Life Jacket Required

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re watching a family and you can’t help but think, “What is the world are they thinking? Why would you do something like that?” Your reaction isn’t because they did something silly or absorb but because you truly questioned the judgement of the responsible party. And as much as you think you don’t judge people, there’s a little part of you that does.

I’m pretty sure that I was the party being judged a few weeks back.

sharks cove north shore hawaii

It was our last full day in Hawaii and we decided to head back to the North Shore to snorkel. Jasper and Everett both have really enjoyed snorkeling.

Everett in particular. He loves fish and all sea creatures so he was mesmerized to discover the world underwater. He would get so excited when he saw a fish that he would wave at the fish and say hi. When we’d get back to the beach, he would tell me the names of all the fish we saw – humuhumunukunukuapua’a, yellow tang, brown surgeonfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish, etc.

I was amazed that he was willing to try snorkeling and that he figured it out so quickly. It’s kind of tricky – breathing through a small tube but I guess it was me who was more scared.

I don’t like swimming in the open water let alone the ocean. There’s something about putting my face under water – even with a snorkel – that makes me uncomfortable. Those first few breathes are always very short and quick until I can swim and even it out. It makes me feel claustrophobic like I can’t get enough oxygen. But I manage.

snorkel fins

We decided to snorkel at Sharks Cove. It’s a little tricky getting in and out of the water because the waves are coming in and it’s rocky with a lot of coral but we did it before. Rather, Ed did it before taking each boy out one at a time while I watched from the beach.

This time we were all going together. I swam with Everett and he did a great job. We swam around for a bit and I was conscious of not swimming too far out even though we’d probably see a lot more cool stuff in deeper water.

The one tricky thing about snorkeling with a kid is that you never know when they are going to stop and pull their head above water, which then forces you to tread water and support them while they try to clear their snorkel.

As we stopped once, I realized that my fins were too big and that I could easily lose one or both while treading water. I tried to stop near some coral so that I could stand while holding onto Everett as he cleared his snorkel. However, I couldn’t get a foothold on the rock. I kept slipping and then I lost my fins.

With fins on, I could create more propulsion to keep us afloat. With only one fin, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep both of our heads above water. While we technically weren’t that far from shore, I wasn’t sure how we would get back in. If it were just me I could swim but with a 4 year old?

That’s when panic started to set in


My sister took this picture who is much calmer than me. Given my anxiety about snorkeling, I knew that I couldn’t handle taking pictures.

I yelled help. I heard my voice coming out of my mouth and I couldn’t believe that it was me. It was surreal. Everett started yelling for help too since he heard me yelling. Thankfully, he wasn’t freaking out but just mimicking me.

When I yelled, I saw some people look up but then go back to snorkeling. I yelled again and luckily there was a woman near by who heard me and swam over. Everett slipped once from my grip underwater and that’s when I realized how serious this was or could be.

The woman helped me get my footing on the rock. I could see Ed and Jasper – who were much further out – try to swim to us as fast as they could. As we all tried to get our bearings and everyone tried to help calm me down, I held onto Jasper (Ed had taken Everett). He had the biggest smile on his face and all he wanted was to tell me about the green sea turtle he saw swimming.


My sister also took this photo.

We swam back into shore and thankfully everyone was OK. Thankfully, neither of my kids were hurt or shaken up by this experience. However, I was shaken up by this experience.

I felt so dumb and helpless. I was the stronger swimmer in the family yet I couldn’t do anything.

More than anything I felt irresponsible for putting my kids in a situation in which they could have gotten hurt and by not taking the proper precautions. They should not have been out there without life jackets. I took it for granted that everything would be OK.

I can only hope that my experience can serve as a reminder to others. While it may feel like a pain to take precautions or it may hurt our egos or our kids may whine about it, it’s worth it. It’s worth being safe.

I really doubt that I will go snorkeling again for a really really really long time.

Do you like snorkeling?


Read more about our trip to Hawaii:


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  1. says

    Scary. But so glad everything turned out for you. I remember my first time ever snorkelling… in the Bahamas. As soon as I put my face down, a ray approached me and I started talking really fast cause I was so excite… through my snorkel! yikes. But I took a lesson later and now really love it, as long as I am wearing fins… I am afraid the fish will nibble my toes.

    Isn’t it great that your kids are so adventurous, though?

  2. says

    I’m so glad everyone was okay, that must have been so frightening. It’s a nightmare scenario for me because both my kids love water, and my youngest is a daredevil, and he’s too young to understand fear or consequences.

    I have snorkeled. Not. A. Fan. :)
    Alison recently posted..LivingMy Profile

  3. says

    Oh I feel for you as something similar happened to us (on holiday, strange beach, sudden big wave , son managed to hop on a rock – just!) and it is terrifying. You 100% did the right thing calling for help as soon as you felt the need, and I’m glad the outcome was all good. After our experience our son has always had a healthy respect for the sea – not a bad thing!
    Sherry recently posted..Getting FasterMy Profile

    • says

      Thank you Sherry. Of course, afterwards I felt like I was overreacting but I’m glad I did call for help. I’m glad that you all are OK too! I’m glad my kids were kind of oblivious to what was going on but we’ve talked a lot about ocean safety this summer.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Life Jacket RequiredMy Profile

  4. says

    I’m right there with you on the open water anxiety and I don’t enjoy snorkeling. I’ve only done it once and I almost had a full on panic attack. Don’t be too hard on yourself about your kids. You handled the situation perfectly and, more importantly, you learned from it. I’m quite certain that will never happen again!!…and you also got (or your sister did) some really amazing pictures!! WOW!!!
    Allie recently posted..VITA-MERICAL or My Blog CommercialMy Profile

  5. says

    Oh wow. Scary for sure. I totally get this because I barely swim. I have found myself dog paddling in the ocean around some huge rocks in Virgin Gorda and all turned out ok but I will not snorkel. I know I’d be no help snorkling with my kids. Thank heavens all turned out ok!
    Marcia recently posted..5k Run/Walk to End LupusMy Profile

    • says

      OMG kids change everything. Absolutely. I had to wait a little while to write this because it’s taken me a while to stop being made at myself. More than anything, I’m glad that my kids weren’t really aware of what was going on.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Life Jacket RequiredMy Profile

  6. says

    I snorkeled on our honeymoon and I did not like it, I freaked out because I felt like I couldn’t get enough air when I was breathing. I just wasn’t comfortable and felt vulnerable. Glad everything ended up being ok, I can only imagine had my kids been with us, I would have been really freaked out.
    Holly Johnson recently posted..Sweaty Sunday #7My Profile

  7. says

    I’m glad both of you were okay! It is so cool that your kiddos love to snorkel! I’ve only been snorkeling once, in the Bahamas. We encountered a barracuda during our snorkel, so i t was a bit scary. I tend to panic when it comes to anything with Alex in the water, so my reaction would have been the same as yours. Luckily, kids tend to be much cooler than their moms and don’t even realize that something is happening.
    Sylvia @ Frolic Through Life recently posted..Birthday Weekend in the Finger LakesMy Profile

  8. says

    No, I don’t like snorkeling at all. I am so happy your kids did have a good time, despite your fears and regrets. You know, the other day I was in the other room while my husband took Scarlet downstairs. Neither of us even noticed that Scarlet was the last one down and left the basement door open. My husband came upstairs to see Des at the top of the basement stairs – looking down with curiosity. We both were breathless with fear of what could have happened. We both found relief in what didn’t. And we did learn. This post was scary, but it’s all ok. It’s all ok.
    Tamara recently posted..Safe and Sound.My Profile

    • says

      Yes, it is all OK thank goodness but it was so hard not to think about what could have happened. I know that I will learn from the experience but I still felt like a jerk. But it is that curiosity – I want to foster it and I don’t want to stifle it with my fears and insecurities but at the same time I need to make sure I’m also being cautious.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Life Jacket RequiredMy Profile

  9. says

    I hate snorkeling. And diving for that matter. But growing up in Florida, there’s no way around either activity and I am always so aware of how everything could go completely wrong pretty quickly. My son is still in the pool and only in the ocean with us (not snorkeling yet). It’s a reality we’ll have to face living where we do with crystal clear water and lots of ocean life. Glad everything was okay.
    Amy @ Mommy Rodeo recently posted..Family Fall Bucket List – 2013My Profile

  10. says

    I totally get this. We were in Maui {Kihei} this July and my panic and anxiety about snorkling was over the top also. It was just my hubby and I we left the kids back home and I was still a wreck! It took me two days to finally get it and be calm…My hubby took off trying to swim along side the sea turtles and I learned that screaming through a snorkel tube was NOT a good idea as everyone in the water and around you can hear. Some fish came swimming by my leg and scared me, the crowd in the ocean wanted to strangle me as they thought I had seen a shark and my hubby was pretending like he did not know me. I can’t imagine doing this with our kids no way. But what an amazing experience and glad you were all okay….Hawaii is pretty beautiful and I have no doubt I will try again some day :)

    • says

      Thank you Lynda for your comment and so glad that you get this tho’ I may have chuckled a little that your husband pretended not to know you :-)

      The other times that we had gone out, my husband took the boys because he knew that it wasn’t my favorite thing to do. But my kids love the water so much and the waters in Hawaii as you know are amazing! Next time, we’ll be more prepared.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Life Jacket RequiredMy Profile

  11. says

    I love snorkeling but I think adding children to it creates a whole new dimension. It’s so much harder when someone is depending upon you to keep their head above water while you just want to keep your own head above water. I have gone several times in Australia, Hawaii and the Caribbean off a boat. In those cases they always made us wear life jackets and I hated doing it because I’m a strong swimmer but at the end of the day, you never know what is going to happen so I’m glad I complied with their safety measures.
    FitBritt@MyOwnBalance recently posted..ConfessionsMy Profile

  12. says

    I’m so happy to read that everyone is okay!

    I went snorkelling in July in Mexico. It was my first experience in the open waters. I was a bit anxious about the whole thing. When I jumped in the water, I felt a slight panic. It came and went for the first 1/2 hour of the 3 hour snorkelling trip. Luckily for us, we had life jackets. I wouldn’t have trusted my swimming skills if there weren’t any.
    Kierston @candyfit recently posted..Life In Slow Motion….My Profile

  13. says

    Oh my god, Christine, that must have been so scary! When that panic hits, it just takes over, doesn’t it? I’m so glad everyone was okay.

    I love snorkeling, but I am very aware of the power of the ocean. My husband is a scuba diver and desperately wants me to get certified too, but the thought of being underwater, relying on a man-made device to breathe just Freaks. Me. Out.
    Carly @ Fine Fit Day recently posted..Marathon Training Week 9 Update – ReflectionMy Profile

  14. says

    OMG. I’m nervous just thinking about that! it’s difficult enough just swimming with the kids in the pool and having them hang on me in the deep end, I can’t imaging being in open water. I am so glad that you’re safe. If there is one swim maneuver that I rely on in open water it’s floating on my back. I’ve taught my daughter this so that if she ever has problems in the water she knows that’s her “go to”. I’m so glad you both are safe.
    Michelle recently posted..The Comparison TrapMy Profile

    • says

      Honestly, I have no idea what I didn’t think that it would be a big deal! Oy. After we got back to shore, I thought about the fact that I should have just flipped on my back and swum in with Everett that way. And then once I thought about it, I felt embarrassed for calling for help but I’m glad that I did. I need to remind my kids of that move.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Life Jacket RequiredMy Profile

  15. says

    Oh my gosh! How terrifying!
    I used to take a lot more risks (e.g., white water rafting, steep alpine hiking), but have found that since I have kids, I worry more about what might happen to them if something were to happen to me.
    Glad that everybody was safe and so sorry that you had such a scary experience!
    Tamara recently posted..A 3-pronged approach to kicking food cravingsMy Profile

    • says

      Thanks Tamara. I think that I try to encourage my kids to take risks because they tend to be slow-to-warm-up and slow-to-try-new-things kind of kids. But I also know that I can still do that but I need to be more mindful and cautious too.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Life Jacket RequiredMy Profile

  16. says

    I love snorkeling and don’t even remember the first time I did it, I was so small. But, I can see how it could be scary for a first-timer and/or a mom with little ones (god bless my mom for getting me out there when she did). I have certainly had unpleasant snorkeling experiences, as well; the conditions need to be right.

    I’m sorry that you had such a bad experience!
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  17. says

    So glad it worked out for you! We have snorkelled quite a bit with our kids now and my policy is always that they ALL wear lifejackets – just in case. I usually do too. Stems from my fear of being left behind and at least with a lifejacket I would not tire out as easily! Water is so beautiful, but can be so deceiving too.
    Leah recently posted..Confessions of a BloggerMy Profile

  18. says

    I think we can all relate to the feeling behind this story, even though in this situation it was snorkeling. (I’m so bad in water by the way and on boats too.) My version of “this story” is thinking my nine-year-old had his eye on the 2-year-old . . . but he didn’t and the 2-year-old wandered across the street. The neighbor brought him back. I was so embarrassed/ashamed and didn’t sleep for days imagining what would have happened if that neighbor hadn’t been in her driveway. I’m sick thinking about it now. But it wasn’t my older son’s fault. It was really my responsibility to not assume everything was ok. Ugh, it’s hard. My neighbor (who is about 60) was very sweet though and really insisted I forgive myself and move on. We’re human. (Though I still feel bad when I think about it as it was only a month ago!)
    Nina recently posted..Why Couple Friends MatterMy Profile

  19. says

    I’m right there with you. Once on vacation in Puerto Rico, I decided that since I was a stronger swimmer than the friends I was with, I should totally try to swim out as far as I could. It was as if being away from my athletic cousins made me super strong or something. So I swam out until I started to get tired and started to freak out because I was way out and the water was way over my head. I made it back without having to call for a lifeguard – mostly because I only had myself to think of.
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  20. says

    How scary! We’ve all been in a similar situation, don’t be so hard on yourself. We took the fam snorkeling for the first time in July. We made the kids practice in the pool and at the beach first. I was nervous because I phobic of sharks, but I had to be tough. When we made it to the reef, we were four miles out, so life jackets were a must (but snorkel vests would have been SO much better). My husband decided he didn’t need one–until the water got rough and he had to go back to the boat. Even adults think they are invincible. He learned.

    You can do it again.
    Kerry Ann recently posted..Nowhere but Home and Last MealsMy Profile

  21. says

    Christine, I am SO SO SO glad that you and your family are all okay! The way you explained it makes perfect rational sense why it would all happen, and I can only imagine how scary that must have been :(


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