Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Big Step: A SCUBA Story

Image result for scuba diver off boat"Look straight out, right hand on your mask and reg, left hand on your inflator hose, and give me a big step". These words opened up an entire new dimension to my world. For some reason I have always been fascinated by what is around the next bend, or what is just outside of my reach, and especially what is just beyond what I can see. It is a large part of what keeps me adventuring. This situation was no different. I have grown up fishing my entire life and several times found myself wondering what really went on under the boat, beyond what I could see. This phrase, said by my dive instructor, Kylie, opened up an entire new world where everything, it seems, is just out of sight.

This past Friday I found myself walking across the parking lot of a community center, scuba tanks in hand, hundreds of miles from where you would think people actually scuba dive. But, as strange as it might seem, even being able to stay underwater in a community swimming pool for 10 minutes is a weird first time experience. It was training day, which meant going through a series of scenarios such as clearing your mask, finding your regulator underwater, and several different types of ascents. The mask clearing was the one thing that made me a little uneasy at first. Being underwater and blind does not sound like my idea of a good time. After all, a hefty purpose for me doing this is to be able to see what I can't on the surface. Mask cleared and sight restored, my dive buddies and I finished up the rest of the exercises quickly and with hardly any issues. We got the all clear from Kylie to go to the lake and experience our first actual dive. 

Image result for murky lake scuba diving
Have you ever drank water so cold that your teeth hurt afterwards? Well we dove in that. At least it felt like it we did. And this time there was no big step off of a boat into the water.  It was a slow walk down a boat ramp into, and then underneath, the frigid water. For some reason for me the biggest thrill didn't come from looking down to the lake bottom, which was the expected mud, beer cans, tires, and fishing lures, but came from looking up to the sky from 20 feet below the surface of the water. Maybe it is a grass is always greener on the other side thing, but when I am on the surface I look down and when I'm down I look to the surface. The light from the surface seems to fall like rain through the water, a complete role reversal from what I had previously ever seen. Looking around, I could only see 15 feet or so before it was no longer possible to see beyond a sort of green curtain in the water. This is what really enticed my nature and caused me to immediately fall in love with diving. It makes it seem like there is always something newer or exciting around the next corner. Something just outside of my sight that I have to go see and explore for myself.
Image result for lake keowee hot hole scuba
The next day we headed back out for the last dive before we would be certified. We boarded a pontoon boat this time and headed just across the lake to the mistakenly named Hot Hole as it was no warmer than the boat ramp we dove the day before. Weighted down with scuba gear I shuffled to the edge of the boat and, with instruction from Kylie, I looked straight out, put my right hand on my mask and reg, left hand on my inflator hose, and took a big step, and after a descent, training excercises, and a celebratory ride of the current made from the release of water from the power plant, I surfaced from a world filled with brand new adventures that are just out of my sight. Now, I simply have to go after them.

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