Keep Calm and Swim On

Picture yourself hovering slightly above the ocean floor; all around you are beautiful fish and marine life. Massive coral reefs stand like apartment buildings housing their tiny, exotic inhabitants. 14m of ocean rests above you, compressing your body and all the gases within it. Sound is distorted, making the experience feel foreign and other worldly. Most of what you hear is your breathing – consisting of the air regulator’s unique sound of providing air, followed by the bubbling of your exhalation. Your peripheral vision is blocked by the diving mask that sits firmly on your face.

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This adds an additional handicap that makes you feel vulnerable. You’re acutely aware of the fact that you cannot surface without following ascent protocols so you don’t suffer from the dreaded “bends”. Your mind scampers between the feeling of amazement and fear. A tension starting deep in your stomach slowly builds and permeates upwards towards your chest. Suddenly you can feel your heart pounding in your throat and hear it echoing in your ears. Panic consumes you and plays with your mind.

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You begin gasping for air. It feels like you’re watching as a bystander as all this unfolds in seconds. Your brain reprimands you, “You idiot, why did you do this? Swim up to the surface and breath!”. The feelings are primal and visceral. The urge is powerfully tempting and you struggle to keep from its grip. Somehow section 4.5 of your training manual pops into your head (your brain works in mysterious ways). Recalling a breathing technique that was mentioned, you begin slow, deep breaths. Within seconds the heart pounding disappears and your anxiety vanishes. It’s only now that you realize what lays before you. A gorgeous, little clown fish that’s swimming around his wonderful sea anemone home. You’ve seen Finding Nemo so you know how special this little guy is. Looking around his home you see thousands of other beautiful fish all going about their lives, not in the least bit concerned about your presence. You think to yourself, “This is incredible but what was the deal with that anxiety, where did it come from?”. You can’t shake the feeling that it came so quickly once that it may rear its nasty head again. Mid thought you notice an incredible Lion Fish, striped like a zebra, bouncing along some coral. This steals your mind’s focus and before you know it you’re ascending. Slowly and following your dive computer’s instructions, you emerge from the water’s surface. In the splashing waves you inflate your buoyancy vest and bob in the ocean. You survived.

 

Diving can be tough. It can also be very natural and easy. What we’ve found is it’s mainly psychological. Remaining calm and following your training is essential to safe diving. That’s easier said then done; it comes with experience and needs to be ingrained in a diver’s actions. We have passed our Open Water Scuba Diving certification which means we are now licensed divers!DSC04049 We have both wanted to get our Scuba licenses for years now and finally that day has come. We did four open water dives, two were at a shipwreck from the 1980’s and the other two were at the Surin Islands.

Both of these dive sites are world class locations which is why we chose them. The license consists of a theoretical portion with written tests and a practical portion with live tests. Taking off your dive mask is a daunting task when you’re 16m below the ocean’s surface.The challenges keep coming and by the 3rd and final exhausting day you’re ready to be done with the whole thing. We pushed through with the certification even when we were demoralized by the thought of spending a lot of money and not enjoying the process. Here we are, licensed divers, feeling a sense of accomplishment. We’re also more comfortable with the dives themselves which means a more enjoyable experience. We only have a handful of our own photos as taking them while at sea is a challenge. We will use other photos similar to what we saw when we were diving. Too often you hear that diving is incredible and life changing. While that’s true, what’s left out is how difficult it can be and how things can take a scary turn abruptly. We wanted to share a different perspective.

We are now in full relaxation mode, enjoying the world class beaches from above sea level. It’s much easier to remain calm while sipping on banana mango milkshakes with one’s butt firmly planted on the beach.

 

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