“Ten minutes floating in the pool,” Jonathan my dive instructor said.
That was something I knew I could do as opposed to putting on the wet suit the correct way. I felt like such a sexy sausage after inching that thing onto my body. My dive buddy Sara told me I looked like one too.
The floating was meditative. The way I wish I started each of my mornings especially on a Monday. I watched the clouds float by as I stretched my limbs out on the surface of the pool. I haven’t smelled chlorine in months. Being a briney body is the new norm for me living in Hawaii. This is what I’d call the ocean life.
I allowed my eyes to close as I focused on my breath. The time flew by. I knew I was ready for becoming SCUBA certified. I felt mentally prepared for the opportunity of a lifetime. I get to make new fish friends while being able to use a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (what SCUBA stands for).
Next, Jonathan, Sara and I practiced all the skills in the pool. This was to practice before the four open water dives in the ocean at 35-feet. As we walked out of the Dive Master’s Satoshi’s home, I got to pass the two 20-year-old tortoises. They were calm like Yoda. Something that I aspire for while I am underwater. Calm and deep breaths.
I waddled like a penguin to the side of the boat to evacuate it. With my mask in one hand and my regulator in the next, kerplunk, I splashed into the sea.
Those first few breaths were anxiety inducing. I can’t say I’ve ever left my life source up to a metal cylinder. It was velcro strapped onto my back that was attached to a BCD also known as a buoyancy control device. In layman’s terms, it’s a floatable jacket that is like a multipurpose backpack that saves your life.
Foot by foot, down the moor line to the bottom of the abyss I went. Each part I go further down is another breath further that it would take for me to escape to the surface. It was uncomfortable when my ears wouldn’t equalize. My brain would tell me it’s good to go down but then my ear drums felt like they were in a pressure cooker. I’d go back up to pinch my nose and push the pressure out.
The skills were mostly a breeze. Both Sara and I had taken the e-Learning course online before so putting the skills into practice in person reinforced so much of what felt fleeting on the screen. The two skills that were most challenging for me were removing my mask underwater and the CESA.
It was terrifying to take my mask off underwater and then blowing the water out. Especially because I went surfing a couple days ago and lost a contact. I taught my roommate Emily how to drive my moped to drive us home. Losing your vision unexpectedly is not the type of surprise that I seek out. It’s such a weird feeling to intentionally swim and breath underwater without seeing. I can’t say that’s an experiment I’d ever want to do in any other circumstance than becoming SCUBA certified.
CESA stands for “controlled emergency swimming ascent”. It’s a technique as an emergency procedure when a diver has run out of air in shallower water and must ascend on one breath. Surfacing to the top on one breath freaked me out. Nevertheless I took some deep breaths before hand and rationed my air off until the top.
To swim underwater consists of understanding floating, kicking and breathing. All three are things that don’t seem too challenging. However, imposter syndrome was setting in on that first dive, “Who am I to go breath underwater?”
Then I realized, I’ve breathed every day all day for these 25 and a half years of my life. Why would today be any different?
I’m proud to say I will be adding that I am a PADI certified open water scuba diver!
(PADI stand for Professional Association of Diving Instructors.)
Some reflections from the experience over all:
It was horrendous conditions at the surface rainy and windy. I felt like Aerial from the Little Mermaid where there was a storm at the shoreline and I had escaped it into the great under belly of the sea.
How much we rely on verbal communication. Playing rock, paper, scissors at 30 feet below and not being able to communicate to go on the count of four rather than three. It’s also seemingly impossible to explaining how to wind the film to capture the Kodak moments with my janky underwater camera.
The calmness of a family of six turtles was one of the cutest sights I have seen here in Hawaii.
It felt like there was bubble wrap in my ear drums when I breached like a whale
Slowing floating over the coral, feeling at peace almost dream-like
It is a solitary, private experience yet shared that involves being alert and high energy while also having faith in technology and being trusting of yourself
A sensation of weightlessness and flying but underwater because it’s like being in control of going in three dimensions of up or down or left of right.