One thing that I look forward to each year is the chance to get away from it all by putting on up to 50 kilos of heavy equipment and jumping off a boat into the crystal clear waters just off the beach.
Now that I have mastered the basics, it is the not the daunting experience that it was the first time I did what nature didn’t intend me to do, and breathe underwater.
I am sharing this experience with you for two reasons; firstly to encourage you to try it for yourself as it really is an amazing adventure, even a few metres below the surface. Secondly, to explain how not to learn the skills, namely the hard way, which I did.
My first instructor gave me a basic lesson on how the equipment worked and my first ever time in the water wearing all that strange gear was started by jumping off the jetty into water that I could not stand up in. I can’t tell you how nerve-wracking that was and those first few seconds nearly put paid to me ever doing it again.
When I finally surfaced my brain was telling me ‘get out of here now while you’re still alive!’ My heart was telling me ‘don’t be a wally, everyone goes through that first doubt’.
I later found out from a different instructor that you should always stand in waist-deep water the first few times so that when your head goes under you know that to get out of trouble all you have to do is stand up.
In the middle of that course, I was coming to the surface after my first proper dive. What the instructor had failed to mention was that you should stop a couple of metres from the surface and look up to make sure that the water is clear for your final ascent. This lesson hit home, literally, when a passing boat just caught the side of my head as it passed by. I dread to think what might have happened!
Another thing that I had to learn the hard way is something called ‘exertion’. This is when your lungs are trying to keep up with the hard work you are doing and you end up hyperventilating. That was the worst part of all the diving I have done. I couldn’t breathe and I didn’t know what was wrong. The answer is quite simple, you just come to a complete stop and take very slow and deep breaths. Had I known that before I ever got in the water I would not have worried so much.
Going back to the first line, I said that it was something I was looking forward to. Despite these events it is still one of the most exciting things I have done and will continue to do.