It was Labor Day weekend 2003. My wife and I decided to take our twin boys to the beach at Robert Moses State Park. Kyle and Cole were 3 years old — now big enough to fully appreciate the experience. After packing a lunch, putting on bathing suits and smothering ourselves with sunscreen, we hit the road for what we expected to be a wonderful day.
We left the house before 9 a.m. to avoid the inevitable traffic. Not only was it a holiday weekend, but the weather was perfect. Despite small pockets of congestion, we arrived in less than an hour from our home in Bohemia. The boys were on their best behavior and couldn’t wait to play in the sand. My wife and I claimed a perfect piece of real estate about 50 feet from the ocean.
After making sand castles and eating lunch, I took the boys into the water. The waves were crashing at a height of about 3 feet. As I held each of their hands, we inched our way in. I moved at their pace, mightily aware that pushing them too far, too fast could make their excitement of the ocean turn to dread. To my surprise, they took to the water and kept asking to go farther in.
We finally got to the point where waves would swell high enough for me to lift them up and over. We then turned our backs to the ocean and faced the beach, awaiting the next wave. I held onto their hands tightly and lifted them up, all the while making a “weeee” sound.
As the cascading water crashed down our backs, I suddenly realized something was amiss. The drawstring to my bathing suit had untied and the force of the wave knocked my bathing suit down a few inches. I tried to let go of one son’s hand for a second, just to pull up my suit, but there was no way. I was the only thing keeping them above the water.
I shimmied back into the water, attempting to get my suit back up and put a temporary halt to my undressing. Kyle and Cole were having a great time as I looked at the thousands of people on the beach who might be getting an unexpected peep show. The water was cold enough for my mind to hark back to the infamous “Seinfeld” episode in which George is seen naked after a swim in the pool. I feared the same fate.
I tried once again to move forward, but the water — and my having each hand occupied with a child — prevented me from getting far. Sure enough, a wave yanked my suit down, and I had to retreat to a safe depth.
At this point, my mind was racing and my eyes were darting around, searching for a solution. I prayed my wife would look my way, but her face was buried in a magazine. I yelled her name, but was easily drowned out by the celebratory holiday crowd. I could see the boys were getting tired; I was going to have to do something. Weighing what few options I had, I decided, “Screw it, I’m never going to see these people again.”
I asked the boys if they were ready to go back to see Mommy and they said, “Yes.” I took a deep breath and trudged forward as hard and fast as I could. The first wave exposed more than half my backside, but I still had a ways to go. I could hear the next wave coming and then suddenly, boom, my backside was completely exposed.
I knew that one more wave would bring my bathing suit down to my ankles. I kept moving forward with all my might, pleading with the boys to hurry. I was so close, but I could hear the next wave coming. I wasn’t going to make it. I remember hoping no one was pointing a camera in my direction when the inevitable happened. Then the good Lord took pity on my soul.
I made eye contact with another dude who, without my saying a word, knew exactly what was happening. He ran toward me and grabbed the son I was holding with my right hand. I reached around and grabbed my suit, just as the deadly wave was about to humiliate me. Disaster averted. I thanked him, and he responded with a nod.
I caught my breath and walked to our blanket on legs that felt like Jell-O. My wife looked up from her magazine and asked if we had fun. I proceeded to tell her what had happened, and as expected, I received no sympathy — just a big laugh.