12.00 on a Sunday afternoon I’m bobbing around in Scorching Bay.
I’m out further from the shore than I’ve ever swum at a beach before, and I’m feeling a little panicky. I tell myself that I’m not going to sink, though, because my BCD is inflated and snug against my ribs.
My breath isn’t what I’d call deep and even, and I try to concentrate on just calming down, and staying with the group.
The water is rougher out here than I had imagined, and I swallow a couple of sickening mouthfuls of salt and seaweed and lord knows what else before I remember to put my snorkel in my mouth.
They say you should make a dog swallow salt, dissolved in water if it eats poison, to make it throw up.
My flippers catch in the water whenever I move them, and I am acutely aware of the weight belt tugging at my hips. It’s 12 kg’s and will make my legs and hips ache with fatigue as I trudge back up the beach later.
I’m wearing a two piece wetsuit with a hood, and it presses tightly across my chest and hugs my neck. The tightness over my chest doesn’t quite impede breathing, but it certainly makes me more aware of it.
I don’t need to be any more aware of my breathing at this point.
The zip digs into my neck a little when I move and I feel claustrophobic. The hood keeps slipping back, and the mask blocking my nose and obscuring my vision feels downright wrong. I force myself to leave it where it is.
It’s hot up on the surface.
We start our decent. The water closes over our heads, and it’s not like I thought it would be. I’m surrounded by bluey brown water, and despite straining I can’t see more than 1/2 a meter in front of myself. ‘Keep breathing.’ I remind myself over and over. It’ll be fine.
The surge below the waves is tossing me around, and I tilt slightly backwards rather than slightly forwards. I freeze a bit, holding my body too rigid to be comfortable.
Keep equalizing. I’m terrified my doctor is right, and I’m going to blow an ear drum. Or drown. Or become unable to breath. Or lose the group.
I know my eyes are wide, and my breathing is uneven, and faster than it should be. My buddy helps me straighten a little, and we’re on the bottom. Kneeling in a small tight circle, linking arms to prevent being swept away from each other in the swirling water and sand.
The water is cool. Calm comes down around me like a warm fuzzy blanket.
I equalise once more, hearing the reassuring squeak. My doctors fears were unfounded. I have no difficulty at all.
I look around the circle of divers and I can make out most of them. I see a couple of wide eyes, like mine, but nothing too serious. A couple of the guys are even grinning. I can tell, even behind their regulators.
They say diving is the closest most people will ever get to being in space.
Space would be hard to see in too.
I decide right then and there that I love it. Even though I can’t see much, and even though it’s scary, and rough, and the salt will make my lips crack a little later because I forgot my lip-balm.
I’m going to be doing this as often as possible, and hopefully for the rest of my life.