Babysteps, Scuba Fear & Big Dougie

I’ve always been interested in aqua life. My love as a kid to visit Aquariums brought a sense of comfort to me. It was safe to view some of the most oddest and unknown creatures on the earth. The colour blue normally brings a sense of calm and coolness also, which allows for a more joyful experience and an easy feel to the surroundings.

I have to say, despite me being able to swim all my life and regularly activity in the water, whether it be a pool, the ocean-side or in a water park, my experience under water is a little bit naive. The thought of being under water interests me hugely, I know its a form of peace and exploration, to see a different world beneath us. I know that I could become a fanatic at this, to see things underwater, to explore, to swim, to be free, but learning HOW to do so never really occurred to me. Until however, I began to travel.

I remember really wanting to test myself doing a Scuba dive. I was in Koh Tao, Thailand. Notorious for newcomers to diving, its cost, the location, the number of dive shops – all contributed to this being a well known dive location. I signed up with my travel partner Rob at the time. I remember being stoked to do it. The kid in me was coming out, wanting to see what diving was all about. In England, I guess its not a big hobbie compared to other places. Mainly because of the temperatures and musky waters, well at least up north anyway.

We arranged to do a discovery dive with a company called French Kiss. To be honest, I didn’t really feel comfortable with them from the start. Maybe the difference in culture, they weren’t that accommodating nor assuring. They were more like, lets do it. Which is a good way of looking at things, being thrown into the deep end, but without knowing any of the logistics, nor anything about Scuba diving, it had me a little anxious. Plus the fact I had barely Snorkelled before, so my experience breathing underwater was very limited.

The morning we went, my fear kicked in. I realised, I was going to do something I had no idea about. Despite sometimes that being part of the rush, the others around me seemed more confident to do so, and more experienced. When we were heading out to the boat to head to the dive sights, one of the instructors looked at us all and said’ Cheer up, your going diving!”. Whether we were all hungover, nervous or just tired, no-one really seemed stoked.

The equipment was heavy, uncomfortable and i didn’t like it. I didn’t feel free as I thought I would, but the equipment is essential, so you deal with it and move on. After going into the water three of us including the instructor swam to shore. The whole shock of not breathing through my nose was a terrifying one, not to mention my gag reflex is terrible and the regulator kept making me bork. Did I mention I despise the taste of salt water too? All of this was a mix of my failure to keep cool underwater. I couldn’t get us to not breathing through my nose. After a while, I got on with it. I didn’t get use to it, I just made to. I managed to get down to about 10m, but the shock to me I couldn’t handle and had to go a little higher. I knew this was babysteps for me. We all pick up things quick and slow. This one was a time where I knew in my own head what I needed to do. I had to get use to the breathing.

After a couple of half dives, cramp in my left leg and complete fatigue due to my fast breathing, my first dive experience wasn’t great. It was very shaky and didn’t fill me with confidence. Nor did the dive instructors. Maybe it was just me, but they didn’t seem bothered. Unfortunately this put me off for months, well years really. However, I always knew, I just needed to get ready, because this Scuba Diving activity, was, is, something I’m to love. I know once I get use to it, it’s going to be a big hobby of mine.

I look back in Asia and think I regret not doing more dives due to the locations I went. The islands, the beauty of the coral, white sandy floors, turtles and sharks. I did manage to go skin diving snorkelling) with a whale shark, but with just a mask on. I also went spear fishing in a similar fashion in Indonesia too. Both great experiences. But they weren’t Scuba. I look back and think, well it would have been more costly to do this, and I wasn’t ready-ready, so let it be.

I knew I would get to the point of making my next baby big step. I attempted to my PADI on my own in Koh Chang at the end of my travels in Asia, but I literally ran out of time. However, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to do it one on one, no pressure and slowly.

1 year on after living in Suburban Melbourne in Australia, no real interest nor diving opportunities came my way. Until I headed to South America. I had a feeling I would do something about it here. But it was in Tobago that I got going again underwater. I was on a tour and randomly seen a dive shop. I felt confident and able to get over the breathing situation, I mean it had been nearly 2 years since my first experience. I was on my own and came across Frontier Divers. I booked a discovery dive and there I was.

That morning I was more excited than nervous. Basically because I knew its something I could do, develop, get over, learn from. I spoke to Big Dougie who the owner. He had been a PADI specialist for 20 years. I explained I wanted to do this alone with him, so on a Sunday morning, we met up. We talked for ages, into detail and he really made me feel comforted. I explained my issues and experiences. We had a laugh and felt no nerves really at all. It was a personal experience, no pressure, and our goal was to get me happy with breathing underwater.

We walked into the tropical sea, on Sandpoint Beach. At first, the regulator got a few minutes to get use to. I tried to put my head under,  but the same fear came. I feared the worst and remembered my previous experience. Dougie was cool though. He said take my time, get use to it. Eventually, with his help I went under at my own pace. I wanted to make sure my equalising was okay, the sounds I was hearing were okay, and my breathing was okay. I came up onto the surface a couple times every 10-20 minutes, just to feel that sense of freedom to get out, you know? My breathing had got better, at a better pace. Dougie explained it was the mind, not being use to it, and he was right. I KNEW that. I just had to feel comfortable in myself. I’m a complicated character like that. Someone cant tell me this is the way, I have to feel it for myself. I got realy confident in the water and seen some amazing coral and sea life creatures. When I was underwater in Thailand I was that besotted with how I was feeling I didn’t take notice of WHY i was there. To see Aqua life.

After an hour or so underwater from 10-15m, I got my confidence of breathing. I went onto other activities such as clearing my mask, taking my regulator out, equalising at more pressured areas, buoyancy control and balance. This is only the start. I have got my confidence back. For many people they do it straight away. We are all different. The life I was apart of and introduced to in the UK, none of this was regular, it was foreign, I was oblivious to it. That’s why maybe I can put experience into words so easily, because they are literally new world experiences compared to general life where I’m from. 

I’m so stoked to get back underwater. I want to become a PADI qualified diver. I want to see more, learn more, I feel a mainstream hobby coming along. But this article isn’t about that, it’s about overcoming a fear.  I may not get chance to do this again, but at least I know, I’ve overcame a small fear. Which we all have done however big or small. Many may think, this experience shouldn’t be a fear. Everyone’s different and takes their own time with things. Many people wouldn’t go to Venezuela in its current state, where do you think I’m at now? As a fellow traveller in Pai told me, and like I’ve mentioned in this article, its babysteps.

My next babystep is to keep the pressure off and do more dives, and when I’m comfortable, I guess you won’t be able to get me out of the water.







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