AAIIIIIEEEEEE!!!!! Shark! Tiburon! Although I was only 6, those cries remain fresh in my memory. We were at La Jolla beach, when the screaming started. The cause of the hysteria was a partially eaten body that had just washed up on the sand. Within minutes, my older cousin had quickly grabbed me and lead me away. My imagination then created a mythic horror that has stayed with me through the years. I never actually saw anything, but the utter terror of the adults voices struck deep and I've found it very difficult to swim in the ocean ever since.
There was another story in the background, too. My father loved the sea - he was stung by a 'man 'o war' jellyfish in the Phillipines when he was 12, almost drowned, had a large scar on his leg from it - and still loved the sea.
My mother, on the other hand, disliked it intensely. She had two reasons. She felt it aged you, the salt drying out your skin - and her best friend had drowned herself when they were both 12 . . . the result of a 'family affair' that seemed like it would never end.
With such opposite emotions about water in my family, all it took was the shark incident to tip me over to my mother's view.