves on the shore and the cadence of its crashing sounds, along with a continual rumble of all of the shoreline waves together can sooth one's soul and calm one's heart.
I received some excellent comments from friends, fans and followers on this subject. Here are a few of those (some have been edited or paraphrased):
Ayub B.- Oceans have unlimited majesty and mystery, every beach has lethal attraction, not less mysterious than Bermuda Triangle. Ah, oceans really connect us, not separate!!
Canadian Hellie- There's nothing like a soft, warm breeze from the ocean on a hot evening. The views of the ocean meeting the sky is like none other.
Bill J. and Diane M.- Right now we are happy because the temperatures are reasonable here by the ocean, while inland they have had hot weather. We are about half a mile from the Pacific on the Washington State coast.
Ed R. (OCREF)- I love the Northern Washington coastal area. While I was attending the University of Washington in Seattle getting my Masters Degree, I was fortunate enough to have a 25' Chris Craft Connie. I used to love cruising the San Juan Islands on weekends. The wonderful breezes from the ocean! I'm fortunate to now have a beachfront home in California -- some very beautiful summer days, foggy days, cold winter days when the wind blows and the surfs up!!! All are awesome!!!
BLSMSS- Oceans make me happy for the sweet smell it has. You know you're getting closer to it when every smell you take gets sweeter. The calming feel I get from the blue waters for miles is amazing. To realize families and friends we have, some of their families crossed them at one time to get to our great country, without that we may have never met. To see all the beautiful creatures that live there, another of nature’s beauty.
Habadabeer- Looking out at the ocean is like taking in the night sky -- it gives you a better sense of scale, and lets you see things from a whole new perspective. My Dad was in the Navy in World War II. He went straight to boot camp from our little hometown in upstate New York, then shipped out across the Pacific to Hawaii for his first duty station. He was looking out at the horizon in all directions one evening when one of his supervisors asked him what he was thinking. My Dad said, “That’s a lot of water!” His NCO said, “Yeah, and that’s just the surface!”
Curt603- I love the activity at a marina -- people watching!
Bill22- You can always tell when you're near the ocean even if you can't see it. Just take a deep breath and smell the salt air. There's nothing better.
"The Brews Cruise" Ken & Ara- The smell of the salt air and the view of the vast expanse of water -- something magical happens as stress fades away; breathing brings a relaxing feel. I love being at the ocean.
Bob & Maria- I like the smell of the salt air, going snorkeling and seeing all of the marine life. We have been to the Caribbean a number of times and love the different greens and blues of the ocean. Of course, there's nothing like a moonlit walk on the beach, hearing the gentle waves touch the beach then recede.
ff1946- We live on a boat from November to May in the Florida Keys. We can’t stay away from salt water very long...
See Spot Run RV- I love the ocean's colors of blue and green. I love to hear the crashing of the waves and riding them into shore, the smell of the sea salt. There is a calming to be near the sea. It's always fun to play in the water.
Bruce & Linda (Omnibus)- I like that fact that, besides being filled with life, the ocean itself seems to be alive; constantly in motion with a wide range of moods.
Trailerite- I love a rocky coastline -- the sights and sounds are mesmerizing. But the smells of a beach and wetlands makes me very relaxed. The best, though, is going to sea on a not-too-large ship. It makes me feel so small and makes me realize how large God is. The ocean takes on so many colors and moods way out in the middle of it.
Nadyne H.- Even though I prefer lakes, as bodies of water go, I enjoy camping near the Pacific Ocean for the sound of the waves and the beauty of the waves crashing against the shore.
Donna B.- The sound of the waves, the smell of the air, I love the ocean. Unfortunately, I can’t go to the beach, my skin can’t take much sun exposure.
Peggy H.- Growing up in Southern California, my childhood, especially my teens, are filled with memories of the beach. I recall my first solo drive in my mom's car being to the beach with a few girlfriends. We slathered our bodies with baby oil (yeah - we know that's dumb now!) and frolicked in and out of the surf. I began to think of the ocean as rejuvenating in adulthood. I’d pine away at photos of the ocean. In the last 11 years I’ve had more opportunity to cruise and I’d get a balcony as often as I could manage it. I’d sit near the window and imagine the life below the water’s surface, the biodiversity of it all. From the tiniest plankton to the bus-sized whales, from jellies to human-like dolphins…. I would get hours of entertainment just using my imagination. Now that I’m painting and drawing, many of my subjects are marine life. I guess that should be no surprise.
If I get caught up in the busy-ness of life, months can go by without seeing the ocean. I swear she gets jealous and calls to me from afar. It becomes an obsession until I finally succumb to her demands and find my way driving there, and if lucky, sitting in a hotel room close enough to hear the surf. The ocean is my refuge and my retreat. She restores and invigorates me. My dream is to retire to a decommissioned lighthouse and turn it into a bed and breakfast. Special discounts available for family and friends!
Kathi B.- I should have been born a Pisces Instead of a Taurus. Always have been a water baby and then discovered snorkeling. To be in the warm salt water and seeing all the sea creatures up close -- my own personal aquarium! Swimming weightless among the sea turtles is the best. I try not to think about the sharks. The best way to see them is in the cage. Think that is why we love to cruise. To be on the water with multiple chances to get in it in every port.
Jack Huber is a writer, blogger, poet and photographer. Like many, he is concerned about the psyche of our planet's inhabitants and wants to try to improve his little corner of it.