It feels weird – the regulator gripped between your teeth, your nose and eyes enclosed in a mask, the heavy tank and buoyancy control device weighing your back and legs down. And then you take a step off the platform on the boat, fall backwards into the water, and blink by instinct as if that would make any difference. Water swishes around your face yet you are able to continue to breathe. It’s the strangest yet most incredible feeling. Once submerged, you feel the pressure building up on your body and you suddenly realize the tank and BCD are now essentially weightless. You hardly remember that they’re there. You keep popping your ears as you descend, taking your time to move slowly and deliberately. Finally, at the ocean floor, it begins to hit you – you are completely submerged in water, and you have been for maybe three minutes. You can sense it a bit more difficult to draw breath, and you can feel the water pressing all around you. It doesn’t feel natural. You start to look around, frantically, only to realize you have zero peripheral vision because of your mask. It’s honestly a bit of a shock. But you remember the ONE RULE of scuba diving – Just Keep Breathing.
As you gain your bearings, you realize your group leader is taking off in what looks like a slow, graceful flight. You pick your legs up off the ground with more ease than you’re accustomed to. Now horizontal, you move your hips side to side and propel yourself with your fins. It is incredibly easy to move about. As you pass by giant rocks and some errant fish, you suddenly realize that you feel limitless. You turn on your back and keep swimming, then do a little flip. The density of the water lets you maneuver in ways you’ve never thought possible. It’s incredible. Then, as you look up from your giddy delight, you witness a school of hundreds of fish swarming around you. You quickly push through them, playfully grabbing at their tails. As they part, you lay your eyes upon the biggest coral structure you’ve ever seen. It’s as tall as a building and covered in colorful plant-like worms, energetic fish, sea slugs, and more. You are captivated. Suddenly you forget that this isn’t natural. All you want to do is explore. So you swim around, up and down the coral, chasing specimens as you tag along. From time to time, fish come to nip at your bites to eat the dead skin, and others come diagonally towards you to check you out and study you. You wave hello and smile under your regulator. This is way too fun, Avoiding the small jellyfish which are floating about, you continue to gaze in awe at your surroundings.
Before you know it, your group leader is giving the signal for “UP.” This means our time is over, it’s time to slowly ascend. You can’t believe it. Has it really been nearly an hour?! It hadn’t even felt like ten minutes. But you obey, having learned that depth plus time equals nitrogen content in your bloodstream and nobody can afford nitrogen narcosis or any other type of depth poisoning. You look at your pressure and air gauge. You still have over 100 BAR, and you’re a little under 18 meters deep. You signal this to your leader, and they give the “OK” signal. Your group ascends to the rocky surface of the sea, where you are all smiling more than you ever have. An entire new world has been opened up to you, and you intend to embrace it. Bring on the scuba adventures – there’s a new passion on the rise in your life.