I’ve been in love with the idea of scuba diving since I first really understood the concept. I’ve always loved the water and even as a small child thought about becoming a marine biologist and living on the coast somewhere. The thought of being able to stay underwater for hours (tanks last for hours right?) floating weightlessly and chasing fish was something to strive for. I didn’t let the fact that it wasn’t recommended for asthmatics get in the way of those dreams
Somehow that dream got lost along the way. Perhaps it was the fact that I didn’t end up the coast, or perhaps the fact that I ended up in computer science that kept me from diving. More likely it was the fact that diving training in West Hawk or Lake Winnipeg has very little appeal (and still doesn’t really.) I was never going on a warm weather holiday with anyone who wanted to dive so why bother taking the training? Suddenly I was thirty and something I’d been planning to do as soon as I was able to had sat on the life list forever (damn you Mme. Plamondon.)
It wasn’t until Australia came around that I had zero excuses. Suddenly my dreams came back and learning to dive on the Great Barrier Reef as my friends Chris and Jodi had was of paramount importance. I booked a class that started in the classroom and ended with a three day liveaboard course out on the reef. Yet as it came closer I have to admit I started to get nervous. I knew I’d have to pass a medical and all those warnings about asthmatics kept rising in my mind. I can swim reasonably well but I’m no endurance type, would I pass the swimming tests? Even if I passed, what if I freaked out and couldn’t handle it. I had one friend who had bailed on his training the first time he tried to go under the water with a regulator. He wasn’t one to wimp out from a challenge but something about the experience just wasn’t for him and he knew it instantly. Lastly of course despite the fact that I love sharks this was Australia after all. All these worries (minus the shark/jellyfish thoughts really) were weighing on me as I arrived in Cairns. This was supposed to be highlight of my trip, the culmination of years of dreaming. What was I going to do if I couldn’t get in the water, sit around Cairns for a few days being taunted by all the dive shop signs? I couldn’t help but check out the prices for a quick trip to Alice Springs on the way back to Sydney in case I “suddenly found myself with the time.”
The dive school was fantastic. I’d sprung for probably the best in Cairns and it showed. The instructors were funny but serious when needed and the class was structured well mixing pool and class time to best focus attention. I aced the classroom stuff, passed my medical (required by law in Queensland) and was starting to feel a bit more confident until my first time I the pool with a regulator. Most people who have dived will know what I mean but the feeling of having to train yourself to breathe in and out regularly, mouth only, through this contraption was incredibly weird. I felt weird, and for the night afterwards I considered taking the out and getting the rest of my money back. I think the mask exercises were what really threw me. I was having serious issues doing the exercises to clear my mask of water while still breathing regularly. I was worried that if I was having that much trouble in the pool I’d get myself hurt out on the reef. After a (couple) beer(s) that night I managed to talk myself into going back.
That next day I got over the hump. I can’t remember the exact moment it happened but by the end of the day the instructor was telling people in my half of the group to watch how I was controlling my breathing (and depth level as a result) and my dive buddy and I were having fun practicing the “oh my god I’m out of air” manoeuvres without any worries at all. That night a few of us went to a lecture on some of the creatures we might see out on the reef and I absolutely couldn’t wait. In the end I loved every minute of every dive (see my travelogue for more details) and didn’t feel a bit of panic out there. I would have enjoyed actually having my wetsuit though dammit Pierre. The deep dive got a little cold in just a stinger suit.
Despite my promises to myself to the contrary I haven’t been diving since. Again, despite having plans to maybe finish off my next level of certification the lure of diving the icy waters of West Hawk Lake just isn’t there. My lack of funds while freelancing combined with my lack of vacation time while starting my current job more or less kept me without any options for other dives as well. Thankfully that will be changing this coming week as I head down to Bucerias Mexico for a wedding. We’ve got a couple dives booked, I got a shitty generic dive enclosure for my camera for some new photos (hopefully) and for a few hours at least I’ll get to be that wide eyed kid once more.