Scuba Steve

16 Aug

Back in November last year, I decided to sign up to get my Open Water scuba diving certification. I’d decided to do this with a good friend (and ex co-worker) as we had both become interested when we worked with Marine scientists a couple of years back. These people practically lived in and for the sea and their enthusiasm was contagious. I was also interested because one of my best friends had her certification and, when we’d gone on holiday to Cairns last year, she’d accompanied me on an intro dive.

I guess there was also the novelty factor because no one else in my immediate family had ever done something like this. Plus I often have dreams were I can breathe underwater (and embarrassingly have tried on a few occasions in the pool to see whether it was a dream). So I kind of wondered whether the experience would perhaps fulfil this dream of mine.

When my co-worker and I did the course in February, it was a package deal where you got a free wetsuit. My friend, M, had also roped in one of her friends to do it as well and on the evening where we could try on and pick up our wetsuits, I met this new friend Z. We had to get very familiar very quickly because I needed a LOT of help getting into my wetsuit. I was basically half dressed when she came in to help me. There was a lot of limbs and sweat – those things are really hard to put on.

Anyway, the training course was spread over an evening and two weekends. The first weekend involved a day of theory and a day in a pool learning the basics and safety procedures. The pool day was extremely hot – almost 40C. I neglected to put sunscreen on the back on my hands and the part in my hair and got an extreme sunburn. This resulted in me looking like I had skin sleeves on my arms and a really bad case of dandruff. Heck yes, that’s attractive.

The next weekend we had two days of ocean dives. This is when M and I discovered that we are prone to getting seasick and that you shouldn’t drink red glucose drinks or eat almonds at the same time. M was far worse than I was, retching on the surface and underwater pretty much from the get go. I managed to feel mostly fine until the break between the second and third dives when I felt extremely ill. As soon as they said, “put your gear back on and we’ll get back in” it was like my body instantly repelled the idea. I said, “hold on a moment!” and lent over the side and vomited fluorescent pink and almondy goodness into the ocean. Too much information? I apologise. Meanwhile, M was doing the same on the other side of the boat. Z, on the other hand had no trouble with sickness at all.

At the end of the day, as an instructor was explaining to me what went wrong with my mask (which insisted on flooding every 30 seconds) I was standing, waiting and willing him to finish talking because I really wanted to vomit again. At long last he did and I leaned over the side again. I was helped off the boat at this point because I was going to hit my head if I didn’t move. My goodness, it was an unpleasant day.

The following day, M and I armed ourselves with travel sickness tablets and managed to survive the day. We actually even enjoyed ourselves and saw a few cool creatures. It was this day that made it all feel worthwhile. I still had trouble with my mask and my ears, but the surreal feeling and exhilaration of being underwater cancelled the bad stuff for the most part. We felt exhausted and completely unglamorous but we caught glimpse of a world completely unlike our own.

After I did this course, a contractor that I got along with at my old workplace found out and immediately started calling me Scuba Steve. I had to investigate the origin of this nickname because I’d never heard of it before. But the nickname stuck for quite some time.

Anyway, my first experiences with scuba diving have been kind of mixed. When I did my intro dive last year in Cairns with my old housemate it was both exciting and grating on the nerves. You see, I have trouble walking in a straight line: I tend to veer diagonally and it’s not because I’m drunk. I think I might actually have a middle ear problem, or maybe I’m just extremely uncoordinated. This inability to walk straight also translated into swimming, because I apparently cannot swim straight according to my friend. She actually got quite frustrated with me because I kept swimming into her personal bubble, which I was completely unaware of. And there is no real way to tell someone underwater to piss off because you can’t talk. So I had no idea until we’d surfaced that I’d done something wrong. I felt so bad that I wanted to cry. I didn’t intentionally swim that way. She tried to make a jest of it afterwards, but it didn’t make me feel better because, in a way, it felt like she was still annoyed about it and trying to cover it up. I don’t know if that makes sense.

We also got to wear these mega attractive blue stinger suits and I was introduced to the amount of weight included in an air tank, BCD and weight belt. When we hopped in the water we held onto a line before we all descended together. Visibility wasn’t so great, but it was still a surreal experience. I also found out how painful it is when your ears don’t equalise properly. It basically feels like someone is stabbing you in the ear. I fixed it as much as possible with the aid of one of the guides, but I also didn’t signal when it began hurting again and forced myself through the pain. I wanted to do this dive!

(My best superhero pose)

There was a second dive from what I remember and things may have gone a little smoother this time. It’s hard to describe the sensation of being underwater because you are generally with other people but isolated because you can’t talk to them. You’re in your own little world.

I’m going diving for the first time since the course tomorrow and I’m a little bit worried. I’m going with M and the friend who came to cairns with me, but they haven’t met before. I’m a little worried that they won’t get along, but I’m more worried that I might have forgotten everything I’ve learnt. There is also my worry that I’m going to swim in someone’s way or that I’ll have trouble with my ears again. But, you know, I think it’s still worth it. I may feel overwhelmed, exhausted, like some disgusting sea creature that’s been dredged up by the end of the day, but the sensation of being in that other world is exhilarating.

I’ll tell you how it goes tomorrow. There may or may not be vomit involved.


2 Responses to “Scuba Steve”

  1. wabiwabi 21/08/2011 at 7:39 pm #

    That’s a fab photo!


  1. The Diving Day « bearinthere - 22/08/2011

    […] diving. If you read my Scuba Steve post, you would have known that I was pretty much in two minds about going diving again. When K and […]

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