Lesson #3: The Dives That Never Happened

The vis is terrible out there! Not even five feet!” The disappointed diver said as he climbed up the seawall steps towards our party.

Nevertheless, we chose to head out and see for ourselves. We got out to about 5 ft so we could snorkel out to the entry point. I could see the coral making the water blurry one second- almost to the point that I felt like I was blind- to crystal clear the next.

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That’s not too bad, I thought to myself. We headed out to the edge of the reef and looked out- NOPE! It was almost sunset and the water was extremely murky and brown from the river run-off caused by the recent rains. We all decided to call it quits since we couldn’t even see each other at that point. Perhaps we could have tried to descend to the bottom and see if it cleared up, but really, it didn’t seem likely that it would be much better, so we saved it for another day.

Shortly after that, there was a decent typhoon hitting the island. We were all suffering from cabin fever and dive withdrawals and by the time the weather cleared up, I was on the local message boards looking for a dive buddy. I found a group going out and we met up. There were plenty of parking spots along the seawall- that seemed odd. Then I noticed the sound of the waves crashing. As we ascended the steps and looked at the water, we could see large swells and a few surfers.

We talked about it for a few minutes- there was a man-made wall, the water was good beyond the waves, if we could get past them we should be fine, it was high-tide, we could probably get in and descend right away and not even be phased by the waves. No problem! As a snewba, one of the newest in the group, it was my call on whether or not I thought I could handle it. I really didn’t know what to expect since I had never dove with any kind of decent waves before. I asked the slightly more experienced divers for more information. They seemed to think it would be okay if we followed our plan, so we went ahead and tried it…. it was NOT A GOOD IDEA!

We got in, descended immediately and tried to swim out. All I could see were bubbles and sea foam. I could barely see a foot or two in front of me. I don’t even think I swam more than a second before turning around, but apparently I swam out far enough that it was quite some trouble getting back. I was worried about my buddies since I couldn’t see them or if they were following suit. The waves were shoving us against the sea wall relentlessly. Suddenly there was a pile-on right in front of me, where did this come from? I was stuck in the middle of several of them, I had to surface to get a good idea of where I was, another bad idea- the waves knocked the reg out of my mouth, I was sucking in water with my air even after I managed to get it back into position. I thought I was going to drown. As I was coughing and choking, I did my best to remain calm and keep moving towards the stairs. I was surprised by how calm my mind was, but I knew deep-down that panic would do worse than the waves in this situation.

We all managed to get behind the wall and on the stairs, still fighting with the waves to get completely out. Our hearts racing, a few bruises and scratches, but for the most part we were okay and all accounted for. We  noticed that the few surfers had left- apparently it was too rough even for them. We looked for another spot and found out that at the other end of the sea wall surfers were lined up, parking was atrocious, the swells were much better apparently. It was time to call it quits, I headed home and hugged my family.

“Know your limits.” Chances are you’ve heard this phrase before. I don’t think I realized mine before this. I pretty much erred on the side of caution before; but afterward, I was even more cautious- paranoid, in fact! Any waves, I was worried. White caps, current, poor vis (30ft or less!)- anything made me wary and I wouldn’t go out unless I was with a diver who’d been diving for many years or who was Dive Master certified. Of course, this made it hard for me to get dives in since it was often hard to find a buddy.

After awhile, I had to find the equilibrium. I had to really define my limits and still branch out and develop confidence. I paid closer attention to conditions and started to ask questions about everything to do with the factors to consider before diving. The only way I could determine my limits was by diving more. I lost some confidence on that dive, but by that loss I gained more overtime. Now I’ve learned that if there are surfers, there should probably be no divers.

It seems to me, had I not experienced this sort of thing, I wouldn’t have known really what to watch out for. I wouldn’t have been so eager to learn more about the conditions and factors that affect recreational dives. I could have blindly followed the more experienced divers without a second thought as to what I could and couldn’t handle. As a snewba, I think you have to recognize that anything questionable is probably a dive that should be held off until you’ve at least had more experience. On the other hand, even though you should avoid these types of situations as much as possible, sometimes, once you find yourself in one by some strange happenstance, you actually realize more about what you’re capable of. Just another of the many things I love about diving!

So tell me, do you have any dives that never did, or perhaps never should have, happened?

Keep reading!

-Erica