I am mortal, flesh and bone, and I live only at the pleasure and mercy of the natural world. I am fully aware of how humankind has worked for tens of thousands of years to manipulate and reshape nature and how, time and time again, nature has rejected this. I exist today enjoying the full bounty of that so-called progress. I sit in an air-conditioned room with clean water to drink on command, in a former forest whose trees were felled by iron saws and blades forged over centuries of humanity’s advancements in technology. I do not have hubris from my ancestors’ accomplishments; I am keenly aware of how many times throughout history nature has laughed at our feeble attempts to survive on this blue marble — the floods, wildfires, and storms that have wiped out towns and civilizations. I am filled with dread when I think of how we are provoking further disasters with our climate bacchanal, how we are living on borrowed time during which nature will claim many more lives in the near future.
"You should not fuck with the ocean."
Most of all, I know as a puny human being, a speck of dust who means nothing to the cold, dark waters, that you should not fuck with the ocean. Which is why I am obsessed with the TikTok account that just posts videos of speedboats wiping out while going through a Miami Beach inlet.
The first TikTok I saw was this one. Over a clip of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” a man dives from the back of his boat in high waves and a woman in a bikini is thrown off the side as the vessel plunges its bow into the water.
This is terrifying. This is playing chicken with Mother Nature and losing. (They’re fine; a longer clip shows those who went overboard getting picked up by friendly people on Jet Skis.)
Baker’s Haulover Inlet (locally known as just Haulover Inlet) is an artificial channel at the north end of Miami Beach, connecting Biscayne Bay to the ocean. It can have rough waters, especially when a strong tide going out meets incoming waves from the ocean, creating big waves and a strong current. Choppy though the waves may be, ship captains regularly crash through the channel in their million-dollar pleasure craft, sending the occasional boater flying into the chop. Splash. (I hope you sprung for the optional insurance policy, Odysseus.)
Karl Hattman runs a YouTube channel about Haulover Inlet boats and owns the domain HauloverInlet.com, even though he lives in Rockport, Texas. The videos often document boats ripping through the channel. He told me that people speeding through those waves and getting thrashed around are purposely doing it for a sort of roller coaster joyride. It’s a mix of sitting in the splash zone at SeaWorld and wanting to show off for your passengers and the bystanders along the inlet jetty.
“It’s almost become a tourist attraction, partly because people want to be on camera,” Hattman told BuzzFeed News.
He is part of a group of YouTubers who post videos of boats “eating it” (bad) or “sending it” (good) through Haulover Inlet. He said he is one of about six people who regularly film the traffic passing through.
One of them, a Serbian teenager named Dan (who asked not to use his last name since he is only 15), runs a TikTok channel named Haulover Daily.
Dan, who lives in Miami, started filming videos at the inlet when he had free time at the start of quarantine. He and his father had boated through it before, and they knew how rough the waters could be. He also knew that people filmed boats there for YouTube. Dan, being 15, recognized that TikTok would be a perfect platform for these videos.
When he filmed the video of the woman falling overboard, he knew it was meme-worthy. “I was like, Oh, this is a filthy situation. This is going to be up in the greats of the inlets,” he said.
Haulover Inlet is unique; not only does it have tricky waters, but Miami has a boat culture unlike anywhere else. There’s lots of money, and people drive huge yachts and cigarette speedboats. There’s a specific kind of Miami party culture — flashy, beautiful people and a strong rental and charter market for yachts — that often means inexperienced drivers are operating huge boats. (Although I’m sure all of them are sober, right?)
It’s not the only “wild footage of boats in a rough channel” channel. There’s a new TikTok account dedicated to the Manasquan Inlet on the Jersey Shore, although it really lacks the pizzazz of Miami Beach. It’s sort of the Charybdis to Haulover’s Scylla. But with less of a Pitbull thing going on.
Horrifyingly, it appears that most people ignore common sense about wearing life jackets. In one YouTube video about Haulover boats, the narrator notes how unusual it is to see adults wearing life jackets. Have these people never been on boats before?
Look, I’ve been on a boat before. I know how easy and scary it is to suddenly lose control of it, to be stuck in a situation where you careen recklessly across the water and can’t stop, because that’s how inertia works, sailor.
My fellow humans, we may sail out into the sea, we may taste its bounties and try to tame it, but we will never come out as victors against the sea. So go ahead. Power through the channel. But wear a life jacket, you fools.