Yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater. Explosives in your luggage. Rebroadcasting without the NFL'S express written consent. Foie Gras. Some things should be prohibited for good reason. But swimming in the ocean? Come on now. On an unusually warm day in early October, I took a 90-minute subway ride, wetsuit in tow, to Rockaway Beach to do to a little open ocean swimming. Because that’s a normal thing to do, right? Here, I came across this sign (seen above) on the boardwalk.
The beach was empty, presumably because it was October, so it's reasonable to assume that unsupervised swimming in the Atlantic Ocean would be frowned upon. But illegal? No way. It’s not like someone owns the ocean. "Who's going to arrest me, the beach police?" I argued with myself as I applied body glide to my neck and slipped into my neoprene suit. Then I dived into the chilly but refreshing water and swam out beyond the break. Out there it was just me, hungry pelicans circling overhead and who knows what lurking below. Every few strokes, I looked to shore. Paranoid, not of sharks, not of getting beaked by a giant bird, but of the imaginary beach police.
How would they arraign me? Would they swim out in full uniform and cuff me? Would they borrow a net from a local fisherman and snatch me up? I was a crawl stroke criminal who needed to be punished to the full extent of the law. In jail, a cellmate would ask me, "What are you in for?" I’d answer back, "Swimming in the 68th-degree." I’d have that clever answer locked and loaded. "Didn’t you see the sign?" they'd ask. "Yeah, I saw it. And I went in anyway." I'd be feared and revered amongst the other inmates.
The ocean isn't something that should prohibited. It should be available to anyone at anytime. It’s all of ours. Sunbathers, metal detectors, fishermen with nets. And nonconformist swimming idiots. Let us not forget them.