Diving after 4 years

Another post from me… it’s like I never went away.

I recently took it upon myself to, rather than sit around and do nothing all day in my unemployed state, open up a credit card account and finally book a trip to go diving. Although doing this had been in my mind for a while, it all was quite sudden between booking and leaving, and i’m pretty sure I even forgot to tell my father than I was leaving (sorry dad!). My photography has been dominating my most recent travels (which is usually land-based) and as it turns out, it had been 4 years since my last dive. Scandalous.

It was nothing fancy – I was after all still unemployed. A simple easyjet flight (surrounded by 2 sets of parents travelling together on what must have been a club med holiday and they should not have been allowed to have kids) to Sharm-El-Sheikh (an area in the middle of the desert made up of resorts, and resorts and uh… oh, more resorts! Nothing authentic here). 5-day, 5-night half-board package trip in an average hotel booked through the dive provider (for around 300 quid), I was so unprepared and willing to follow what had been arranged for me I had no idea what the exchange rate was!

Don’t worry. This isn’t a full account of my daily adventures. But there is something that I felt compelled to share…

What it is like getting into the water after 4 years.

Naturally I booked a refresher course. I felt fairly confident getting onto the boat in the morning, I had my dive computer, and I’d logged 80 or so dives in about 2 years. I had been very comfortable in the water and loved the sensation in the past. But, actually, the more people were talking around me and the more the instructor divulged into the plan for the first dive, the more it dawned on me that, regardless of how much diving I’d done before, all the details about the drills were gone. As well as that my dive computer had been unused for so long that the battery was completely dead. And that filled me with some fear as I do genuinely appreciate that diving is still an extreme sport.

While he was quizzing me about what to do, parts slowly came back but the apprehension and fear still remained. If I was a proper artist, I would have loved to paint, or sow, or create some piece of work that could represent the feelings that I went through. But I’m not, so my sketches app will have to do.

This is how I felt:

We got kitted up and did our buddy check (‘CAB?’ I said, knowing that it was first aid but on the off-chance it might also be diving. Nope, it’s BAR. Similar enough)

I jumped out of the boat and into the water. Now, having a leaky mask didn’t help. And it probably didn’t help that the first time I went underwater ever I panicked as I was wearing a semi-dry suit with a hood and felt that my neck was too constricted and I couldn’t breathe. But as we descended and he told me not to breathe in but only out to get myself to sink I couldn’t, and part of that panic I felt the first time came back. Something akin to this:

While we were finally on our way down, breathing through the regulator still felt very alien, not having that access to your nostrils, and I went through some discomfort.

But we continued down to the sandy bottom to sit down and practice taking our regulator out underwater. Standard practice, important to know. He told me to watch him do it. So I did. And then he told me to copy. I was scared to remove the mask but I knew I had to and breathed in, held my breath pulled it out and let out a slow stream of bubbles. I was waiting for a panic to set in about not having any breathe left but it didn’t and my confidence in my ability to hold my breath (that’s right, I had lost confidence as to whether or not I could contain air in my mouth for 5-10 seconds. How idiotic is that!?) came back, and actually it was fine. Relief and confidence flooded back:
We practiced the rescue drills and that all went ok. I was feeling ok.

But then the mask clearing came. I always have hated this. Doing it in slightly chilly water isn’t great. Wearing contacts isn’t great as you get salty water in your eyes. But the hardest thing is not to breathe in through your nose. I really struggle with this. So I filled up my mask a little bit and cleared it. Fine. But then, when I had to fill the entire thing, I just couldn’t do it. And I started breathing faster, and faster. This is what it felt like:

I think the instructor had thoughts akin to ‘you pussy’, so he filled my mask up and I then cleared it just fine. He gave me a good pat on my hands as I think he saw how worried I was. And it was ok, it was all ok.

We got up and swam off, and he could tell my buoyancy was actually fine, and that in general I looked at peace and calm. I was, most of the time, as it all came back to me and it all of a sudden felt natural again. I did still have the odd discomfort when I was still getting used to not being able to breathe in through my nose, but in general this is what I felt like:

And then we carried on, and I ran out of air, and we went to the surface and it was all ok. By the end of my second dive, I felt happy again, and although there are still elements I will most certainly brush up (or re-learn let’s be honest!) on before I go on another diving trip, it all came back like riding a bike. I know it’s technical, and you have to be careful about what you do (currents are sneaky), but I never thought that feeling of going down would feel as alien to me as it did in those first few moments.

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