Respectfully (and for the record!), I didn't offer any comment suggesting that the girl was looking out into the distance... and I have been following what has been suggested. It just seems that the abundance of water takes the initial focus away from the girl, somewhat. That initial focus, IMHO, might be achieved by altering the crop to a tighter vertical one.
Just for fun, let's make up a poignant story that works with a vertical crop!
With a tighter vertical crop, attention goes first to the girl who, by the way, is feeling overwhelmed - not by a wall of water - but by grief, causing her to gaze down at the edge of a cold, beckoning surf... Sadly, she entertains thoughts of ending a life that has become unbearable and hopelessly devoid of meaning. The viewer's eye is then drawn slowly up and far out to sea, illustrating (obviously!) that she is considering achieving this end by wading into the surf and swimming out to sea - far past the point in which her waning energy would allow her to return safely back to shore... ... ...
See how that works!
I did realize you didn't say she is looking into the distance. The comment "drawing the viewers eye to the girl, then out into the distance" just reminded me of many similar shots where the girl is looking out at the horizon, where that would be the case. What I meant was, the girl doesn't seem to be looking out into the distance and it probably doesn't need the attention to be drawn to the girl first. It has a unique feel about it that I think is lost when you lose the wall of water. I actually agree with you, with the vertical crop the focus will be drawn to the girl first before going out to the horizon. We just differ in opinion on what works best for this image. Btw, neither of us are right or wrong there
Also, I understand your point with your story about the girl in the vertical crop but there is a big difference. The thoughts and emotions I was talking about with the girl and the wall of water were impacted on me, not by any choice, when I first saw the photo. If the thoughts in your crop weren't just a story but real feelings and thoughts then that would be different.
Of course, this is all in fun. Different crops certainly can (and do) present different perspectives (and potentially, somewhat different interpretations). The most significant point is that David captured something that encouraged an emotional response in a number of viewers - which is much the goal of good photography. I still agree with Flo that focus issues will likely force a re-shoot, but a nice moody shot was still achieved and it takes a good eye to recognize that potential. I say good job!
I whole-heatedly agree with all of this and the part in bold is a real testament to this photo. I agree it may be good to get her in focus but it's not always possible to re-shoot. Also, some of the best photos ever taken are not technically perfect. This photo did ster up some thoughts and feelings in many of the few posters here, so it may be perfect the way it is.