Whenever you meet scuba divers, you quickly notice how passionate they are. More or less a bunch of fanatics, all of them. Which seems kind of weird and scary until you start scuba diving yourself and then you will most likely be exactly like them. So I thought I would share my pre-fanatic story.
The rain made me do it
Imagine you are going to a tiny, tiny island in Thailand. Your plan is to chill by the beach, get some work done, but you know, mainly work on your tan. This island also happens to be famous for getting your scuba diving licence without blowing your budget. You know this, but the last months has been intense, and scuba diving seems kind of scary, so you’re pretty happy with your plan. It’s a solid plan.
Then you get there. And since you are now such a relaxed world traveler, you have completely stopped doing your research. Which means that you had to arrive at the neighbouring island before you realize two things.
1) It’s low season. You notice this by the fact that you have an 8-bed dorm all to yourself at a top rated hostel.
2) The reason it’s low season is obvious. It rains. All. The. Time.
So what do you do when you’ve gotten this far and you’re on an island famous for diving, and the rain does not allow any other island activities? You sign up for a diving course, secretly hoping they will not have a spot for you, but of course, they do and you have to be there by 5 pm the next day.
Removing my mask below the surface? No thanks, I’m good.
The PADI Open Water course usually takes three days to complete, with a mix of studying and skill practice, first in a pool and then during four dives in the ocean.
Every diver I know talk about the weird feeling of taking your first breaths below the surface. I barely remember that. But removing my mask underwater? Yes, that I remember. All of them. Which I hated equally.
To give you some background: I’m not a fan of going underwater, and when I do, I always pinch my nose. I love swimming and I’m a pro at floating, but the whole thing where you go underwater and manage to close off your nose without using your hand, I have yet to figure out. And every time I try, I just inhale deep breaths of salt water. Which is seriously uncomfortable. This is also the reason why I’m not a fan of jumping from cliffs or anything that means I will go below the surface even for a second.
So when I understood that we had to remove our masks while kneeling on the bottom of the pool, I almost said “well, this has been fun, but I’m like super busy right now” and walked away. But since stubbornness is a big part of my personality, together with a general attitude that “if other people can do it, so can I”, I refused to give up.
So I stopped thinking and when my instructor gave the signal, I took my mask off completely. With my eyes open, another thing I didn’t know I could do. And even though I did get some water in my nose, I survived.
I know, it shocked me too.
(But I still hate it.)
The Point Of No Return
I’ll be honest here. Descending is not my favourite part. And my first time was definitely the worst. We were all going down a line and as soon as I got below the surface my mind went completely bonkers. It sounded something like this:
“What the fuck have I gotten myself into? How can I get out of this without dying of embarrassment and ruining the dive for everyone else? Ok, I can’t see a way out of this. Equalize Sanna, equalize. Where the hell did my Mexican diving instructor go? Where’s my buddy? Where am I? Is my right ear really popping? What if I get a reverse block? How deep am I? How long is this going to take? God, this is insane. If people were meant to be underwater we would have been born as fishes. Ok, there I managed to pop both ears. Seriously, where is my instructor? Can we go back to the surface like now?!”
After that going through my mind over and over, in the speed of light (with an impressive amount of curse words, I get really creative when I’m scared), we finally reached the bottom. And when we got there, finished our skill practice and started swimming around, I realized I wasn’t scared anymore. Instead, I was just completely fascinated by our surroundings. The fishes, just going about their business like nobody was watching. The environment that was something out of this world. The feeling of being weightless.
And then I was officially hooked.
I did my Open Water and Advanced at Ocean Sound, Koh Tao, which I cannot recommend highly enough. Special thanks to my diving instructor Erik, who managed to teach this anxious control freak a thing or two about relaxing in the ocean.