But first, reasons why I never wanted to learn how to scuba dive:
- I’ve had a lifelong fear of water.
- I was never a great swimmer.
- I stepped in a crabs nest in four feet of water in Florida and the crabs hung on to my toes and one ripped off my little toenail. Yes, it’s true.
- A sharks fin came up next to me while I was boogie boarding.
So the fears grew.
Then one day some friends invited me and my husband to Bonaire in the Caribbean. It’s a tiny island known for diving. It’s next to Curacao an Aruba in the Dutch Antilles. Just north of Venezuela. My husband was on board immediately. I figured I’d just snorkel there if I went. I mean how could I learn to dive?
Then I thought about it for a weekend. What am I going to do – be afraid my whole life of water? People dive every day. People of all sizes and ages. Maybe this is one thing I can get past. So I signed up for a two-weekend scuba course to get certified in open water. In a nutshell you read 500 pages of instructions and take multiple tests. You do a couple of dives in a pool and basically figure out how to make yourself buoyant. And how all your gears works and why a regulator is important.
Then the following weekend there is more reading and tests.
It was March 2006. And the challenge is you have to do four more dives and they are in the Puget Sound, in the town of Mukilteo by the docks. The air temperature was 42 degrees. The water temperature was 39 degrees. You’re in a dry suit so it doesn’t feel as cold in the water. However, I did feel like the Michelin woman.
If all I had to do was do a short little dive from the shore and get out that would have been easy. I can see Dungeness crab walking along the sea floor and sea stars and star fish. I’m nervous but I think I can do this. Actually, I can’t wait to get out of the water. I just want this craziness to be over.
Now comes the fun.
Part of the exam is in the water. There are several exercises so the instructor knows you can take care of yourself. One of them is you have to take off your mask underwater and put it back on your face in front of the instructor. I tried to do this and freaked out. There’s no visibility. The water is cold. I’m fumbling. I feel like I’m choking. I start thrashing a little. I finally get my stupid mask back on. Somehow I passed.
The instructor pulls my husband aside and says he grappled with letting me get certified. I’m supposed to be comfortable with all the exercises and I’m not. We tell the instructor we’re going to Bonaire the following week and he feels better about letting me dive. “It’s a whole lot easier diving in warm water” he says.
If you’re a diver you may think all of this is not a big deal. Sometimes, the things in our heads and our fears are so much bigger that if feels like we’ve overcome something huge when we’re done. That’s how it felt to me.
The following week I went to Bonaire and did two dives a day for a week. It was phenomenal. Bonaire is also a huge kiteboarding destination. I highly recommend checking out Bonaire if you’re a diver. The tourism on the island is about diving. And a little bit of kiteboarding. But, mostly diving. Since then I’ve dived mostly in Maui. And I am done diving in cold water.