La Paz, Mexico
I like to talk a good game. I seem fearless and confident and I don’t like to let others know otherwise. So when I snorkeled with beluga whales in Manitoba I talked about learning how to scuba dive but then did nothing about it. I took it up a notch after I did SNUBA diving in Lana’i and said I was really going to do it.
And I meant that.
I tend to announce things I’m afraid to do because I’m more stubborn than fearful to admit defeat. I’m terrified of heights yet years ago before I went to New Zealand I announced I would bungy jump. I did and it was completely exhilarating and frightening.
So when the Cortez Club agreed to host me for PADI open water certification it all got a little too real. I bought my bus ticket to La Paz and got a room at La Concha Beach Club Resort but something was nagging at me. I was scared. I knew I wasn’t going to die or be harmed.
It was a fear of failure.
I met the only other person in my class, Sebastian from Guadalajara. I was happy to hear that they would ease me in by watching three videos, although the focus on safety in the videos made me slightly anxious. Then we went over course books and finally an overview of the equipment.
Finally it was time for the water, the SNUBA really helped because I was completely comfortable with the regulator. There were only two of us taking the class and it was really nice to have so much individual attention. I felt like things were going well until I was supposed to take the weight belt off and put it back on, but I let it get away from me and all of a sudden my legs were floating upward and I was upside down.
My instructor Marco helped me by pushing me down and showed me a different way to put it on. Later on he told me it wasn’t my fault by that I had buoyant thighs, I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not. He was trying to be nice so I let it go, let’s just attribute it to years of playing soccer.
More video work although it seemed like it was just PADI trying to up sell me on buying stuff from them. We had an unexpected quiz but it turns out I knew more than I thought with only 4 questions wrong – perhaps I won’t die in the open water tomorrow.
Our first open water day, we headed out to this amazing lighthouse where sea lions were on the rocks, I was nervous to go backwards into the water, remembering when I was in Honduras we met a girl who was so petrified she almost quit the open water course.
To be honest it was a bit startling to go backwards and then be in open water. I had to remember to calm down and breathe and once we went down underwater I was really comfortable.
In the first 5 minutes underwater a sea lion swam by us, it was incredible. Marco said my eyes were as big as the mask but I wasn’t nervous at all.
Marco was always close by and with a group of two I knew if anything happened he would be there. I was much calmer than I thought I would be and didn’t want to come up. Although I could really do without that test where you take your mask off and on, I’m not scared of it but I hate the salt water in my eyes.
We went to a new location for a second dive but after a few minutes I had a sharp pain in my left sinus. The good thing was I didn’t feel panicked at all, I just signaled to Marco and we headed back up. The only bad thing is that I’ll have more tests tomorrow.
My final day and despite the problems with my sinuses yesterday I felt calm. Under water Marco kept signalling to remind me to clear my passages but I already knew how to do it. We swam around looking at the various sea life and everything felt so right, even as the sea lions swam by us.
I was really doing this and I loved it.
I had to catch up on a few navigation drills I missed yesterday and then we went back to the surface so we could head to a new area. At the new location everything felt familiar and comfortable. I trusted Marco and I trusted myself. I felt so much at peace under water, in a way I never feel on land.
Finally we resurfaced and I needed to complete the final tests: to swim a distance, tread water ten minutes along with the final minute with my hands above my head. I grew up taking swimming lessons so this was not a feat at all.
On the way back Sebastian and I were finally at ease, he told me he thought I was 26 or 27 at most.
Perhaps I should stay in Mexico?
Disclosure: I was a guest of La Concha Beach Club Resort and Club Cortez, they did not request that I write a favourable review or delight in making all my friends jealous that I was in the water with sea lions.