PADI Open Water Diver6 min read
I imagine the gauzy blue and green hug of the ocean,
and all the secrets whispered in the bubbles
that dissolve into this deep, shimmering portion
of awe. I imagine an ancient chest left by the lubbers,
resting at the hull of a sunken ship.
Magic, of course, is hidden in it!
This year introduces many changes in the direction of my life. I’ve spent the last five years chasing heights and fighting, or better yet playing with gravity. Now I find myself otherwise – going down. The art of altitude sickness gives way to that of decompression sickness and buoyancy. There is something almost magical in the way the universal balance works.
What goes up, must come down.
That which goes even higher, shall go underneath. Directions may change but it is still a game of pressure, cold temperatures and movement. And just as there is the high-altitude mountaineering, so there is the high-altitude diving. But first, let’s learn the basics!
After the Nomad Summit in Chiang Mai a bunch of us head down to Koh Lanta where thanks to Johnny FD (FunDive ;)) we end up on a scuba diving boat trip. The sea is grumpy that day and walking in a straight line on the boat is something only a master of balance can accomplish. I look worse than a drunken pirate, and it is not just me.
Whoop to the left, whoop to the right.
Oh, Poseidon, please spare me the embarrassment of throwing up on board!
The day starts with me realising that hanging out on a boat would by far not line up among my favourite things to do. At least for the moment! Yet, here I am about to dive into the deep blue which I’ve always found creepy. Being a good swimmer gives me some comfort for the moment, though later it will turn out that swimming has little to do with diving. As we make our way to the Koh Ha islands, a sound from the past jingles in my ears:
The seaweed is always greener
In somebody else’s lake
You dream about going up there
But that is a big mistake
Just look at the world around you
Right here on the ocean floor
Such wonderful things surround you
What more is you lookin’ for?
Under the sea
Under the sea
Darling it’s better
Down where it’s wetter
Take it from me
Up on the shore they work all day
Out in the sun they slave away
While we devotin’
Full time to floatin’
Under the sea
– Under the Sea, The Little Mermaid
What follows for me is the incredible experience of a first-time dive. That first breath underwater is unforgettable. It is like the first kiss, or better yet, it is probably what I felt when I took my first breath after I was born. It is a rebirth in a different environment.
Could it be that I am a mermaid now?
If so, I will have to re-write the story and ditch the prince on the shore for a life underwater. As I dive, I don’t get the ‘cold fins’. Both intense and peaceful, diving allures me. The one-day challenge ends with a…
To be continued
A couple of days after my introductory dive I sign up for the PADI Open Water Diver course. I get the book and dissolve my time into the nature and principles of scuba diving. Studying the way human physiology changes in different environments has always fascinated me. No wonder my instructor is more than happy with the theoretical understanding I show on the exam. Instead of going into a pool for the practical part, we dive back in the sea.
A week after my first dive, I spend another day out in the arms of the deeper waters. This time the boat does the waltz with the waves in a perfect synchrony. After my third dive for the day, I get out of the water now soaked as a certified enthusiastic beginner. The whole certificate thing sounds very grandiose, so one has to be careful not to fall into the trap of the Dunning-Kruger effect. The course simply builds foundations on how to navigate in the surreal world underwater. And the fun starts here!
The underwater kingdom easily takes your breath away, yet the most important rule of scuba diving is to breathe continuously. Never hold your breath! After I take my first one beneath the surface of the sea, I feel as if in a dream. Reality bends. If you go deep enough colours would disappear.
How weird is that?
Fear not, you are neither hallucinating, nor are you losing sight. Water absorbs different wavelengths of light to different degrees. As you go deeper, colours vanish. Red fades away first, so no need for an otherwise eccentric red wet suite.
If you are in it for a deep dive and you got an M&M snack with you, hopefully you are not picky with the colours you eat.
Everything is magnified. Not only my sight, but my curiosity, too. I look at the coral reefs and imagine them as the cathedrals of this kingdom, daydreaming of all the lost worlds underwater. I can already see myself diving at sites with shipwrecks.
My imagination floats with all the stories behind the voyages of those ships that now rest in the peaceful quietness of their final destination at the bottom of the ocean. It feels like being in a National Geographic movie. As I glide in the water and light pierces my way, I look at all the particles and think of Einstein. I think of all the atoms and waves and somehow feel part of the solution to the grin and mystics behind Quantum Gravity. I feel one with the Universe.
This challenge started with overcoming my anxiety about deep water with a one-day dive experience. It grew to successfully completing the PADI Open Water Diver course, and remains open to growth as, need I say, I am in it for the ADVENTURE DIVES.
“Close your eyes! Close them. The ocean has five layers. The first one is epipelagic. It contains all the plant life and coral reefs. Whatever memory you have of baptism, or any other form of submersion is there in the blue water. The next layer is mesopelagic. This is the twilight zone, into which blue and all other colors and light vanish. Everything under the mesopelagic is night. If you were with me in a submersible, that’s like a deep-sea submarine…”
“Is it yellow?”
“Of course, it is…”
“If you were with me in one of those, you would have spent two hours at least, in the blackness you are in now, to get down to…the hadopelagic, which is what interests me. ‘Hadel’ from the Greek ‘Hades’ which means unseen.”
“Doesn’t it mean hell?”
“To some. This is the other world in our world.”
Photo credits: Nick Narcosis