In the spirit of bringing less stuff into the house, I wanted to do something for Ryan’s birthday that was going to be more of an experience than a tangible present. (My inspiration was the utterly amazing trip to Mackinac Island that my parents gave me for my birthday.) We’ve talked on and off about for a few years about getting our scuba certification.
Quick background: At many resorts or dive shops in Mexico, beginners can go diving with a group after an instructional video and a little time in the pool – we did it. We bobbed around in the ocean on a small boat, rolled backwards over the side into the water with all our gear on, and dove to the bottom, where we stayed at 40 feet for about 45 minutes. I have never focused so much on breathing in and out and remaining calm. It was more than a little scary. Especially knowing you’re at the bottom of the ocean and you can’t just swim to the top if something goes wrong.
Despite the somewhat harrowing experience, that brings us to the birthday a few weeks ago. I signed us up for the next open water class at Capital City Scuba, a local dive shop (in mid-Michigan!) that offers classes at a local high school pool. My thought was that if we enjoyed being thrown into the water (pretty much literally) with no experience, imagine how much better it could be if we had a decent training background. If we were familiar with how to stay safe and comfortable, scuba would probably be THAT much more entertaining. On Monday we went over to the dive shop, got fitted for our gear, and took home our classroom supplies. A few days later we put on our bathing suits and drove over to the high school a couple towns over, and jumped in with both feet. (The swimming and diving puns are endless – I can’t help myself.)
This experience of this class was a big one for me. It’s hard to put into words how proud of myself I am for finishing – it sounds relatively easy: four class periods and you’re done, but there’s more to it than that. Just a small handful of things I had to work around: Searing ear pressure that has to be relieved every few feet while descending under water; leaky or foggy masks; masks that are too big or too small, causing facial pain; heavy equipment; 3 hours in the pool at a time – making for a VERY cold afternoon; oh, and remembering to breathe. There’s a lot of control you give up when learning something like this – and there were definitely times I wanted to get out of the pool and stand in the hot showers of the locker room – “who needs this!?” But, by the last pool session, I felt really good. Clearing my ears was no problem, I found a mask that fit nicely, and performed all the skills at the bottom of the pool with relative ease. Definitely file this one under “Conquering a Fear You Didn’t Actually Know You Had.”
Two Friday nights, two Saturdays – for a total of about 13 hours in the water, and 7 hours in the classroom, and I have to say, I feel ready to take our open water certification test. That’s where we’ll go on four dives in an open body of water with an instructor, who will put us through a series of skills tests to make sure we know just what the heck we’re doing. I can’t wait to fly somewhere warm and take the exam with Ryan. It will be the culmination of an adventure that has brought us closer together, and has involved more than a little character building.