] ~Photo Courtesy of PADI~
Sunlight skipped playfully over the turquoise water, as I hoisted my bag up over my shoulder and plodded across the hot sand. In front of me was the wide Caribbean ocean. Behind me, standing the shade of a palm tree was a suntanned boy with a hopeful expectance in his deep green eyes and an encouraging smile on his face. With a deep sigh, I mustered a smile back and continued out into the water, with all the fortitude of a wide-eyed 17 year old who was doing something that scared her all to impress a boy.
~Learning to Dive, circa 1995~
Thus was my first scuba diving experience. I had been invited on a Caribbean dream vacation along with a family whose last name would someday be my own, and a boy who I loved with unwavering devotion. Such a mix of expectations makes it easy for a girl who hates the water and can’t really swim to sign up for a resort course in diving. My travel companions were avid divers and their goal was to share their passion with others. The boy under the tree talked about diving as his most favorite pastime. I couldn’t say no, although I certainly wanted to.
What happened next was a mixture of sheer terror and sheer will. I fumbled my way through the basic mechanics of scuba diving- mask clearing, breathing through a regulator, wrestling with my fins. Nothing seemed natural or comfortable, but I pushed my way through it. Within 30 minutes, I was on a boat out to sea with two tanks full of air and a lump in my throat. Without taking too much time to think about what would happen next, I clumsily fit myself into my gear and plunged into the warm, clear water.
Once underwater, two things happened: I never let go of the hand of the boy under the tree, and I realized why he loved diving so much. Floating in the silent teal water with only the sound of bubbles rushing past my head and the sight of brilliant sealife darting from every angle was immersive. The stress of the gear and the unfamiliar conventions melted away in the buoyancy and beauty of the underwater world.
~Photo Courtesy of PADI~
When I emerged again topside, my conclusion was firm; scuba diving was amazing. Learning to scuba dive was not.
I vowed to stick with that first impression of diving, certain that I had discovered that diving just wasn’t worth it. My first experience of hurried and incomplete teaching had left me with a bad enough taste in my mouth that I didn’t think diving would ever be for me. Even more, I had the smug position that I had actually tried it and found that I did not like it, thank you very much. There would be no reason to give diving another chance.
Yet, here I am, wet-suit clad and fumbling with a mask and snorkel on the edge of a pool. It’s like a flashback to that ocean scene twenty years ago. I am preparing to do something I don’t really want to do all for the love of a boy. This time, the boy is my 13 year old, a being like his father who is most at home in the underwater world. He waited not so patiently until he was old enough to get his open water certification at the age of ten and has been a scuba diving junkie since. It was this boy who sat on the edge of my bed one night and said “you know mom, it would be great if you would try scuba diving again,” who brought me back to the edge of the pool. It is amazing the things you will do for love.
For my reintroduction to scuba diving, I have chosen a Discover Scuba Diving course at my local dive shop. Discover Scuba Diving is a one-day program for people who have no experience with scuba diving, but want an introduction to the world under the sea. It’s not a scuba certification course, it’s just that first peek, that first adventure, that moment that ignites your curiosity, or, in my case, an opportunity to eliminate some fears and ease into a new sport gently.
The Discover Scuba Diving experience includes an Open Water Dive briefing (that’s where you learn about the equipment you will use to breathe underwater, safety guidelines, and other tips that will help make your experience truly incredible), and an Open Water Dive, from a beach or from a dive boat (that’s where you’ll actually scuba dive in the ocean or a nearby lake, depending upon where you live…or your travel destination). In my case, we don’t live near any open water, so the diving portion of the course takes place at a local pool. At the end of the course, I have the option to convert the cost of the course towards a credit that may be put toward a PADI Open Water Diver course.
From the start of this experience, I am already more comfortable. My dive instructor, Brandy, teaches with a confidence that puts me at ease, while also making me feel less wimpy about my overall fears. She is encouraging with a sense of humor that helps to melt away my jitters. When I fail at clearing my mask and come up sputtering and rubbing makeup out of my eyes, she rubs her own eyes and jokes about “girl diving problems.” When I continue to struggle with clearing my mask, she encourages me by reminding me that I have given birth, so I can certainly clear a mask. Her enthusiasm gives me the confidence to learn the skills and the slow pace of the Discover class is just the thing that I need to ease my way back into diving. With Brandy’s encouragement, I complete the basic training and I am free to explore the underwater world.
At first, I can still feel the awkward combination of unfamiliarity and fear, but after a few minutes, the lull of the bubbles past my mask, and the silent buoyancy helps me to relax. I remember the joy of sneaking into the cocoon of the underwater world and remind myself that this is the reward for the hard work at the surface.
When we emerge, I feel like I have taken a step towards conquering a long held fear. It wasn’t without some struggle, but it did help me to feel more self-self-assured and excited about diving overall, and gave me an opportunity to reconsider diving. Back in my car, I leaf through the manual Brandy gave me and look at the options for open water certification. I’m not sure if that is something that I want to pursue, but I know this: if I do it, I will do it, not to please anyone else. I will do it for me.
~This is a sponsored blog; while the views expressed here were genuinely mine, consideration was paid to me by PADI.