They worst part is suiting up.
No joke getting into a damn dry suit is next to impossible, especially with everything else you have on. First you have your clothes, which better be thermals or you are in for a treat, woolly socks (a few pairs) and then a t-shirt and jumper. Then you have a fleecy thermal overall, it looks and feels like a onesie and it is pretty warm in there to begin with. Then you had the dry suit.
Try getting that on without your clothing bunching up, it took me several tries before I got in “comfortably”.
This is my first time diving in open water Scotland. Outside had a warm sunny day with a chilly wind. The water was a tad choppy and I was nervous as hell.
I got this course as a big Christmas present and I had been in class rooms and pools for the first part of the course. I knew my stuff. I knew everything from assembling my gear, taking everything off and on inside and outside of the water. I knew what to do if I ran out of air, the risks of swimming straight to the surface, what to do if I lose my regulator or even taking off my mask while under But I had never been in the ocean.
When I finally got into the dry suit I was told to grab a trolley and load it with everything I need.
- BCD (Buoyancy control device)
- Octopus (series of tubes with everything from pressure gages to regulators)
- 14 pounds of weights
- Wet suit gloves
- Wet suit hood
- Snorkel and mask
- And fins
Did I mention I was nervous? Because at this point my heart was pounding like a drum and my breathing was getting hard. Probably the dry suit.
After loading the boat we were on our way to the dive site, a small island called Millport. The waves were choppy and I was getting scared. I am not afraid of water. I live right next to it and I love boating, everything from sailing and kayaking to piloting a square rigging ship, I can do it and I can do it well. I do not fear the water. But under it?
We were in classes and we had plenty of homework before this moment. And we learned a lot.
Did you know that as you get deeper air compresses? And as a result you are breathing in more air than you do in the surface.
If you had an hour worth of air and went down 10 meters, that air becomes denser and you only have half an hour worth of air.
That means running out of air is more likely the deeper you go, so be sure to do the math. This I wasn’t afraid of. It’s going back up. As you go up air expands. That half hour worth of air becomes one hour worth of air and this also means the air in your body expands.
This isn’t just your lungs. Air is trapped in your ears, your jaw and nearly everywhere else. If you take a safety stop before you surface that air can escape safely. But if you decide to freak out and swim up, that air will force its way out of you, this will cause a mixture of decompression sickness, the bends, paralyses and death.
That is what I am scared of. If you’re scared you can’t afford to panic.
At the dive site we did our final checks make sure our equipment works and put on our remaining gear. Fins on feet and gloves on hand, which was easy. The wet suit hood and mask is a mother fucker.
The hood is fine, it’s still wet and salty which makes it unpleasant to get on. Then the mask, I have worn this mask a few times and I loved it. But without the feeling on my hands and the damn hood it was impossible. Frustration combined with nerves isn’t nice. So my head was filled with:-
Fuck, come on mother fucker, why the shit, come o-
“Need a hand Addy?”
With that finally out the way we sat on the edge or the boat and watched at the instructor leaned back and fell into the water. I had to do the same.
It looked easy, hell it is easy, it was also terrifying.
Lean back and splash into the unknown, I might hit someone, I might damage the equipment and drown hell I don’t know but what “could” happen is terrifying.
Terrifying until I did it.
The world shifted, rolled over you and then
White water envelops your vision, it clears to green water and when you finish rolling you gently float to the surface.
I gave the “ok” signal and swam to the class.
It was amazing just to be on the surface. My body finally cooled down to a comfortable temperature, the suit loosened in all the right places and my mask became much more comfortable. The suit was nice and cool, except for the face, which was frozen and salty but grinning all the same.
Then the decent
We held a button on the BCD and air left the vest and we went down like an elevator. Our hand with the button was stretching above us to allow the air to escape and we sunk to the bottom.
I breathed in. and out and watched the bubbles rush up. The pressure built up in my ears as the air bubbles formed. And like in an air plane I popped them by blowing into my nose. My mask tightened around my skull as the air inside became denser. So I blew air through my nose and into the mask to loosen it. I looked down and saw the ocean floor.
Hitting the inflate button a few times I began to float. I looked like a clumsy superman. Arms out stretched and wobbly. And I floated just in time. Below my fin a large crap the size of a dinner plate waving a claw at us, greeting the first time diver.
Looking around I saw indescribable beauty. I could see a few feet ahead of me followed by green water. Craps of all different sizes, weird plants all different colours and sizes. Tiny jelly fish, slightly smaller than a babies thumb floated harmlessly by. Shells that sometimes played a home to a hermit crap. And star fish littering the ground. some bigger than plates.
But the best thing down there it the silence.
Noise is funny down there. If a speed boat went over head you would hear it everywhere, you couldn’t place were a noise came from unless you see it happen. And since we were in a known dive site we heard no other boats. Just my own breathing.
Inhaling sounds like Darth Vader.
Exhaling sent a stream of bubbles rush across your vision.
Your basic survival needs become so simple. Breath.
As a result the surface world matters not. Work? Family? Sorry but I am literally in a whole new beautiful world. Life covers the floor of the ocean. Starfish, craps and even the odd dog fish, to say I am hooked it an understatement.
Now I am a lot more confident in this cold salty element. No longer a wobbly superman but the real deal. And it does feel like flying.
I have went down in similar dive sites and reached the dark areas of beauty.
Even on holiday I seek out the nearest dive shop and book a tour. Wet suits are so much easier than dry suits. And I can laugh at the instructors when they complain about the cold water.
In Grand Canaria I have seen sting rays bigger than a car, schools of fish in the thousands with fish bigger than your arm. Creatures camouflaged as stone or coral. And nothing has tried to eat me.
That might happen later this year as my dive buddy (also step dad) and I book a holiday to the red sea. Seven days on a boat with around seven dives a day, including night time dives. Get ready sharks. I’m coming to you.
When I think about it, I am pretty glad I leaned back and let the ocean take me. Not to push aside the fear but to embrace it and discover a whole new world. If anyone offers you a dive, even a ten meter dive whilst on holiday, do it. You will discover a new world and a whole new sensation.
It’s scary down there. But it is also exhilarating and beautiful.