(don’t worry. there’s only two parts.)
How did I never write about this?! Want to talk about a mis-adventure? Here you go friends….
I found out over a year ago that I would be moving to Okinawa, and one of the first things I did was start researching SCUBA diving. Several websites as well as books include the waters off Okinawa in the top 5, if not the top 3, SCUBA locations in the world. Sounds promising, right? Everyone has seen the amazing underwater photographs of ridiculously marvelous creatures, coral, and other life forms that you can’t quite decide between they are breathing or if they are just a really big piece of kelp. And here I am, little Miss Adventure, ready to take it all on. I love the ocean, I love to swim, I love being near any body of water on a hot day. How much more perfect could this new hobby be for me?!
Fast forward about 6 months to February of 2010. My boss and I had been talking about getting PADI certificated since we met. It’s the thing you MUST complete before anyone will rent you any diving gear (or at least, they are supposed to check my fancy PADI ID before renting me gear. To this day no one has ever asked for it). Finally (praise her), Cynde just signed us up and informed me I would be going. Two of our managers were leaving and while I was the technical replacement for one of them, we had no replacement lined up for the other. After they left we would be busy busy at work and who knows when that would calm down. She decided for both of us that we would do this before they left. Hey, sounds good to me. Let’s do this!
And do it we did. We took on the bookwork and daily quizzes with gusto. We were going to rock this SCUBA diving like there was nothing else in our lives that mattered. We had two full days of nothing but videos, quizzes, and tests. None of this was excessively concerning until we got to the pool days. All of a sudden, I couldn’t remember if I was supposed to attach the octopus (regulator) to the tank before or after I put my BCD (or was it BSD? BDC?) on the tank. Do I carry the tank with the air spicket spouty thing away from me or facing me? Does the zipper on this wetsuit go in the front or the back? Dilemma after dilemma. Thankfully we were only jumping into about 4 feet of water the first time we were breathing underwater. We had already practiced the breathing with our regulators in our mouths outside of the pool, mostly to make sure that our regulators were working, so we had that going for us. Our instructor told had told us several times already, “you will never forget the first time that you breathe underwater.” And about that, boy, was she ever correct.
Breathing underwater the first time was TERRIFYING. My first instinct was to shoot to the top of the pool, take off all of that equipment, leave it in the water, strip myself of the wetsuit and go to my car. Actually, RUN to my car. Instead I stayed underwater with my heart beating about 5 times the normal speed. I really thought I was going to pass out. Now, of course I got used to this sensation. But you gotta realize, my whole life (and I’m sure yours too…) I’ve been told you can’t breathe underwater. It was always a challenge to swim to the bottom of the pool, touch it, and get back to the top before you had to gasp for a fresh breath. And now all of a sudden, after 25 years of knowing something is literally impossible, you’re telling me with this stupid thing in my mouth, I can do the impossible? Yes. And once I got my head wrapped around that, I was more or less okay….for a while.
The pool days were ok. Kind of boring really. You get out all of this equipment, put it together, take it apart, get a new tank, put it together, take it apart over and over and over. You start to do things like take your mask off underwater and swim around – reminding yourself breathing through your nose would NOT be a pleasant experience. You learn to put the mask back on and clear it of water. You also learn to breathe off of someone else’s regulator in case yours malfunctions for whatever reason or you unexpectedly run out of air. I was good with all of these things, and then I freaked out.
We were practicing running out of air which by nature is not enjoyable. You are swimming around under 12 feet of water with your “buddy” and your instructor comes up and turns your air off to simulate running out of air. Now, you know all of this is happening, so does your buddy, so it shouldn’t be a huge deal. Well, well. Turns out it scared my buddy more than it scared me. All SCUBA regulators actually have two regulators so that if your buddy runs out of air, you have a back up to “share air” with them. So in this case, I was to quickly signal I had no air, grab my buddy’s extra regulator, and then we would slowly make our ascent. Well, I ran out of air as I was exhaling. First not awesome thing – I now had no breath to do all of this signaling and grabbing with. But that’s okay, I can hold my breath for a while. So I signal, I grab for the regulator and as I’m about to put it in my mouth, my buddy smacks it out of my hand! WHAT!? So I am fumbling around, she’s realizing what she did, we’re both grabbing for the regulator and finally I just stop. I just stare at our instructor like, now what lady? And man, she was fast, praise her. She grabbed her extra regulator and shoved it in my mouth before I ever knew what was happening. I thought she had grabbed my buddy’s regulator it had happened so fast. She held onto me as she turned my air back on and handed me my own equipment back to put in my mouth. Now, I’ve just had to give up my own air supply to have another withheld from me to have another shoved in my face. And you want me to go back to square one? NO. Absolutely not. So we just swam around for a few minutes, me attached to her (and her air supply) like there was nothing else happening in the world. I finally got back to my own air supply with no further ado. Later, the instructor informed me she was shocked that I hadn’t shot straight to the top of the pool. Honestly, the though never occurred to me. I was supposed to be in the pool and underwater, that’s where I was to stay. If only I followed directions so easily in the rest of my life…
I think one freak out is expected, you know? But two? Maybe it’s a sign…
We finally got to the ocean. We were doing easy dives, nothing too big of a deal. What sticks out in my mind during the whole thing was that I consciously knew I could shoot to the top without hurting myself in case there was any danger. Anything above 60 feet and you’re alright. No exploding ear drums, no getting the bends (yes, its a real thing), no popping blood vessels. We were at 55 feet. I suppose this is another point in this training that I really should have stopped and thought, I’m already figuring out how to bail out of this, should I really be here? But there I was, pushing through my fear. I’ll take yet another moment to recognize the fact that this was supposed to be FUN. This was not fun. I wanted this week to be over. Get my certification and get the hell out of there. Again, what was I thinking?!?!
I digress, let’s get on with the trial and tribulation, shall we? We had to practice gaining buoyancy in the water. We had to lay on the ocean floor and fill our BCD up with just enough air that when we breathed in, we rose just a little and when we breathed out we went back down just a little. The goal was to be able to lay flat but never crash back to the bottom of the ocean floor or to float away far enough that your fins left the ground. Quite an awkward experience if I do say so myself.
More awkward? The sea snake that swam up to me in the middle of all of this. There I am, bouncing around on the ocean floor more or less under control and then a sea snake swims right up behind me. Now, we’re talking his body was paralleling my body. So I didn’t know this was happening until IT WAS HAPPENING. Did I tell you sea snakes are poisonous? Well they are. You have to provoke them first but I feel like laying about on the ocean floor maybe wasn’t my best bet. I got out of there and FAST. Strike two, SCUBA. Strike. Two.
I made it through the certification process(and through all of the underwater drama). I received my very own ID card saying that I am responsible enough to take on SCUBA by myself. HAHAHA. But alas, this post has gone on long enough. Just to keep you interested though…you should know that I do NOT dive anymore. Mostly by my own choice but also because of a promise I made to Jesse after he saw my face after the last time (literally, the LAST time) I dove. I went diving three times and I hurt myself twice. Check back tomorrow friends for that little gem of a tale…. 🙂