I am so proud of Tony! You see, sometimes I get these hair-brained ideas in my head and I am adamant on doing them. The most recent, obviously, was scuba diving. Surprisingly, it didn’t take much convincing from Tony (I don’t think he thought I would actually go through with it). But I found a Groupon a few weeks ago, and this morning we were up at 7:30 am to begin this new adventure.
To earn an Open Water Scuba Diving Certification takes a lot of time and commitment. We started last week with a nine part online course. Today was our first day of instruction. We met our dive master (and trainer), were fitted for and learned about our gear, and then spent the entire afternoon in a local pool.
A few years ago I was a pretty avid swimmer, swimming a mile or two every day. But that was a few years ago…so today, when we were asked to swim 50 feet without breathing and then tread water for 10 minutes, I began to panic. I felt my heart rate increasing and knew I was only burning more oxygen, but I was confident in the fact that I wouldn’t even get past this first part. I was so embarrassed by how in shape I was, or lack thereof, that I wanted to run out of the building and hide. But 12 minutes later, I was on to the next thing. I swam 50 feet without a flinch, and treading water, well, I could do that all day long.
We spent the next hour learning about our masks and how to breathe with a snorkel. I have been snorkeling several times before, so there wasn’t too big of a learning curve for me, but I guess baby steps are important when you’re about to submerge yourself in water, up to 66 feet into the water to be specific (although we didn’t get that far today).
Next up, scuba diving! We put wet suits on for this. Of the entire experience, this was the worst part. If you’ve ever worn a wet suit, you know what I mean. And then into the pool with roughly 60 pounds of gear on our backs, worn like a backpack. I wasn’t sure exactly how this would work. I mean, 60 pounds!! But guess what? It’s mostly air. Air floats. So, it really didn’t feel like we were wearing much other than a few hoses.
We also wore weights, to help pull us to the bottom. But I was having some trouble with mine. Most people would float, or sink rather, to the bottom on their stomachs, just floating flat. But every time I went under, I flipped over on my back. I would literally be laying on the bottom of the pool, perched on my oxygen tank, legs in the air. Our instructor called it ‘turtling.’ I was stuck upside down like a turtle just kicking my legs but unable to flip over. I was so frustrated, but after we resurfaced, he explained to me that since I don’t have a lot of leg muscle, my legs want to float up, which was causing my flipping and flopping. I got rid of my flippers (which also wanted to float), and he added more weight to me. It was smooth sailing from there.
At one point we were all under water, about 10 feet or so, for what seemed like a minute or two. When we got back to the surface, Tony asked how long we were underwater and our instructor told us roughly 10 minutes. The time flew by and I’m not sure I’ll ever have enough time under the water. It’s such a liberating feeling, especially for me. It’s the one place in the world where I’m not confined to metal and wheels.
So in two weeks, we go back for another day at the pool. And then two weeks later, we will make four dives into a lake on the northern side of Atlanta. We’ve got a long way to go, but I’m so excited that we made the first step.
I often wonder why I put myself in situations that I’m so scared of, that make me so extremely uncomfortable. There were many, many times today when I wanted to quit and give up. On the way to the training at 8 am. When I walked into the building, wondering if my training crew would be able to handle my ‘physical needs.’ When I just ‘knew’ I couldn’t swim 50 feet. When I kept ‘turtling.’ When my arms became so sore that lifting them above my head was painful. When my instructor made me take my oxygen source off underwater. But I survived, and like almost everything that I’m terrified of, in the end, it’s so rewarding. So if you haven’t done something that scares you shitless in the last 12 months, get up and do it now. Seriously, it’s just a great way to live life.
As a side note, my instructor was simply fascinating. I learned that there is a type of certification for those with physical limitations. It’s called HSA (Handicapped Scuba Association) diving. My instructor has taken several paraplegic and quadriplegic divers with him, and even dove with a blind diver. If you ever doubt yourself, think of these people. It’s really quite incredible what we can do when we put our minds to it.
*More pictures to come. We couldn’t take pictures while we were in the pool.