I love running. I hate swimming. I’ve always been a terrible swimmer, ever since my first faltering strokes at about six years old. I was on vacation with my family on beautiful, windy Tenerife, one of the seven Canary Islands. It was there I also took my first judo course, which I enjoyed a lot more—probably the reason I ended up in martial arts after all.
Even though I didn’t have a traumatic experience on Tenerife, I never liked being in the water. I didn’t like being on boats or snorkelling by the beach. I was one of the worst swimmers in school and I barely managed to pass the class, even though I beat everyone else in regular phys. ed. classes—catching balls or jumping hurdles.
Fast forward to my mid-twenties, and I decided it was time to conquer this fear. I was living in Dubai at the time, and the Maldives were close. What better to do in the Maldives than go scuba diving? I signed up for my Open Water Diver course with PADI and had the pleasure of viewing an instructional video dating back to the ’70s.
One of the first things I learned: Don’t hold your breath underwater. The video compared our lungs to fragile balloons. If you inadvertently hold your breath underwater and trap air in your lungs, the air will rapidly expand as the pressure changes on ascent—and your lungs will burst.
This cheerful lesson in pulmonary barotrauma was accompanied by a big grin from my diving instructor, and I failed miserably in my first couple of practice sessions in the pool.
So here I was on a beautiful island, filled with anxiety every morning at breakfast thinking about my diving course ahead. And this is what I had chosen for my vacation from fast-paced Dubai!
Finally my first open water dive came up…and I loved it! Wonderfully quiet and peaceful, it was everything I wanted it to be. The Maldives have some of the best scuba diving in the world with clear waters and coral reefs rich in marine life. I was lucky to see moray eels and manta rays as well as many other exotic fish. So I left the Maldives with a new passion.
Oman was within a stone’s throw of Dubai. I went on to take my Advanced Open Water Diver course in Musandam—the entry into the Persian Gulf. I learned how to navigate and went 30 metres deep. I also got a specialty in wreck and drift diving.
Fully converted, I now went diving any time the opportunity presented itself: the Middle East, Brazil, Norway, Thailand, and the Caribbean. My biggest challenge would be Rescue Diver certification in Negril, Jamaica. I knew how to rescue myself or my diving buddy, but now I had to learn how to rescue panicked or unresponsive divers, and that involved swimming! My 200-plus-pound diving instructor played a dead person, and I carried him through the water to land—mission accomplished!
Given my professional interests, it was only natural for me to take a professional underwater videography course on Koh Tao and strengthen my skills. I mastered how to be completely buoyant in order to get the best shots of the underwater world. Later, I would edit what I filmed during the day.
Here I am, 50+ dives later, thinking about my next diving trip—which will hopefully include a night dive. I STILL don’t like swimming! But I believe I’m a good diver and love being on boats, to the point where I once even took a job offer on a cruise ship (but then I ended up in Toronto instead due to a confluence of last-minute circumstances).
Now I am planning on improving my swimming skills. Next stop: triathlon!
Check out other travel adventures by this author!