Scuba diving is a fun adventure but it took education and practice to finally get comfortable with it. I’m telling all in this post!
I always thought scuba diving was going to be a one-time, check it off the life list kind of thing. Fifty plus dives later, here I am, getting ready to go live on a boat for a week and dive in my sixth country. Eat, sleep, dive. That’s the life, right? It wasn’t always that way, and in fact, at many points I dreaded diving. Keep reading for all the details!
How I Got into Scuba Diving
Divers joke that in a relationship, it’s one person who loves it and his/her significant other goes along with it. I wouldn’t say I hated it, but diving made me incredibly scared and uncomfortable at the beginning.
When I met Boyfriend, he had recently done a Discover Scuba excursion during a cruise trip. Those beginner-focused dives are not deep and they show you the basics before you jump in. He loved the experience and wanted to do more of it. We ended up taking an open water scuba diving course together for fun (or so I thought). It involved four classroom and pool classes and two days at the lake.
I’m not very comfortable in the water. I loathe treading water, I wear contacts so seeing underwater without eye protection isn’t possible, and I had some slightly traumatic, near drowning experiences when I tried to surf. I struggled through those diving classes because of all of that and my first experiences diving in open water didn’t come without some trauma.
Getting Lost During My First Open Water Dives
Our first open water dives were in murky Lake Austin. Two days at the lake doing a few dives were a part of our certification. That lake was the stuff of nightmares. We had to follow a rope that was tied to the bottom of the lake because you couldn’t see two feet in front of you until about 20-30 feet down. Even then, the visibility was poor because of all the lake stuff being disturbed and clouding the water.
We were paired up with two students to one dive instructor. I temporarily lost a fin and then lost my dive buddy and instructor. I was found by another group who found my dive buddy. We never found our dive instructor until we met back on the surface. All of this was happening in darkness and cloudy lake water. Talk about a little trauma.
Advanced Open Water Dives and Shooting to the Surface
After getting open water certified, Boyfriend went on a week-long liveaboard trip, which is around 20 dives, in the Bahamas and when he returned, he had immensely improved his diving AND spontaneously taken the opportunity to get his advanced open water certification. A few months later, I took my advanced open water classes.
For my advanced training, I was back at murky Lake Austin, somehow forgetting how traumatizing it was the first time and was determined to get through the classes. Remember, I still hadn’t dived anywhere other than this lake! In the first lake dive, I was supposed to dive alone in a square, guided by a compass and followed by an instructor. My instructor lost me and I somehow ended up more than 20 feet away under a boat dock. I hit my head on the dock when I popped up on the surface, clearly in the wrong place.
The next day, my buoyancy compensator (the vest divers wear to control buoyancy) shot me up to the surface from about 60 feet below after I didn’t drop air fast enough. If you’re familiar with diving, you know this is very bad! A three-minute safety stop happens at 15 feet at the end of every dive to offload the built-up gas bubbles during diving and prevent decompression sickness. Think of it like opening a soda. Thankfully, I was fine!
Diving in the Ocean for the First Time
At this point, I didn’t really like diving, but I couldn’t go all the way to Thailand, one of the most beautiful places to dive and NOT dive! I didn’t really have a choice; we had already booked a three-day liveaboard before we arrived.
Then I jumped into the ocean in Thailand and saw a glimpse of what diving was really like. The clarity seemed to go on forever. Thailand’s typography underwater is so unique, I can see why it is one of the best places to dive. Diving in the ocean was eye-opening and thrilling to what adventures diving could bring.
Those first ocean dives in Thailand were also a bit of a wreck. If I ever saw my dive guide again, I’d turn and walk the other way or I would walk up to him and apologize for being a terrible diver. I ran into things, mostly the sandy bottom, and I swam too close to other people. I was constantly moving my legs and breathing too fast. Before every dive those three days, I would have to calm mini panic attacks. I was inexperienced and traumatized from my lake dives.
But aside from the struggle of figuring out how to dive properly, my eyes opened to the amazing beauty and opportunity diving gave me to discover the underwater world.
A year later, we dove the Blue Hole in Belize – down to 130 feet – and I got nitrogen narcosis! It’s harmless, mostly made me feel drunk, and it went away as I ascended. Diving Blue Hole is not that exciting, as many divers note, but it’s cool to see the humongous stalactites. Did you know the Blue Hole was created by a collapsed cave and rising sea level? We also saw many favorite wildlife in Belize.
The other day I couldn’t help but spout out all the troubles I’ve had from diving while trying to convince someone she should get certified. Diving takes a lot out of you mentally, emotionally, and physically. It takes a lot of calming anxiety, being present, trusting your knowledge, and being fearless.
I think back on our most recent trip to the Cayman Islands when I celebrated my 50th dive and I marvel at the progress I’ve made in the last three years. While there are a few butterflies before every dive because you never know what might happen, I am more excited about what I will see and calm about the processes.
The underwater world is incredible to experience. Diving is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done and I encourage everyone to try it!
Have you or would you try scuba diving? What would you want to see?