Learning to Scuba Dive
I knew learning to scuba dive would be a challenge - for my instructors as well as myself. The initial training was in the dive pool at our local pools. I was kitted out with a wetsuit and a belt with weights. The breathing apparatus and tanks were also provided. And I had to provide my mask and flippers. FLIPPERS! What a joy they were! I could move faster and easier in the water with them.
In the pool, it was relatively easy. It was only so deep and there was one instructor to two of us. Everyone else were learning too and I felt in good company. Strangely, even with the weight belt on, I was buoyant enough that I didn’t sink. I could control the depth I ‘swam’ down to. I learned to duck dive and come from the bottom of the dive pool to the surface without breathing. None of this was without its fears, but I did it all, and I kept coming back for more.
Did I manage to mask the fact that I couldn’t swim? If not, it didn’t seem to be a problem and soon we were planning our first dive in the ocean to Mayor Island in the Bay of Plenty, NZ.
I hate the feeling of being closed in and sitting in the boat all geared up felt really claustrophobic. I resisted going backwards into the water and wasn’t alone in jumping in. And once I was submerged, I moved my way down the anchor chain as instructed. This was one time I followed instructions to the letter. And how wonderful to be able to see under the water! Memories of myself at eight years old, marvelling at the underwater world and promising myself to one day swim with the fishes came flooding back and I thought my heart would burst with joy!
My claustrophobia was gone, replaced by a feeling of supreme freedom. Of course, there were things to ‘prove’ here and we set to work. We had to take our flippers off and swim 100 metres to the boat, with all our gear on but above the water. Needless to say, I was last to arrive at the boat! But, dog paddling and all, I made it!
The scariest thing was taking my breather out of my mouth and going up 30 metres to the surface without the aid of the compressed air. We’d practised this of course. And the way to do it is to breathe out continuously and keep your chin up, looking up to the surface. But the involuntary action of the body is to keep breathing. This is where I still remember how grateful I was to my instructor who was with me all the way and when I was about to take a breath he just tilted my chin up, reminding me. Joy! We reached the surface and I’d done it! I completed my tests that day and earned my Padi diving certificate.
I confessed to the instructors that I’d lied about not being able to swim and they laughed as they told me they knew. They were impressed by my courage and determination and so were committed to helping me achieve my goal.
My fear of drowning wasn’t completely over yet but it was considerably diminished. And I gained a deeper respect and understanding for those who act as guides in my life.
(Photo credit: by Peter Southwood - https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24447720)