The Moment When Fun Turns To Fear

I was scared before I even went on the Bravo boat. I was especially uneasy thinking about how I was going to make a decision. Am I brave enough to attempt something new? Or am I the kind of girl who stays on the sidelines, too frightened to step out of her comfort zone? Am I willing to try something different, even if it is a little dangerous? An hour later, as a one hundred twenty-pound inner tube hovered above me, I thought I was going to be swallowed by the dark surrounding waters and drown! My thoughts of trying something new, of being brave, no longer made sense to me. In fact, I never wanted to step out of my comfort zone again! So, let me give you a snapshot of how this all went down. 

Let me back up a bit. Every summer, my family vacations with the same group at a camp on Lake Champlain. One of the highlights of camp is the water sports, and all of the kids have been doing them for years. I like many of the water sports, but over the years my friends have grown bolder. Two years ago, my friend group took on the most extreme lake sport, bravo boating, and this is when I got left behind. A bravo boat is actually not a boat, but a massive inner tube that is pulled by a speedboat. What makes it even more extreme, is the fact that there is a mini trampoline in the middle of it.

I knew my friends would “strongly encourage me” to try the bravo boat this year. Before we even pulled into camp, I felt like I could hear my friends calling to me, “Natalie, this is your year, MAN-UP!”

Sure enough, before we even parked the car, my best camp friend Lauren came running up to the car to inform me that she had booked a bravo boat reservation. I needed to change and hustle down to the dock. Before I could think too hard about it, I was following my friends down to the dock. I could feel myself getting more nervous, my hands were getting sweaty, and my knuckles were nearly white. But I was also excited when I realized that after this was over, I would have conquered my fear. 

And there it was, the green sparkly bravo boat I remembered so well from afar. Up close, I could now see that the boat had a beautiful pattern. It looked almost like a field of four-leaf clovers. This must be my lucky day! 

Eric, the boat operator, said, “you guys can get into the bravo boat!” We jumped off the dock and into the boat. It was clear that the tube had been lying in the sun for a while, because the tube was hot, like scorched skin after too much sun. 

As Eric pushed down on the gas pedal, we started going really fast! I started squealing! I couldn’t help but smile. So far, this was super fun!

“Best day ever!” I thought. 

“Nothing could ever ruin this.” 

Everything was great, my friends were right, bravo boating is a blast! We bounced up and down as the speedboat pulled us faster. It was as if we were recreating the wacky waving inflatable man, the ones you see as you pass some gas stations. Everything was great until the moment it wasn’t. Eric kept increasing the speed. All of a sudden, I flew off the bravo boat like I had been shot out of a cannon. My friends must have screamed at our driver Eric because he seemed to slow down. But when he slowed down, he had caused the bravo boat to trap me underneath. That is when a wave of panic swept over me. I realized that the tube now acted as a cage that both captured my body and drowned my new found confidence. The water was frigid, and I was getting goosebumps all over my arms and legs. A cold, dark shiver ran down my spine as my feet touched the slimy seaweed. I tried to come up for air, but I realized I couldn't. It felt as if I was swallowing water by the gallon! Now, I was officially “in over my head!”

I must have only been underwater for ninety seconds, but it felt like twenty minutes! Panicking was no use at this point. I was positive that this would be the end. At this point I just wanted someone to come find me. I just wanted someone to rescue me and tell me that I was safe and that everything was going to be ok. Why won't anyone come and rescue me I told myself. I tried not to cry because I knew that would only make it worse. So I bit my tongue and kept hoping that someone would come and save me. I knew that panicking was useless, but I just wanted to make it out alive. The worst part was that my parents were nowhere to be found. They were not on the dock, nor on the boat. They were back at my cabin, unaware of what was going on. In order to get through this, I gave myself a pep talk and made the conclusion that all I had to do was believe. If I believed in myself, then I might be able to get out I assured myself.

After a few seconds, I gained enough strength and convinced myself that I could make it to the surface at that time. I started kicking with all my might, and by some miracle, I got out from under the inner tube. When I made it to the surface, my friends were hanging off the sides of the bravo boat clearly worried about my safety. Thank goodness I whispered to myself. I was glad to see them and relieved that I could actually breathe freely. They pulled me onto the boat, it hurt at first because it was still hot from the sun, but it didn’t matter; I was just relieved that I got out. But that relief quickly gave way to tears, big tears. I started to cry, and they wouldn’t stop no matter how hard I tried. The tears ran down my face quickly like heavy raindrops pelting an umbrella on a rainy day.

I sat in silence on the boat as we drew closer and closer to the place where this whole “experience” started, the dock. I was wobbly, but I was able to get off the boat. It was like my legs were made out of jelly, they wobbled all over the place which made it very challenging to walk. Water was still dripping down my legs like rain on a glass window.

I made a run for my cabin. I must have looked like a deer walking for the first time because I was all over the place. At this point, I just wanted my mom. And there she was still helping un-pack the car. It struck me as strange that she was still doing this mundane task, unaware that my whole world was turned upside down in that half an hour. I hugged her aggressively but kept my thoughts to myself.

“ Why did I ever agree to go bravo boating?” I thought to myself. “I never really wanted to go anyway.” 

As days passed whenever I went down to the docks to do other water sports, the boat seemed to taunt me. Every time I looked at it, I only seemed to picture that moment. That moment when my life could have changed drastically! But a few days after camp ended, I found myself remembering that shiny green boat. I kept thinking about the thrill of just being on the bravo boat. The way the waves crashed onto the tube and splashed your face with refreshing lake water. The wind in your hair as you were flung side to side as the first boat executed sharp turns. It seemed that in the end, I actually enjoyed bravo boating. 

Next time I try something new I will definitely make sure that I am cautious at the same time. I learned a lot from that experience for future situations. For example, a couple of years later I went skiing with my family. We encountered a terrain park which consisted of a large number of tabletop jumps, which are flat, but high and consist of both dirt and snow. The first time I saw them my heart started racing, and I immediately chickened out. Without anyone following behind me, I met my family at the bottom of the chairlift. My siblings were squealing with excitement, wanting to go on the jumps again. So, my family and I loaded onto the chairlift again and made our way back up to the top. As we got closer to the park, my body started shaking, my hands became clammy, and I almost fell down. I decided I would play it safe, so I skied on the side and looked at the jumps so I could create a strategy. Strategizing was one of the many things that I learned from the bravo boat incident. I made it to the bottom and decided that the next time we went, I would go on the jumps. I got to the top again, and a few seconds before, my hands, as well as my body started shaking and I could feel the sweat trickling down the side of my face. As I went down, the fresh powder felt very smooth under my skis. When The Jump came I braced myself, and closed my eyes! When I was in the air, I opened my eyes and landed gracefully, like a swan. But when I got to the next jump, I felt like a professional. I was soaring through the beautiful blue sky. This is an example of when I took a risk but was cautious at the same time. I have now come to realize that trying new and scary things is very important. If you never try anything new, then how will you know if you like it or hate it? You will become too scared, and you won’t want to do it. I now know that I can handle myself during any stressful situation.