Back in 2003, my wife Julieanne, our younger daughter Jessica and I did an intensive scuba diving course, (open water certification).
We did 3 full weekends, theory, pool dives, and the last weekend we did a trip to a small seaside town named Edithburg for our first dives in the actual sea.
I remember the first pool dive, for me it was a disaster, 13 of us were standing in a row with all our gear on, fins an’ all.
I lost my balance and went down like a sumo wrestler into a bowl of spaghetti, my arms and legs goin’ ballistic.
To make an even ‘bigger’ impression on everyone somehow I got all my hoses, fins and anything else that was sticking out, tangled with the guy next to me and took him down with me. (If I’m goin’ down I ain’t going down alone!)
Another time in the pool, we were doing an exercise, taking our weight belts off on the bottom and swimming up to the surface about 8 metres up.
My weight belt got stuck (somehow?) and wouldn’t frickin’ budge, so here I am stuck on the bottom.
Meanwhile everyone else is up top happy with their effort, and I’m like,
“somebody look down! ok, anybody look down! do a roll call damn it, anyone missing?”
The only thing that put me off scuba diving in the first place was that I was kinda petrified by the thought of being eaten by a shark.
To solve that problem I purchased a rather large diving knife the week before we went for our dives in the ocean.
When I say ‘big knife’, it would have been big enough to impress Crocodile Dundee.
I’m sure if I’d asked him, “is this a knife?” he would have replied, “shit yeah!”
Anyway, the guy in the shop that sold it to me thought it was hilarious, he was crackin’ up, silly bugger!
He said, “hey mate, I’m happy to sell you this knife, (laughter!) but you’ll never protect yourself from a shark with this!” (more laughter!)
“Sharks are the world’s most sophisticated predators, you won’t see it coming, you’ll be half eaten before you think to yourself, “where’s that bloody knife?”
(now he was almost falling over he was laughing so much!)
At Edithburg, the three of us were all in separate groups, and on the Sunday Julieanne
and Jessica decided they would complete their course at a later date.
For some reason I just wanted to ‘get it over with’ because the previous Sunday at the dive centre, half way through the day I’d had a gut full and threw a wobbly.(had a meltdown)
I carried all my dive stuff outside, opened the boot of the car, threw it in, slammed the boot and started ‘yelling at the sky’.
“God I Can’t Take Anymore!… Somebody Shoot Me!… I Hate Diving!
I Want To Go Home!… This Is BS, Why The Hell Would Anyone Want To Breathe Underwater!…They’re All Flamin’ Maniacs!”
Pedestrians passing by were probably hoping I’d take my medication ‘SOON’.
I did have an excuse I could have used for bailing on that last day at Edithburg and that was that the water was bloody ‘freezing’
But I soldiered on even though I was convinced I’d never be able to produce any more children after this last 30 minutes in the ice cold water.
I’m happy with three children, so no worries.
I remember the last skill we did about 4pm, 5 of us were sitting around in a circle on the ocean floor about 15 metres down, taking turns to do a controlled, emergency ascent.
I was so cold I was shaking in my wet suit waiting for my turn.
Tracey our instructor must have noticed and pointed at me to take my turn. I had to do it three times to get it right.
Up on the surface at the end of my second try, Tracey said, “one more time, you’ve nearly got it”.
I said, “I can’t do it, “I panted,” I’ve hardly got the energy to breathe, I can’t do it.”
She took her mask off and motioned for me to do the same, she looked right into my eyes and said, “John, I know you’re exhausted”, then she added without breaking eye contact and smiling, “I think you can do it, you’re a fighter, I think you’ve got it in you.”
As I was finning my way to shore on my back ten minutes later, my state of euphoria had put the biggest smile on my face, Tracey was right, I did have it in me, I was a qualified open water diver!
Some years later, (Julieanne and I now advanced open water divers) went for a scuba dive at Tweed Heads in New South Wales.
We’d booked a dive with a local dive centre and went out to Cooke Island in a rigid inflatable boat with about 8 other divers.
Little did I know as we went down the Tweed River, and over the sand barr at Point Danger, (named by Captain Cooke) that this was almost my last dive, or come to think of it… my last anything…
….to be Continued