Describe SCUBA Diving

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“Describe SCUBA Diving, what is it like?” Is a question that non divers often ask me… Its one of those tricky questions to answer  because every diver will describe SCUBA diving differently. I cannot tell  you what you will experience if you decide to try it, but I will do my best to help you understand what I feel.

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First is the predive excitement

To me diving starts when I wake up at 6am and I remember ‘I am going diving today!‘ At first there is excitement, that giddy flutter of happiness as your heart smiles. followed by my brains incessant and logical worries, such as do I have everything I need? Is the weather okay?‘ In response I begin to methodically check and go over the lists in my head, and once I’ve made sure that the weather is clear, I have my camera and my dive computer, and the rest of my gear, I can never get to the beach fast enough.

Next is the Heavy Part

Then I’m lifting heavy tanks and duffel bags of gear telling myself, ‘this is worth it, I’m almost in the water, just a couple tanks more‘. Then I am climbing into the boat and setting up my gear,  still hoping I haven’t forgotten anything, making sure all of my gadgets are fastened tightly to my vest, double and triple checking everything. Next I’m putting on the gear. You cannot describe SCUBA diving without mentioning gearing up. Here I am, strapping a 30 pound tank of compressed air to my back, sticking lead in my pockets, slipping some fins on my feet and jumping in the ocean.

Yet, it is the moment that I slip that tank onto my back that I stop worrying about everything else in the world. The weight of it seems to ground me. Then I’m jumping into the water and I’m so excited that I can hardly wait to deflate my vest. Once everyone is ready to go, we start our descent.

Finally, I’m in the water

My head goes under  and the silence takes over. The only noises down here are subtle. It is just the sound of my own breathing, sand skittering against the rocks, and the chorus nearly silent chorus of fishes. Yet even these sounds fade into the background; all the commotion of the world above just disappears. I feel calm and peaceful as I slowly sink down to the bottom. I no longer feel the weight of my gear, and the aches and pains in my muscles and joints dissipate as I reach the bottom.

Next, I take a few breaths to make sure  I am  neutrally buoyant. I feel how my breath lifts me up and my body sinking as I exhale once more. There is such delight in that weightlessness. Even though 1-4 atmospheres of extra pressure are being exerted on my body I don’t feel it. In fact I feel light as a feather.

Then My Heart Swells like the ocean

Finally, I begin to look around, I can see colorful fish in reds, yellows blues, and silver swimming about in groups. Little puffer fish nestle into the rocks taking a mid day nap. Everything moves slowly, calmly, there is no rush to do anything. Down here I can’t see as far, only the distance the visibility allows. This does not make me nervous instead it makes me more curious, ‘what’s beyond that rock? Is there a reef just beyond that bed of sand?‘ By nature I love adventure and SCUBA diving satiates that craving to explore and discover. You never know what strange creature you are going to find, and everywhere you look there are all kinds of nooks and crannies where some little ocean treasure could be hiding.

There’s all the little stuff

I remember the first time I found a nudibranch (a teeny tiny colorful sea slug). I felt so proud that I had spotted something so tiny in an ocean so big, and to this day I still feel a sense of immense accomplishment when I find small or well camouflaged creatures. Or when you are able to approach a stingray for the first time, and he doesn’t swim away. When you can get so close that you can see the reflections in his eyes. There is a sense of knowing, in the way they look at you. They seem to understand you are there only to observe and admire.

And then the big stuff

Even more indescribable is the feeling of seeing your first extra large marine animal. whether it be a manta, a whale, or a giant shark, there is no way to explain how amazing they are to behold. One thing is for sure, they have a unique own energy around them. It is as if you can feel them nearby, and once you actually see them there is this intense majesty in the way they move through the water. In these moments time slows to a crawl and you can only gape in awe.

But it all happens too fast.

Then, before you know it the dive is over. It’s the last thing you want to do right now, but you need to return to the surface; to your own world. It has been almost an hour yet the whole thing seemed to pass by in the blink of an eye. I Climb up onto the boat and the weight of my gear returns, reminding me that I am exploring a world that, biologically I shouldn’t be able to endure. It makes the whole experience seem even more surreal.

Then there’s that amazing sense of connection and community

Once my dive companions make it on the boat we begin excitedly chattering on about all of the amazing things we saw and experienced in that short hour below the surface. You feel a connection, not just to the people around you but the earth and ocean themselves.  It is a craving that, to me, is insatiable. Despite this need, after diving I always feel whole and happy and content… Not even those after dive munchies could change that.

Eventually I’m home and every night as I lie in bed, I’m hoping that tomorrow I get to dive again.

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