I really thought that running out of gas in your car was a universal experience. I mean, isn’t that why we have AAA? Paying for AAA is essentially paying for the luxury of running out of gas! It’s why I have AAA.
I was sitting in a scuba diving lesson at Dive Utah and people were talking about their fears. Aaron has been certified in scuba for years, even years before we met. I was never interested. Every few years Aaron would ask me if I had magically changed my mind. My response was always, “No, Dear. Thank you, no. That is your thing, it is not my thing.”
A few months ago I realized that, I am still pretty young and there is still a lot out there that I could learn. I challenged myself to learn something new every month. I thought about learning to scuba dive and realized that if I really, REALLY hated it, then I didn’t ever have to do it. How could I know if I hated it if I didn’t even give it a chance?
That is how I ended up in a PADI scuba class in November.
I only have one fear in the ocean… SHARKS. I have logged WAY too many hours of “Shark Week” on Discovery. But, I also have watched enough Shark Week to feel pretty confident that should a shark come near me, I can keep my senses and bop it on the nose really hard – (which BTW sends them swimming off) AND I have also watched enough “Shark Week” to imagine myself an apprentice Shark Whisperer, able to hypnotize that same shark by carefully stroking it’s nose and then turning it over, leaving it calm and sleep-like belly up. Hopefully I will never have the opportunity to try either one.
In our first scuba class, someone else shared that their main fear while scuba diving is running out of air. The instructor, Dave who is a long time friend of my husband, answered saying, “A lot of people have that fear. But you have an oxygen gauge like you have a fuel gauge in your car. I mean, how many of you have ever run out of gas?” I, all too quickly and proudly, raised my hand high in the air before I realized, that mine was the ONLY hand in the air. “Oh puh-lease!” I said, “None of you have EVER run out of gas?” My classmates averted their eyes and maybe relished this awkward moment. I considered calling them all “LIARS!” Instead, I addressed our instructor, “Dave? You can NOT tell me that you have NEVER ever run your car out of gas!” Dave responded that he had not… never… ever. I was shocked. Dave looked at the rest of the class and said, “I guess we’d better keep an eye on this one!” and shot a glance at me.
Maybe it is a bad thing that my fear is of sharks, rather than running out of air. I don’t know.
So, long story short, I am now PADI certified. Here’s the proof!
Wanna see my cards?
I’m keeping that puppy right next to my Bradley Birth Coach card… though I think the PADI card has a better chance of seeing the light of day.
The PADI certification was pretty standard. The first few evenings were spent learning our gear and testing it out in a swimming pool.
No sharks here
Aaron came along for the ride
This isn't so hard!
The last few evenings were our open water dives.
I live in Utah. Our open water diving locations are… interesting. There is a murky lake- (Gah! Maybe I also have a fear of being underwater and NOT being able to see 2 feet in front of me… yes, I think I DO have that fear, because my heart is POUNDING just imagining it!) And then there is The Crater. The Crater is warmer and clearer than a murky lake. It is a natural hot spring, 96 degrees, 60 feet wide and 65 feet deep.
Doesn’t The Crater sound intriguing? Well, it is. It looks like a big funky hill from the outside
and when you are on the inside, looking out, well it looks like this-
Looking up from inside
So, we finished certifying in The Crater and voila the next day Aaron and I were off to Cancun for a few days. (That worked out perfectly) and I would be able to put my new diving skills to the test.
We set up a couple of dives immediately. Our first day diving would be a two-tank dive in Cozumel through a company called Aqua World.
Here is where it gets sticky. You may have heard stuff about diving, like how you should plan the dives so you are not flying the next day or how you can’t dive while you have a head cold or how your deepest dive should be first or maybe you have heard about safety stops if you go to certain depths, so that you give your body a chance to get rid of the excess nitrogen. Which reminds me… once when I was 12 my dad took us deep-sea fishing and I caught some wacky fish that was apparently a bottom dweller, because when I brought that sucker up to the surface, it completely exploded! Keep THAT in mind as I continue!
Another cool gauge tells you how deep you went. It clocks the deepest, depth. THAT is important because when you complete your dive you calculate how long your next dive can be, how much time you need to stay at altitude between dives especially if you are diving again soon. Because no one wants to get the bends and spend their vacation channeling Michael Jackson in a oxygen chamber.
PLUS since I just BARELY certified as an open water diver, I should only dive to a depth of 60 feet, in fact the fancy little chart only goes to 90 feet for a 21 minute dive before it is marked in gray.
Stay out of the grey!
If you go deeper than that, the numbers are in black… black is bad. No one wants to know what happens after you pass the black box. But what do we have to fear? We are in Mexico! With a dive company! They are certified and licensed in Mexico we can TOTALLY trust them. Can’t we?
The first dive is finished and we get back on the boat. The dive was AWESOME, especially the part where there were tunnels and Aaron told me to swim down so he could get a photo of me in front of the opening. (Though our camera did not work at that depth and took on water so none of the photos turned out) I swam down. Low and behold, IN the opening, no, GUARDING the opening was a massive silver fish, sporting a serious overbite with a row of sharp, white, gleaming teeth! I didn’t know what it was, but it was huge and scary! I screamed underwater… no one heard but the dolphins, and I swam out of there before Aaron knew what happened. As a side note, sign language is the best! Everyone, EVERYONE was so jealous that Aaron and I could have FULL conversations while they were limited to “OK?” “Share Air” “Go UP” “Go DOWN” – the Dive Masters were even jealous.
Aaron caught up to me and asked what happened, I signed “BIG FISH – BIG RACK of TEETH, GO SEE YOURSELF!” (These signs will be taught in a future episode of Signing Time… no probably not!)
Aaron took a look and he came back smiling. Not that it wasn’t scary and not that we weren’t out of our element and that we really were completely on snaggle-tooth’s turf, but I think he just liked seeing me swim so fast.
Oh, here is a great scuba prank. I believe in payback. At one point I got parallel to Aaron, not side to side, but I was swimming about 3 feet above him. He had lost me in his peripheral vision, which happens even when you ARE a scuba buddy and I used it to my advantage… if getting out of your buddy’s sight can be called an advantage… I swam up a bit. Then I reached down and with a claw hand-shape, I sunk my nails into his… rump. He took OFF! I couldn’t hear him scream, but I am pretty sure the dolphins did.
As the first dive came to an end, we came up to 15 feet below the surface to do a safety stop. That means you hang out at 15 feet for 3 minutes, as long as you didn’t go deeper than 60 feet. If you went deeper, you need to hang out longer at that depth… for 15 minutes, I think, but like I said, I am not certified to dive that deep.
When we hit 15 feet (you can tell because of your gauge) there was a freaking barracuda just hanging out, maybe enjoying his own safety stop at 15 feet. Not kidding, he/she was probably 4 feet long. But being under water makes everything look closer and bigger, (keep that in mind when you’re looking at those underwater photos of me.)
Finally he was bored or not hungry and went away, taking my Finding Nemo flashbacks with him. We continued to float for 3 minutes at 15 feet below the surface. (BTW, even Aquaworld says barracudas range from 10-50 pounds!)
Ah, now we return to the boat and get ready for another dive. I take a look at my depth gauge so I can figure out my pressure group since we were planning this second dive AND then a wreck dive the following day. (Diving to a wrecked boat) Let’s see on this first dive, we dove for 35 minutes (I wrote that on my Diver’s Log and… and… uh-oh… guess what my depth gauge said? I went 90 feet. 90 feet? 35 minutes and 90 feet? That doesn’t even show up on my little dive planner graph! I have NO idea what pressure group I am in! This is BEYOND the bad numbers in little black boxes. I have NO idea how to add that to my next dive! I have no idea how the nitrogen is going to carry over through the next day! I wrote down “90” for the depth and “35 minutes” for the bottom time. The rest of it is still blank.
Do I look concerned?
Dear PADI instructor Dave, I changed my mind, my biggest fear is neither sharks nor running out of air. My biggest fear is having my insides come out of my eyes, like that poor little sole I caught when I was 12!
All IS well that ends well. I didn’t say anything to our dive master. I left the pressure group blank. I wrote down the time and depth of the next dive and I said a prayer. (Cue Radiohead’s “The Bends”)
Look! I even have mask marks on my face
The next day I woke up with a serious head cold. There is a hard and fast rule in diving, that you DO NOT dive if you have a cold. But… I had heard that you can take Sudafed and still dive, but you are risking your sinuses imploding if the Sudafed wears off while you are mid-dive. Who even knew that there was so much possible exploding and imploding out there? Then, the weather turned bad and the wreck dive was cancelled. The wind kept up and so did my head cold and the wreck dive was cancelled the following day too.
Cozumel Dive Sculpture
Like I said, all is well that ends well. Right? The real bummer is I didn’t even see one shark! I saw baby turtles and all kinds of tropical fish. Years of NOT scuba diving because of sharks gone to waste! All that “Shark Week” training, and no sharks? Oh well, maybe next time. Besides, how do I even know if I am REALLY afraid of sharks, without seeing one face to face?