Wednesday, April 20, 2011

'I'm Ba-ack!'

It’s an extraordinary experience, something ever awesomely new and different, to walk straight out from a sandy beach, in this case, through the line of moored bangka boats, or at other times past swimsuit-wearing air-breathing dogpaddling mortals, into the deep blue sea; to keep going, deeper ever deeper, until rippling wavelets close over your masked and snorkeled head as you enter a totally alien, yet wonderful world of enveloping water.

For a non scuba diver, an unaware untrained mere human being, doing such a thing means a gasping choking death, but to scuba divers, it’s an experience that never gets old; each time it happens it’s fresh and exciting; it’s literally death defying and therefore electrifying.

You do it one time and you are inextricably hooked; especially here in the tropics, where fish and fauna in colors shapes and forms beyond the wildest imagination lurk behind and around every rock and coral mound. As soon as you climb out of the water and try to take in what you just saw, all you want to do is get back in and see it again.

Of course, no one who has never experienced it actually believes how supreme the experience actually is. I had come only close over the years with all my time near the surface as a snorkeler, but it’s not the same; not at all.

A navy diver friend, a fellow US military retiree, finally got through to me last year when he returned from diving in Palawan, where he saw things that “could not possibly exist,” as he put it. This from a man who has more hours underwater than he can count; yet he practically bubbled with the excitement of what he had witnessed in the waters near Puerto Princessa. After that, I KNEW that I too MUST try it. So, I owe it all to him. So thanks Tom. (And to Don as well of course, the guy who actually put me underwater on a regulator and forever changed my life).

Reading back what I just wrote above, it dawns on me how much I sound like a religious zealot. I ask myself, am I really that excited over this stuff? I have to say yes, I am. Beyond a doubt, from a fellow who has tried a lot of stuff in this world, there is nothing else like it. It is a totally unique experience. If I come off as a raving lunatic, it’s probably because you’ve never done it. A fellow diver knows exactly what I’m talking about.

So, pursuant to finally becoming certified in practicing the "religious experience" called scuba diving, along with my two classmates and two instructors, I walked into the pleasantly cool waters that softly lapped the shores directly fronting The Big Apple dive resort. Funny enough, Big Apple sits directly ashore between Sabang’s two floating bars; it occurred to me that I was walking out of one bar and out towards two more. If you like barhopping ya gotta love that.

The water stays shallow for quite a ways out into the cove fronting the town of Sabang. We were about half way out to the floating bars before it was deep enough for the instructor to stop and have us put on our fins and masks. He still wasn’t quite ready for us to go on regulators and submerge yet though.

First, he briefed us one more time on where we were going and what we’d be doing once we got there. But first, he tasked me, and only me, to perform what’s called a rescue tow on Jamie. Evidently, the other two trainees had already accomplished this prerequisite. My job was to grab the back of his tank by the valve assembly and swim him backwards as if he was in need of assistance.

Performing this basic rescue function was fairly easy, although Pedro continually had me look for him over my shoulder as he continually shifted his position; each time I was to change my direction of swim towards him as I pulled along my rescue charge. Simple actually, but by the time he was satisfied with my performance I was breathing a little hard from my efforts. Nonetheless, Pedro immediately gave gave the order to use our regulators and did the thumbs down signal for dive.

‘Oh man! Give me a break dude. I’m still huffing here!’

I didn’t say that but I sure thought it at him hard.

‘Oh well, I’m tough; I can do it.’

Is what I told myself as I released air from my BCD and headed towards the bottom with the rest of my dive mates. I needn’t have been concerned. Scuba diving, when done recreationally, is supposed to be done in an easygoing and therefore pleasurable fashion. In no time at all my breathing was slow and measured. I was back where I love to be the most.

‘I’m BA-ACK!’

That’s my thought bubble every time I find myself settling down to a point just a few feet from the bottom where I then seek to attain that perfect floating position called neutral buoyancy. THAT place is where a properly trained and experienced diver lives.


Ed said...

I think I'm a believer in your new 'religion' but unfortunately it doesn't make sense for me to convert when I live 1000 miles from the nearest 'church'! Perhaps someday when I live closer to an ocean...

PhilippinesPhil said...

Lots of different "religions" out there right? Here's something to consider though, you can show up at Big Apple and for just a few hundred bucks and some willingness you can be in the water and in three days end up with a basic certification. I meet people from all over the world there at Sabang that are there for exactly that.