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|09-07-2011, 12:59 AM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Oct 2009
Developing the confidence to dive solo
I had a pretty powerful growth experience recently, where I really increased my confidence and courage by doing a solo scuba dive.
I originally posted this article on a scuba forum, but a lot of people there were very upset by it. Solo diving is very frowned upon, because "the rules" say you always have to dive with a buddy. However, I found a lot of value in going it alone -- and I'm still alive, too.
Even if you're not interested in scuba, or you think I'm a total nut for doing something so risky, I have to say it really was a positive growth experience worth reading about. I thought I would share my article here in case it resonates with anybody. Feel free to tell me how reckless I was. I have a thick skin.
I just finished my first solo dive. It also happened to be my first open water dive since being certified.
I can already hear the objections. Many people are against solo diving. Heck, some people who are for it, cautiously, say that you should only consider it when you have adequate experience, like fifty normal dives.
It wasn't the smartest thing to do, I admit. So why would I do it in the first place? Let me give you some background.
I first attempted to get my open water certification when I was twelve. From the first moment, scuba felt completely natural to me, and I loved it. I did fine with all the pool classes.
But I never did the open water dives. The abbreviated version is that when you're a kid, you don't have a car or a lot of control over your life, and it's hard to get things done. The full version is that I got a C on my report card and my Mom wouldn't let me go. I didn't care too much for the preplanned learning experiences the public schools mandated for me. Funny, because my chosen learning experience of becoming a diver would have been ten times more valuable than anything school could offer. Even at that age, I knew that I needed to challenge myself to grow and develop my courage, and that my intellect would take care of itself. The episode is yet another example of why the standard path we force children to tread is not always best for their growth, and often is the worst option. But you can read about my strenuous objections to compulsory schooling elsewhere.
So diving fell off my radar for awhile. A long while. I got involved in other things, like flying. I started working on my private pilot's license when I was 21 and got my instrument rating when I was 23. That occupied me for awhile.
After finishing my instrument rating, I remember sitting around wondering what to do next. My original plan was to become a commercial pilot, but along the way I decided it wasn't the career for me, as much as I loved flying. I had nothing to replace that goal with.
I had no plans. Nothing on the back burner. No opportunities. But I had to keep moving forward, somehow. So I started cleaning and organizing all my junk (which shows you how truly bored I was).
I came across my wetsuit, a two-piece 6.5mm cold water suit. I decided to go down to the local dive shop and get some wetsuit shampoo and clean it.
There's something about the smell of dive shops, all that neoprene and rubber and silicone off-gassing, that is practically psychotropic. Within seconds of walking in, I knew deep inside that I had been missing something important. I felt it before I could pronounce the words.
So I promptly signed up the the last diving classes of the year, at a dive shop over an hour away, because that was all that was available. It was either that or wait until next June.
I finished the class this time and felt great about it. Finally, the c-card was mine. I even bought some gear I had always wanted, like a full face mask.
But I never dove any of it, for two reasons. The first is that I kept encountering road blocks to diving. They were just little things. I don't have a buddy. I have trouble unblocking my left ear. During my training, I got two ear infections -- how would I prevent that from happening again? And then all the logistical considerations. Do I have enough gear? Wouldn't two knives be better than one? What about three? Maybe I should get some more practice in the pool first. I should read the latest literature on microbubbles first. And on and on...
Those walls blocking me from diving weren't particularly high. Others have scaled them, and I could have too. As Randy Pausch said, the walls are there for a reason. They make you prove that you want something.
The second reason is that I discovered and fell in love with hockey, just two months after I got certified. I never did anything athletic before. Being small and geeky, I always figured sports weren't for me. So I got kind of preoccupied with this brand new world, and over the last four years, I've been waking up at five am to practice hockey three times a week or more.
Once again, diving fell off my radar.
So last week I was thinking about diving again, since it never really left my mind. I called up a pilot friend of mine, who is also a diver. I asked him a crazy question. I asked him if he knew where I could dive a Superlite. Just to try it out. I had been reading about the helmet and I had always wanted to try one, as crazy as that may sound.
He told me there was a little shop out on the West side of Cleveland that might be able to help me with my strange wishes. I hung up with no intention of actually going there, since what I was asking for was too crazy anyway.
The very next day I received a mailing from that shop. This was very, very odd. I think I spent five bucks there, four years ago. In that time, I never, ever received a mailing from them. Not once.
I saved the card, but once again, I never expected to do anything with it.
Then I got a call from the shop inviting me to come on in and enjoy their huge sale. A call which, naturally, was the first of its kind. I heard nothing and thought nothing of this place for years and suddenly it won't leave me alone.
So, I figured, why fight it?
I went to the shop. It's not like I needed any gear. I had no plans to go diving.
And within seconds, the dive shop smell hit me and I had that realization, once again, of what I had been missing.
I couldn't get diving out of my mind! It was back on the radar screen. I wanted to get wet. I already knew I didn't have anyone to dive with. So I called every shop I could think of, looking for refresher classes, drysuit classes, anything. They were booked up. Maybe something would open up in a month.
I lay in my bed wondering what to do. I had no dive buddy. There were no classes I could take anytime soon. And I wasn't about to drop a few thousand dollars on a dive vacation. More roadblocks. More walls in my way.
Then I realized, I have this little card. I can go rent gear. I can take it to a place with water and go in, just like that. I've had this power for four years and I've never used it. What the hell was wrong with me?
|09-07-2011, 01:00 AM||#2 (permalink)|
Join Date: Oct 2009
Part 2 of story
Sure I could do it, but I would be diving solo. And it had been so long since my last breath of compressed air that any dive shop would probably insist very strongly that I take a refresher class first. They might not even rent me the gear.
I knew in my heart that I accepted the risk, and I wanted to leap over these walls that had been in my way for four years and do it and see how it goes. It wouldn't be the smartest thing to do. But what would be my alternative? Sit inside on a rare one-hundred degree day as summer is fading? Read about diving medicine and trip reports and Superlites on the internet? Or go take action?
Deep down, I'm a take action kind of guy, once I silence the excessive thinking that gets in my way. So I went down to my local dive shop, rented the gear with no problems -- not even a question about where I was headed or with whom -- and I drove over an hour away to the quarry where I earned my c-card.
Setting up the gear for the first time in years was as easy as if I had done it yesterday. I tested everything, and memorized the location of every strap and dongle on the BC. While I was getting ready, I came up with a very conservative dive plan.
I may be a little impulsive sometimes, but I do think things through. In fact, my tendency to analyze can prevent me from ever taking action. Despite the spontaneity of my plans, my behavior was calm, cautious, and rational.
Fear keeps us from doing things that aren't so smart, but it can also keep us from doing what we need to do to grow. Once I accepted the risk of what I was doing, although I still felt and acknowledged fear, I wasn't controlled by it. It was just something in the background, and the way was open for me to act.
I waded in, slipped on my fins, and went under. It felt great. I really had missed the sensation and feeling of diving. Four years was too long. If I had packed up and left right then, I would have been happy.
I started executing my plan. I hung out at ten feet for about half an hour, practicing some basic skills. I tried to develop, or reactivate, my muscle memory. I made sure I could reach anything I needed with ease -- the inflator buttons, the weight belt quick release, the alternate air source. I replaced and cleared my regulator a few times. I practiced buoyancy a little. Then I surfaced.
It wasn't really enough to qualify as a real dive, but I felt great. I had reasonable confidence in my limited skills. I'm not going to pretend that I'm anything other than a total novice.
I saw the buoys marking the training platforms in the distance. I can do that, I thought. So I swam over and checked my gear one more time, then began my descent.
I took it slow and went down a little more than twenty feet to the platform. The last time I had been there, the place was busy with probably twenty divers and instructors. Now it was a silent void. I wanted to go deeper, but I thought it was best not to press my luck.
Suddenly I was in a dangerous place and totally responsible for my own life. Thankfully, if I screwed up, I would only hurt myself. I felt a huge sense of responsibility, and also an awesome awareness of my own power and self-control. I never felt so alert and serene and scared and wonderful in my life. Not even during my solo flights, when I had a GPS and a radio to call someone if I needed help. This time I was truly on my own.
The water was murky and there wasn't much to see or do. I suddenly understood the value of a tropical dive vacation. After awhile, I ascended slowly.
In retrospect, it wasn't the most ambitious solo dive ever, nor did I intend it to be. I won't pretend it was some huge courageous undertaking. I don't need it to be. I just wanted to go out and do what I knew I could do, what I loved to do, and what I had waited too long to do.
I now see how petty and small were the roadblocks that kept me from diving for four years. After my solo dive, I have more confidence in myself. What I did was risky, but once I made peace with the risk, I could focus on staying alert and doing a good job. Diving solo was dangerous, I admit, but I can't deny that it was a positive growth experience. I'm glad I did it.
Diving solo is a worthwhile pursuit, as is flying solo, hiking solo, or sailing across the ocean solo. Feeling the wonderful freedom of being alone in a hostile environment, and also the serious responsibility you have for your own life, is a moving and meaningful individual experience.
|09-07-2011, 01:36 PM||#3 (permalink)|
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Mississauga, On Canada
Well, you are not going to like my opinion on this. I'm a Master certififed diver with NAUI and yup, I'm going to be another one who will not endorse solo diving. You can do what you want of course but just don't expect to get too many divers, especially those who are at the Advance Scube Diver certification level or higher, to endorse solo diving. It just goes against any of the training we've had.
|09-07-2011, 06:23 PM||#4 (permalink)|
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Windsor Ontario Canada
I took scuba classes and I was there by myself I felt like I was in grade school always the last one pick. I did not bad but most of the guys where fireman and police men and they work out several hours a day. I don't have a car and don't have a dive buddy or the money so I did not do the open water qualification.
I do most things alone including sex LOL but scuba is one thing you should not do alone. Don't you have diving bodies?
|09-07-2011, 08:04 PM||#5 (permalink)|
Join Date: Oct 2009
No, I don't have any buddies. I'm not really interested in seeing fish or sunken boats. I like to hover in the water and just hang out and do my own thing. I wouldn't expect many divers to want the same things I do.
I can't see how going down solo to 10 feet, where there is a surface, in a well known area, is such a bad thing.
Anyway, it was an interesting emotional experience, and I wanted to share that.
|09-07-2011, 09:34 PM||#6 (permalink)|
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Mississauga, On Canada
I go on dive trips by myself usually but the divemasters are always able to set me up with others on the dive boat no problem.
|09-13-2011, 08:57 PM||#7 (permalink)|
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Windsor Ontario Canada
I remember in scuba class a story about a guy cleaning barnicals off a boat use old scuba tanks that had not been inspected in years they had rusted inside and and the partial presshure of oxygen drop so he was breathing a too high of percentage of nitrogen and he pasted out and die because he broke 2 rules. I know a lot of people don't like safety rules but they are there because someone has been injurer or has die.
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