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By daylight, the South beach was a lively happy, place. The parking lot behind the marina and local dive shop was slowly filling up. Locals and cottagers gathered along the boardwalk. Relaxed lines of people shuffled along the few pathways that led to shore where they broke into smaller groups hunting for that 'best spot'.
The main pathway opened up to a broad white sandy beach that flowed South along the coast as far as one could see. To the right of the opening was a large sign.
'Waring, swimmer danger from here to the South Pier. Beware Undertow!' it read.
The words 'Strong Undertow!' took up most of the sign but drawn in broad magic marker the 'w!' had been lined out with an 'ad!' added under it. 'Undertoad!', a local legend.
Drawn with some detail near the bottom of the sign, a cartoon figure of spiny and scaled toad was reaching up to grab at the words.
Beyond the sign a few hundred meters of empty beach led up to rocky bracings where pier met beach. Out in the water a short swim from shore and maybe fifty meters away running parallel to the pier a strange line of chop formed above the surface. It formed a line if frothy water that went out well past the pier. The Rip.
Under the coastline of Lake Huron and heading well inland the geologic substrate was large made of dolomite. A very common light grey limestone with a chalky appearance. Stable but very porous. Over time the trickle of fresh water that was plentiful in Ontario, formed and flowed through cavernous underground waterways that led to the Great Lakes.
Along this section of coast the subterrainian tributaries openings had formed in a rough line, each outflow adding strength to a current that could rip a swimmer from shore and send them far out into the lake.
A good swimmer could make it back but the few kids and older swimmers that drowned had made it a riparian no go zone for most people.
But like 'Needle Point' further North in Collingwood or 'The Cliff' near Blue Lake, the 'Rip' had a local, cultural importance that made even the most litigation averse town administrator reluctant to make a prohibitive ordnance.
The Rip was as much of a draw as the local surfing, which was some of the best the Canucks had to offer. For much of the community it was also a guantlet that had to be run to seal your status as a local.
For adrenaline addicts, it was a rush, plain and simple. To their credit, the rules were unbending. You never Rip'd alone. If you were new you always went with someone who'd done it. You always wore flotation and you never talked about it with anyone who wasn't doing it with you.
With the rules in place apart from a few contusions and the occasional broken bone the Rip had yet to claim a life. The lives it changed however, were many.
Some of these thoughts were passing through the mind of Michael Robertson, or 'Mikey' as everyone called him. His younger brother, like himself, was dressed in a half wet suit. The best option for a long day on the water in early June.
Mikey reshouldered his rucksack and tugged at his brothers guiding Jason, aka 'Jay', to head right. Jay looked up to the left as they passed the big sign. A few of the beachgoers watched with raised brows as the pair headed towards to the empty beach ahead of the Rip.
"Hey shit head", Jay looked back hearing Mikey's comment a sour look on his face, "C'mon stop being so freaked out, I've done it hundreds of times."
"Hundreds, get the fuck outta.." Jay snapped.
"Okay, okay but lotsa times, it's gonna be fine." Mikey finished.
"I don't know, you hear about the drownin's and stuff."
"No one's drowned in the Rip. It's lamers from the city getting hammered on the water or some poor little kids but WE know the water, man."
"Wouldn't you rather just jacklight some big cray's?" Jay wriggled his wrist mounted flashlight.
"Ahh you know they're too hard to find now, the zebra's took all their food."
The Zebra Mussel had made it's impact on the Lake's but mostly only the locals felt it. Change isn't always good. Change is just change; just as often it was bad.
The boys stopped near the top of the first dune, it was topped with a crown of long beach grass. They turned to study the rip shooting out into the sparkling sunlit water.
"Look, Jayo, It only does this a few times in early summer." Mike went on, "And once we start our jobs, we won't get a chance."
Jay stared at him, on the fence.
"Doood, this day has the potential to be...memorable man. Memorable." Mikey's face split into a contageous grin.
"Okay, whatever, you win."
"YES!" his brother smiled back at him. He grabbed his other shoulder and was given a fist bump in return.
They squatted and began rummaging throught their bags.