For years I was always described as a fish. My feet were fins. When my wet curly locks, when wet, apparently resembled the flowing locks of a mermaid. I’ve always felt at home in the water. Weightless, free and defiant of gravity. If I jump from a building it hurts. If I jump into the sea it’s fun and exhilarating. If I take a breath and fill my lungs, I float (like a boat). If I blow bubbles (I FUCKING LOVE BUBBLES!), then I sink. I can roll, rocket, butterfly and dolphin.
In the water, I am free, it must be the Aquarius within me.
Being surrounded by wet was my childhood. From the early age of 5, all the way through school, I was wet. Wet before school, after school, sometimes during school and every weekend, wet wet wet. This was my life as a competitive swimmer.
…the first time I found myself 18m underwater was the first time since my memory began working I had felt discomfort while being in water and wet. I did not feel the free’ness I usually experience. My breath relied on a nifty piece of equipment that makes me sound like an evil science fiction baddie. The free’ness in streamlining was hindered by my ‘canistered life’ strapped to my back. This thick, black, uncomfortable material attaching itself to my skin was claustrophobic to my muscles and limbs. I could still defy gravity, but movement and free’ness had been hindered. I was uncomfortable. I was anxious. I had 18m of water above my insignificant, ‘made for land’ body.
This experience was during the third dive of my PADI Open Water course on Perhentian Kecil, Malaysia. It was as if alarm bells were ringing saying, “This is not my world. Be careful. Be cautious. You are not a fish, amphibian or a ‘made for water’ being”. Anxiety 18m underwater is not good. Your buoyancy goes crazy, you breath faster, you use your air faster. I rapidly got this under control. I fixed my breathing. This in turn fixed my anxiety and this resulted in me, once more, enjoying the ‘big blue’. This was until that bloody Triggerfish came and attacked my fins. Up went the breathing. Up went the anxiety. But, with the toothy fish out of sight, I had it all under control and once more started to enjoy the roller-coaster of a third dive I was having. Anyways, guess what?
I passed my PADI OPEN WATER!!!!!!!!!!! (In May 2010! Not sure why I am still excited).
Me passing this course opened up a whole new world. It changed my view on travelling. It changed my life. I also no longer accept plastic bags from 7/11!!
Since I passed I have dived nearly 30 times and every time has been a different experience completely. Surrounded by the ‘big blue. A visitor into an amazing world of harmony, colour and weird.
I have dived at the Similan Islands, I have dived in the Andaman off Koh Lanta. I have dived in Malaysia on Perhentian Kecil and I have dived off Ko Tao in Thailand. So far… the Similans ROCK!
I have seen turtles, squids and seahorses. I have seen schools of fish as high as houses. I have seen fish as small as my little toe and so big they cannot fit in a car. I have seen colours under the water like no colour above. I have seen clowns, angels, butterflies, unicorns and Christmas trees. I have seen twinkles at night and sharks in the day. I have seen the biggest fish in the world. I have seen a WHALE SHARK!!! But but but, I am excited to, one day, see Mantanthonees, bulls, tigers, hammers and whales. I wanna see octopussies, snakes and craits. I wanna see a parrotfish in its own bubble of snot and see an amnesic blue tang. I wanna see them all.
I’m sure you have started to get a sense of why I love diving by now. It it really opens up a whole new world. With every breath in you are mindful. With every breath out you are aware. With the simple act of breathing, you are conscious. You are present of the undiluted nature that surrounds you. Present of nature purest. No glass, no fences and no buckets of fish food. Only communities of creatures living harmoniously, beautifully and in the most weirdly way possible. This is nature. This is us.