Giant Strides

January 15, 2014

As I wrote in my first post, I had some anxieties about the ocean, however as much as I feared it, I couldn’t stay away. Living in Southeast Asia at the time, I realized I needed to seize the opportunity to get acquainted with the Coral Triangle. So I went to Koh Tao, an island off the eastern coast of Thailand to get certified through PADI as an Open Water Diver. This island is well known for pumping out certified divers like they are on an assembly line, however, I decided to go a different route. Having a one-on-one instructor from the Jamahkiri resort helped me overcome a few of my hangups and by the end of the week I felt pretty comfortable in the water. If you are heading to Koh Tao you should take a look at these guys as an alternative to the crowded dive operations found everywhere else on the island.

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My biggest obstacle of the course was clearing my mask. If you are unfamiliar, this is an important skill to master. If and when water seeps inside your mask, whether intentionally or unintentionally (leaks or even comes off completely), being able to
clear the water from it needs to be second nature. For some reason I had an irresistible urge to inhale any drops of water resting in the nose piece of my mask. So I am sure you can understand my hesitation with having to remove it completely, put it back on and clear the seawater from it. I cannot tell you how many times I inhaled water while practicing this skill
in a pool. It was extremely frustrating and embarrassing to say the least. But at least in a pool you can stand up and cough it out. With 15 meters of water above your head this becomes a bit more tricky. Even though this was my last task in completing the course and the entire reason I was in Koh Tao; I felt close to bailing on the whole thing. As my PADI instructor waited patiently for me to muster up the courage, I started to fidget around and grew more and more anxious. My shifting in the sand caused a bit of an issue with the visibility and this just added to my anxiety.

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Luckily, a few moments later, through the debris, something caught my eye. To my left, just a few meters away, thousands of shimmering yellow scad fish formed an absolutely mesmerizing wall of light, color, and life. My instinct of course was to swim closer. It’s funny how it took me all of thirty seconds and a school of fish to forget my fears, strip my mask off and remember why I was going through all of this to begin with. It’s amazing how that simple moment changed everything. I often wonder what might have happened if that school of fish hadn’t been there. Would I have shot to the surface and been done with diving altogether? I am grateful they were there and that I had finished what I set out to do. My instructor gave me a high-five me and we spent the next half hour swimming through (and photographing) the large school of fish.

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It felt incredible to overcome my fears so much so that after that dive I decided to continue on to do the Advanced Open Water course overthe remainder of my time in Koh Tao. And some time later I went on to do the Rescue Diver course to feel even more secure with scuba diving. My confidence from this course has been so beneficial and I highly recommend it to every diver. But even more so, I think its incredibly important to find a dive operation that is going to really understand your needs and work through any issues you might have. A lot of people have no issues whatsoever with getting certified and I think when you are in a group of people like this it becomes difficult to receive the attention you might require. I’ve also found that a lot of people give up on the sport because they aren’t given the opportunity to work through their fears. Choosing the right dive organisation can really make or break your intro to scuba diving. Make sure you do your research!

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Wet Feet

January 7, 2014

The idea of scuba diving has always intrigued me. It’s was one of those bucket list items I thought would be great to try once, just to say I did it. But the truth is, scuba diving is not something you can say you’ve tried if you’ve only been once or twice. I’ve always loved the ocean. Marine life of all shapes and sizes piqued my interest. But for some reason, I was also slightly terrified of it as a kid and that fear followed me into adulthood. So when the opportunity to finally give it a shot came about, naturally all I could think about were the sea monsters below the surface waiting to get me. Instead of focusing on how amazing it was that my first ever dive was in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, I focused all of my energy on how much I did not want to see a shark. All I could think about after both feet were safely back on the boat was how lucky I was to be in one piece and that while it was an amazing experience, I probably couldn’t bring myself to try it again. Why take the risk? By the way, about that shark I didn’t want to see; I saw him and he saw me and I was shocked at how quickly he wanted to get away from us.

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On this very first dive I had a compact camera in an underwater housing with me. It was my first time to the Great Barrier Reef and at the very least I needed a few photos from snorkeling to bring back with me. Topside, I always had a camera in my hands so when I found out the housing for my Canon G9 was so reasonably priced I jumped at the opportunity to buy it. I had no idea about anything related to underwater photography, but luckily my dive guide did. Some of the photos he took were so inspiring that later that night when I uploaded them to my laptop I was hooked. I needed to go back down and create these shots myself. Unfortunately, the next day was windy and we were discouraged from diving as I was so inexperienced. On the one hand it was very disappointing, but on the other hand I felt a bit of relief as I was still very nervous and in the end I thought it was good that it happened. The “itch” to get back in the water took hold and I haven’t looked back since. Except for a few dives to get my certifications, my camera has always been with me and will continue to always be. It keeps my anxieties at bay and helps me focus on why it is I dive.