Brighton Beach

Ezra Azra

Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra
Image by Dan Jones from Pixabay
Image by Dan Jones from Pixabay 
Over seventy years ago, the time of this true story, Brighton Beach was a continuation of Durban Beach, but on the other side of a Bluff peninsular, South Africa. Geographically, it still is, although its name could be different nowadays. In those days, my home was only a few miles away. Nowadays, I live in another country; haven't been to Brighton Beach in over seventy years.

Brighton Beach was not popular with beach-goers because there were unfriendly rock formations at the ocean's edge. The formations stretched shoreward. The shore itself was only few steps wide up to a steep hillside covered with high most unfriendly bush that was home to angry stinging insects, flying and other.

At high tide, the ocean completely and treacherously submerged the rocks, while the ocean waves reached to the foot of the hillside bush. The shore was impassable by pedestrians.

At any other tide, the waves crashed mercilessly, deafeningly and spitefully against the rocks, creating a searingly blinding spray. The sight was spectacularly entertaining to pedestrians who had a stretch of dry shoreline from which to safely observe the ocean's gratuitous malevolent violence.

We lived about two hours walking distance along the beach from Brighton Beach. We lived there for about twenty years. In all those years we did not observe anyone else who had discovered the treasure and the secret of the Brighton Beach rocks.

The treasure was the fish that got flung into the rock pools. We endured the violence of the crashing waves in order to catch, by hand, the trapped fish. It was dangerous, and not easy. The wet rocks were slippery, equally to bare feet and footwear. We suffered bruises and cuts when we lost balance.

We were assaulted by the waves, and treacherously undermined by ocean backdrafts. There is no successful protection against injury in an ocean backdraft on a slippery rock surface with sharp-edged holes everywhere. Too frequently the injuries brought an end to our fishing for that session. Quite frequently we went home, sore somewhere on ourselves, and with no fish catch.

The secret of the rocks gave us more excitement than the rock fishing.

At one low-tide, we dared to explore the ocean side of the rock ridge in search of fish holes against the vertical face of the rock ridge. The high ridge extended for a few hundred steps along the shore. Retrieving trapped fish in a hole in the face of the ridge would be easier and safer.

We did not find a fish hole. Instead, we discovered that a few feet underwater there were holes in the rock that gave access to a vertical hollow inside the rock ridge. We submerged and entered the hollow. As the tide came in, we were lifted up inside the vertical rock hollow by the incoming water. Inside the rock, we could wade along for a short distance.

On weekends, luxury pleasure cruise boats sailed up and down the south coast of the Province of Natal. On board there was music, dancing, gambling, and who-knows-what-else. From inside our hole-in-the-rock, we had a ringside seat to the open-deck entertainments.

On weekend afternoons, we watched, for free, motorboat water skiing competitions, and motor boat racing.

All our viewing entertainment was possible only at high tide. At low tide, violent waves smashing against the rock face, made watching uncomfortable. Sometimes fish would come into the vertical hollow with the water. We found it impossible to catch those fish swimming against us. The confined quarters made continual bumping against swimming fish unavoidable. Nowadays, in retrospect, I shudder at the thought of a predator joining us in that vertical hole. A shark, an eel, a blue bottle.

From our holes in the rock ridge we saw large ships pass in the far distance.

In those few short years we enjoyed viewing entertainment from inside those rocks, only once was the entertainment from the shore behind us.

We became experts in knowing when the tide was changing. When full tide was going out, we would exit the rock holes with the tide. We would enter the holes when full tide was coming in. Of course, we had to engage in subterfuge in order to avoid detection by anyone seeing us.

We would enter the ocean far away from the underwater holes. We would pretend to be casual swimming about before eventually surreptitiously submerging and swimming underwater to our spot. When we left the rocks, we took similar precautions to deviously surface and come ashore far away. It never failed us. We were never challenged by anyone. Most times, there was nobody on that section of the beach. We never took chances.

The one time our entertainment came from the shore, caused us so much discomfort, we became more cautious about how long we stayed in the rock holes. We visited less frequently.

It was a Sunday. To view the water sports on the ocean, we brought food and water. We had fun for hours. High tide co-operated. It stayed with us for an unusually long time. It was late afternoon when the tide started receding. We prepared to leave. We heard the commotion coming from the beach behind us.

There were no holes in the rock that gave us a view of the shore. We had to swim underwater away from the access hole to surface to see the shore. We decided one of us would do that. He came back in a hurry.

There was some kind of armed battle going on among people on shore, all of whom were fully dressed. We dared not go ashore. We went back, and remained in the rock. We heard the sounds and cries and shouts from the battle on shore.

The full tide went out. Evening was taking over. The violent waves were starting. We had to vacate the hole, or, probably, drown. The moon came out. We did not know if moonlight was good or bad in our situation. We had no safe choice. We took the chance.

We swam underwater in the direction we would take going home when we surfaced. When we reached the end of the rocks, we continued swimming silently and slowly in deep ocean water. That's when we were thankful for the moonlight.

There was no more shoreline to guide us, but the malevolently dark forest on the Bluff was a sight for sore eyes. We continued swimming parallel with that evil-looking thing of a forest, edging closer and closer to it as we went along. When we saw the southern tip of Durban Bay shore come into view, we were relieved. It was like seeing the returning Messiah. We knew we were not out of danger yet. Durban Bay has from forever been world notorious for the frequency of shark attacks on persons.

It was late at night when we arrived home, severely exhausted. It was many weeks before we visited Brighton Beach again.

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