I DID IT! I am now a PADI certified scuba diver in open water. This means I can now fly high during the week and dive low on the weekend! What a contrast when you spend your days discussing business and then go see little Nemo with his clown face on your days off! But to tell you the truth, I did not get my open water certification at this time in my life because I am in a middle age crisis or because I need to prove anything to anyone… I did it for love… and perhaps as well to be consistent with my attitude of facing my fears. But the first reason is definitely “I did it for love”.
Pierre has a true passion for diving and it is a lasting one for the last 30 years! When I catch him with his eyes looking up at the ceiling and ask the stupid question of “What are you thinking about?” chances are he is thinking of the underwater world while his blood makes bubbly sounds! Pierre wanted so much to share his passion with me that I was completely equipped before I even took the decision of jumping in the water to play the calamari.
Personally I never, never, never thought I would let myself be convinced of diving… Water is not or was not my element. I am a Libra, a sign of air and a bit claustrophobic at times. But Pierre is excellent in selling when he really wants something so he has been selling his diving ambitions with me for months. When his daughter Virginie was visiting in July, the first thing they did is to go for days at Tioman Island in Malaysia, a small tropical heaven 35 flying minutes from Singapore, where they dove day and nights!!!
-Pierre, do you mean NIGHT PITCH BLACK DIVING?
-Yes Helene and it is the best diving because some fishes are fluorescent in the light and things appear to you suddenly.
–Oh! Non merci! I am not there yet and I don’t know if I can ever be ready to dive in pitch-black water in the middle of the China Sea… or any seas for that matter. The thought of not seeing anything above and below stresses me out completely and diving is about having fun. So Pierre, I love you but…
Pierre rapidly switches back the conversation to the beauty of the underwater world during daytime until one day I said:
-All right, I will do it for you!
Then I engaged in a long list of questions, fears, anguishes and all other emotions combined that Pierre bravely faced one by one with the patience of a wise man. So much so that he went the opposite way and made it sound like diving is simpler than it really is. He insisted on the fact that perhaps I do it for the love of him now but when the minute I will have a taste of the underwater world, I will do it for the love of diving!
When everything and all conditions are perfect, diving is really easy but I am not the type of person that can accept to only control things when they are going well; I AM IN CONTROL OF SITUATIONS AS MUCH AS I CAN…GOOD ONES or BAD ONES. I need to know what are the risky situations so I can understand how I will react if and when they happen. Then I need to learn how to overcome these situations otherwise I will not relax and enjoy myself. When I say understanding the risky situations, I don’t mean reading the PADI book of knowledge but I mean living the problems. Fortunately for me things did not go perfectly as planned during my sessions!!
My first open water dive went as planned and I succeeded all the exercises the first time around: Remove your mask at 50 feet underwater, lose and find your air regulator, pretend you run out of air and use your buddy’s equipment, bla bla bla or shall I say bubble, bubble, bubble.
My second dive was also on a good start since I succeeded well the simulation of a regulator malfunction by pressing the button for 30 seconds to freeflow the air and try to breath through the wild flow anyways. All went well, so I got the underwater handshake from my instructor. After this exercise, my instructor Arshad advised us with all the signs and bubbles he could use that we are going for a cruise of the bottom along the reef, for about 30 to 40 minutes.
Good enough, here I follow my instructor full of trust and enthusiast to do my first bottom exploration. After about 5 minutes of cruising I decided to look at my computer that I barely know as it will be part of tomorrow’s drill. I may not know my diving computer well but I knew one thing: I HAD 4 MINUTES OF AIR LEFT IN MY TANK. It was my first time to be completely pissed off under water. I followed right away the procedures that I had been taught when you reach a critical low air point, I grabbed Pierre’s attention and gave him the signal that I was about to run out of air. Pierre looked at me with eyes that were enlarging every second of the minute and I saw him signal the instructor. It was my instructor’s turn to do the big eyes with a bit of fear in it as we were 50 feet under water and he feared I was going to panic. He signaled me to come closer to him and when I did, I started to ascend without control. I did not want to ascend but I was inexperienced, too light on air and the combination of a low air tank and my positive buoyancy made me rise to the surface without control!! I HATE NOT BEING IN CONTROL!! One might think that when you are out of air, the idea of rising to the surface is a good one but it is your last resource and not your first one due to the possibility of decompression sickness. Further more, you should do it with control and not because you have become an out of control air balloon.
Of course at the surface the two guys had to hear me ventilate at them and making them responsible for the almost critical situation I was in. They were the experts and my instructor should have known that the freeflow exercise would empty my tank!! But after we finished shredding each other apart, I felt good about the event because I knew now what I should have known then. Trust me, I will look at my computer every 5 minutes of a dive and I will insist on recreating situations that I must learn how to overcome. I also know that you are lighter at the end of your dive; hence you need to calculate your weight accordingly.
The other dives were easy and great so I left with a smile on my face, certification in my hand and looking forward to another trip in a month’s time. Our next trip will have two celebrations: My 50th birthday and my 1st anniversary with Pierre, but this time in a paradise called Sipadan. The Kapalai Resort of Sipadan, close to Borneo, is a resort of small luxurious huts on the water… in the water… nothing else around!! You dive from the deck of your room… how cool is that!
Malaysia, away from Kuala Lumpur, has some real treasures where you see as many things above the water than underwater. In Tioman Island, the nice walk from the pier to the room was accentuated by the encounter of monkey families, big monitor lizards, bats the size of your cat (if you have one) and tons of gorgeous butterflies. The virgin jungle of the rain forest is as wild as it gets and as rich in life as you can find. At night, the sky was so black and the stars so many that it looked unreal. At this moment Pierre turned around and said:
-You see Helene, if we were diving right at this moment, you would be able to watch this magnificent sky from the sea while we would be floating in the sea water like two love fishes.
-NON MERCI! I use to be a French frog, now I am a certified frog in Asia but I am still not ready to be a frog at sea waiting for a predator to order frog legs for his late dinner! I love you Pierre but….
Now I do it for the love of diving with you!
P.S: My great friend Lorraine Klaasen is going to do a concert on September 25 at Club Soda. DON’T MISS IT