Certified SCUBA Diver – No way!
Early January found us on vacation at Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
It is not often that I have to pay for travel, but we do make the exception once a year when we take a beach vacation. I have no doubt that I could have been a beach bum, and if life had been different, probably would have tried to make my mark with an ocean-oriented career. I just really like the sea, the coast, and most of the things that go with it.
With that in mind, Kelly and I try to go to a beach every winter. Sandals has kind of become our destination of choice. It is kind of like a land-cruise. All-inclusive resort with lots to do, or nothing to do. Vacation. For me, I have always wanted to learn how to SCUBA dive. So much so that I once convinced Kelly to learn with me. We went to the Lake of the Ozarks for a lesson. It was cold, the water was dark and murky, and the instruction was only this: “Put this in your mouth to breath, push this button to sink and this one to float. Ok, in the water.” We went out on the boat the instructor turned us loose. Kelly, a strong swimmer and former lifeguard, had one of the worst water experiences of her life.
Feelings of claustrophobia became associated with scuba, and it looked like that was not going to become part of our future vacations. Kelly was left with the idea that she could not scuba dive, and if you know Kelly, you also know how bad the experience had to be for her to feel that way. In every other thing in her life, she feels like she absolutely can. So… we get to Sandals in Jamaica and after strolling around for a day, I convince my lovely wife that it would be a great idea to try again. We went to the SCUBA area, watched the people doing it in the pool, and got a feel for the place. We signed up for lessons the next day and my dream of SCUBA diving gained legs.
That night was not the best for Kelly, but she is a trooper. She was not about to back out, and her feelings of wanting to beat something that she thought had beat her became way stronger than her fear. However, it was not without a lot of determination.
Our first lesson in the pool went fine, but it was short. We only cleared our mask a couple of times and took the breather out once or twice. The instructor was teaching his first lesson, and was not a gifted teacher. From the pool, we took the boat out in the ocean and went for our first dive. Kelly was coming down the rope and gave me the signal that it wasn’t going all that great, so she went back to the surface.
Another instructor took her hand and carefully brought her down to the coral at 40 feet. Still holding hands, they swum around for about 20 minutes. It was amazing for me to watch her overcome her previous experience, and I thought it was 100% conquered and behind her.
Once we were back on the boat, I could tell that even thought it had happened, it was not completely on her terms, or something she completely enjoyed or felt good about. Being together for over 30 years means that you can tell that stuff without the words being said that express it. For me, it had been amazing. Eels, incredible fish, beautiful coral. Just amazing.
Back on shore, we found out that if we spent most of the next day working on it, we could become PADI certified for open water diving. I was all for it, and Kelly wanted to see if she could do better. That afternoon and evening was fun and uneventful, but I could tell that it was in the back of Kelly’s mind that she had another dive ahead of her, and she wasn’t completely happy about it.
The next day, we ended up with the instructor that had held her hand. He was one of the best instructors you could imagine, and we spent at least an hour in the pool working on SCUBA skills. When we finally went out in the boat, Kelly’s confidence was much higher. We went in the water, swam around the coral at 40 feet seeing lobsters, huge fish, and all sorts of sea life. We had to clear our masks, share air with each other, take out and replace the breather, and basically learn how to SCUBA dive. It was one of the best experiences ever.
Kelly and I are now PADI certified at the lowest level, but if I have my way, we will be working the way up the levels as we continue to dive whenever we can. If you want to do something, push through it and learn to do it.