14 years, Scuba Revisited

The quiet before the storm. Such a dream-like rush. Fluidity encompassed. Yet the exhilaration of past dives came crashing down upon me, toppling me and overthrowing my senses with a fierce wave of emotion. Feelings of fear, delight, joyous lightness, trepidation and downright terror filled my every senses. My close call with death as a child (I nearly drowned), keeps bubbling to the surface as a flashback of gasping presence, where instinct overrides every ounce of knowledge and wisdom imparted to me in my training. Skydiving is comparable to scuba, in that if emergency drills are not practiced thoroughly and grounded in physicality, fear will override the necessity of common sense and mental clarity. Then out the window goes the margin of safety so intrinsic to ones survival. That I am certain of. And experience it I did. Luckily only at a depth of 10 feet underwater.

Back it up a bit. Today both slaDE and I made a scuba dive together. The first of slaDE~s PADI certification training and part of a refresher course for me. The last time I dove was 14 years ago in the cold kelp-filled ocean waters off Monterey California, with my dive-buddy at the time being my friend Randy Pacheco. Quite ironic and sweet that Randy happens to be attending this Boogie in Belize, also enjoying the beauty of skydiving and scuba diving the coral reefs and Blue Hole. For me, scuba diving is: surreal, unforgettable, unimaginable, all encompassing. At the same time scuba for me is borderline terrifying and death-defying as I am unable to exist in this underwater world without the tools that another air-source provides. No gills, no air. Only water, me, the tank and my instruments. Completely at the mercy of the elements, one with my breath and oxygen source. A heightened sense of danger is ever-lurking, ever-present. Perhaps that’s why we both love it so? That rush of living on the edge. Pushing my comfort zone. Truly a guest in a world where I am so out of my element. Vulnerable, yet so completely and utterly buoyant (if I have my weighting down) and free :).

There’s a big comfort in knowing that San Pedro has Belize’s only hyperbaric chamber to deal with any decompression sickness and illness (aka the Bends). The chamber is located near the island airstrip, minutes away from our dive centre. Within most dive shops, a small box sits where one can submit a $1 donation per tank dive and fill. This goes toward funding the chamber and its work, also covering 50% of the chamber cost if the need arises for yourself.

Our dive today took us out to Tuffey Cut, just outside the reef and in to the choppy open water. The dive plan for us was a scenic coral drift dive that had us start with exploring a wreck and then led us winding through the reefs, bountiful with Grouper, Bermuda Chubb, schools of Blue Striped and French Grunt, Peacock Flounder, Sergeant Major and a beautiful starfish. All this after we completed our skills. We both did fabulously on our drills, that is until I had to fill up my mask with water and try to clear it at depth (by blowing air into the mask through my nostrils, releasing the water pocket). Unfortunately, I managed to snort in a huge nostril full of salty water in my attempts, and my immediate gag / drowning reflex of choking sent me shooting to the surface. A very bad maneuver. Luckily we were only at 10 feet at the time. If this had happened at any depths greater than 30 feet, I could be in for a world of hurt due to the possibility of the Bends and lung over-expansion. After calming down, Israel had me complete the task again (I felt it was a mediocre attempt on my part) before we began our dive. Because of this, I was a bit reticent and concerned, making for a less than ideal first dive after 14 years. One thing that I am finding: wearing only a shortee wetsuit in these warm waters still has me shivering after about 10-15 minutes. Next dive trip, I’m going to bring my own full-length wetsuit.

The waves were quite large, bigger than any past experiences I have had in the open seas. Not such a big deal on entry or during the dive, but when trying to get back on the boat, an interesting feat in acrobatics and tumbling! Grateful for really helpful onboard dive crew. Overall, a great experience to dive with my hubby and new dive-buddy. Sweet!

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