Scuba diving is one of those things people from all over think about as a wonderful activity where you can breathe effortlessly under the sea as you glide along, hanging out with the beautiful fish and the sea turtles as you float along weightlessly and full of bliss. For a lot of people, that’s probably true. For me, on the other hand, it is a panic-inducing anxiety generator.
I just shouldn’t scuba dive.
I’ve always been a little claustrophobic but it doesn’t really impact my life too much other than that occasional panic when I find myself in a particularly large and dense crowd, or perhaps when I get stuck in an elevator. Other than that, life pretty much marches on as normal. I’ve always enjoyed swimming and snorkeling and traveling to tropical destinations that have reefs, so scuba diving sounded like something I should probably try at some point. Of course, I emphasize the at some point in this case, and had always thought when I did it, I would take a class spanning several weeks where an instructor gently guided me through the process starting in a pool somewhere and eased me into it, eventually going on a guided ocean dive.
That’s not how it happened.
It was on a trip to Kauai in 2010 where I got my introduction to the world of scuba diving. My husband and I had been talking about going on a boat cruise up the Na Pali Coastline and upon doing a little research, we discovered there was one that also included a day of snorkeling off the coast of Ni’ihau. Since I had been obsessed with catching a glimpse of Ni’ihau for basically the entire trip, and I’m always up for a good day of snorkeling, I told him to go ahead and book it.
About ten minutes later, my husband comes back to me and proudly announces, “I booked our day out on the boat. Oh! And it was only $25 more to add an introductory scuba dive, so I signed us both up for it.”
That was the moment I began to panic.
“Wait…what? I’m going scuba diving?”
“Yeah, it’s an intro dive so you don’t need to be certified to do it. They will teach you!”
No. No. No. No. No! I thought I was going to ease into this. I’m going scuba diving…tomorrow? Aaaaaahhh! I’m not ready for this. Panic. Panic. Panic!
That is what was going through my head. I didn’t sleep much that night.
I don’t think my husband expected me to panic so much over it. He had meant well and thought it would be a fun thing to do, and I know that he had been looking forward to scuba diving, so I attempted to be supportive and go along with it.
The next day when we arrived on our boat, we met the scuba instructor. It was just going to be the two of us since we were the only ones who had signed up, so we had all the attention of the instructor, which was good, I suppose.
We did our boat cruise up the Na Pali coast and after that was over, it was time to head over to Ni’ihau for our scuba dive. The instructor pulled the two of us aside and started going over all the basics of scuba diving, giving an equipment and safety demonstration, and telling us about all the things we would need to remember while down there. You know, things like don’t hold your breath or it could kill you, and make sure to come up slowly or you could get the bends and die.
I continued to panic, silently.
It wasn’t until the boat had stopped and it was time to jump into the water that everything I was feeling came bubbling over. She gave me the tank, which was a really heavy backpack that strapped onto me. As soon as those heavy weights were strapped onto me and I was faced with jumping into the ocean while weighted down, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I sat there, paralyzed with fear, with tears streaming down my face. I tried to speak but it mostly came out as an incoherent mumbling.
I wasn’t jumping in that water.
When somebody said the words, “You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to”, I ripped that equipment off so fast you could have missed it had you blinked. I started breathing again. The tears kept streaming down my face, however.
My husband of course went on the dive and came back happy, describing the fabulous time he had. I spent the entire time with a snorkel mask on, checking on him to make sure he wasn’t ascending too quickly and getting the bends.
All in all I wouldn’t say it was my finest moment.
Later, on a trip to Australia when we visited the Great Barrier Reef and I was offered yet another chance to go on an introductory scuba dive, my answer was a resounding NO.
It’s just not for everybody.
Have you ever been scuba diving? What was your experience?