The ocean is a symbol of the unpredictable, the dangerous, the unknown.
The dangers lurking just beneath the surface, or indeed the hazards posed by the sea itself, are well known to many Australians - none more than champion bodyboarder Lilly Pollard.
A veteran of almost two decades in the sport, Pollard has waded out into the breaking waves thousands of times in her life; but even that familiarity and sheer experience in the surf proved no advantage when a freak wave caught her by surprise at Mystics Beach on Tuesday morning, launching her head-first into a sand bank and breaking her back and neck.
"I went out like any other day, but this wave flipped me and drove my head straight into the sand," Pollard said from her hospital bed on Wednesday morning.
After being winched from the Killalea State Park beach and airlifted to Wollongong Hospital, X-rays confirmed the serious injuries to her neck and back.
Awaiting an MRI scan to determine whether there was any more serious ligament damage, Pollard seemed in good spirits.
"I'm feeling very lucky.
"It could have been worse, I could have been knocked out in the water," she said.
When she paddled out on Tuesday morning, Pollard, 33, was on a high after winning the prestigious Pipeline event in Hawaii in February.
She planned to rejoin the women's world tour. She was in third place in last year's tour before being forced to pull out, and had high hopes for another good showing in 2014.
"I'm thinking about the next event in August, but I'm in a bit of limbo right now," she said.
"There's time to recover, but I just have to wait for the other scans."
Pollard's friends will hold an impromptu fund-raiser at Gerringong Bowling Club on Thursday night. All donations are welcome. Another larger fund-raiser is being organised for next week.