We recently got back from scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, and it was stunning (see photos!) But it wasn't always a dream of mine...
I'm not a risk-taker by nature. I'm completely content to be curled up anywhere, deep in a good book, for hours on end. My husband, on the other hand, doesn't sit still very well. He's also very persuasive. So while we were booking our honeymoon to Greece, he suggested we try scuba diving. In fact, we really must! He had been once before in Australia, loved it, and was dying to go again. This would be the perfect chance!
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
We showed up to the dive place which was, truly, a dive. Our extremely tanned instructor, which we later discovered had quite a love for cigarettes, helped us find wetsuits that fit and lead us down to the sea. We hopped into the boat and headed out. As we were riding out, I was thinking "Okay, this isn't so bad. I think I can handle this." And then my husband said,
"I'm not sure if I should tell you this...but I'm really nervous."
Apparently this experience was nothing like his first, when they had a long tutorial, and signed in-depth waivers before hitting the water. We tried to reassure each other that it was fine. We'll be fine. Right?
Thankfully once we got out to the dive site, the instructor turned out to be more helpful and was very patient with us. He showed us how to enter the water, and gave us a quick run down on what we were about to do. I was still feeling pretty anxious, but I didn't want to let Bryce down. So we started descending underwater.
That's when I suddenly felt out of control. I was only 2 feet under water, but I was very aware of my tight suit, heavy oxygen tank, and the suffocating mask on my face. I couldn't figure out how to breathe. You know, BREATHING, that thing you're doing without thinking. That thing you need to live life. Ya, that. I didn't know how it worked. I could see the instructor looking up at me with his fingers in the "okay" sign. But I was panicking and couldn't get to the surface fast enough. I pulled my mask off my face and took in big lungfuls of air.
The instructor surfaced with me and started talking me through it in a thick Greek accent. I was barely listening because my thoughts were screaming something like "I CAN'T DO THIS" and "NEVER AGAIN". I was already imagining myself sitting in the boat for the rest of the day. Safe.
Before I had a chance to seriously refuse, the instructor was helping me put the mask back on my face. And then his hand was on the back of my head, sticking my face in the water. Deflating my BCD, helping me sink.
Oh Lord, help me. Somewhere between the prayers and the panic, my stubborn streak kicked in. "I WILL FIGURE THIS OUT. Try breathing differently." I allowed myself to breathe through my nose a little, just enough to suck the mask against my face. And then out a little. In. Out. Along with the regulator in my mouth, it started to feel more natural. In. Out. I slowly settled into a rhythm. And that's all I could hear, the sound of myself breathing.
I started to relax. More and more I noticed my surroundings. The coral, the rocks, the sand, and the fish. I was in another world. The instructor pulled an octopus off the rocks and we watched it swim away. It was so...peaceful.
Fast forward to a year later, I found myself in a tiny indoor pool in Kitchener, suiting up once again. Scuba diving wasn't going to just be a one-time thing for us. We got our certifications. (I passed.) Even though I still have trouble with my ears equalizing as we descend, I enjoy it.
So, here are a few things you should be prepared for before you go scuba diving, based on my experience:
1. Scuba diving is an exercise in controlling your MIND.
That first experience for me was a beautiful lesson in focus, and taking control of my thoughts. Panic situations happen when your mind gets out of control. Particularly when you don't think you can BREATHE. Or when your ears aren't popping and the group is getting ahead of you. You can't let yourself freak out. I've learned to stay completely calm, breathe steadily, and be patient until they do.
2. Scuba diving and bodily fluids don't mix.
For some reason, I can use the toilet and blow my nose before we hit the water but 30 minutes in my bladder is bursting and all the snot in my head wants OUT. Where did it all come from?? Something scientific to do with the pressure change, I'm sure. (Taking a sinus decongestant before you go under can help.)
3. Scuba equipment is heavy.
Not underwater. But for those few moments above water when you're in a black wetsuit in the blazing sun with a big vest and a heavy tank strapped to your back... you'll be relieved to get in the water. Just be patient.
4. Scuba diving is supposed to be relaxing.
If you've never been, you may be surprised to know that diving is meant to be slow, relaxing, and peaceful. The goal is to conserve your air so you can stay under as long as possible. It's not an aerobic activity.
5. Scuba diving is worth it.
The underwater world is fascinating, and worth experiencing. So thank you, Mr. Greek Instructor for forcing my head underwater otherwise I might have missed out on all of this...