Friday, February 17, 2012

My Most Embarrassing Moment

I'm not easily embarrassed. (This is not to be mistaken for the fact that I do, in fact, easily embarrass other people.) I dance in grocery stores, I sing in my car with the windows down, and I proudly strike outrageous poses for the camera. But last year I experienced what is now, hands down, the most embarrassing moment of my life (thus far).

Last April, for Terry's birthday, I bought both of us a Groupon deal for scuba certification through PCH Scuba. We started with educational materials, learning about the equipment, process of diving, and potential risks. Then we spent a weekend in a "classroom" setting, reinforcing our new scuba knowledge and asking any questions, and finally we tested out our skills in a pool.

Scout checking out this new hobby

Breathing underwater felt uncomfortable at first, but I learned to handle it calmly and breathe fairly regularly. The skills made me nervous; we had to take off our masks and replace them underwater, remove and recover the regulator (breathing device), and learn how to keep ourselves underwater. At the end of the first day, I felt a little shaky. Terry built up my confidence for the second pool day, but as we put on our suits to get back in I was doing everything in my power not to panic or cry. After that moment, though, I did fine in the pool and passed all the skills without issue.

Next up: open water certification. We took the ferry to Catalina on a Friday night and woke up early Saturday for the dives. We would complete four dives to achieve our certification, demonstrating the same skills we had done in the pool. I was in the same group as Terry, but we weren't buddies, because instructors generally don't like couples pairing up for certification dives. (The concern is that if one person were to panic, he or she would go to the significant other instead of the instructor, which leads to more serious problems.)

Gorgeous Catalina Island

After a quick briefing and gearing up, I was selected to be the first into the water. I walked shakily down the steps, sat down, and scooted into the ocean - and panicked. Within seconds, I was hyperventilating as I swam out toward our instructor. He calmly instructed me to slow my breathing and chill for a second while waiting for the rest of the group to get in with us. But I couldn't calm down. I couldn't slow my breathing. Terry got out to us and asked if I was okay, and I could only shake my head. But still, our instructor, Mike, kept eye contact with me and finally got me to breathe normally.

And then we got the signal to go underwater. I emptied my BCD (let the air out of my vest) and pulled myself under, but I just couldn't do it. About three yards down, I panicked again, pulled myself to the surface, and finally convinced Mike that I was, in fact, not going under. At that point I was grateful to be in the water so Mike wouldn't be able to tell I was crying, but I think my panicked gasps and 4-year-old-style sobbing kind of gave me away.

I looked so good! I don't know what went wrong...

Rhonda, another instructor, got to help me out of the water and could not have been nicer. I calmed down almost immediately after deciding not to complete the dive, and we climbed back onto the shore. Brett, the owner of the certification company, was waiting for me with a big hug.

I wanted to crawl into a hole. I have never been more embarrassed than I was that day. I could not be more grateful that the instructors were patient and calm with me and that everyone acted as though I hadn't just completely made a fool out of myself. As though I wasn't the only one out of the dozens of new divers who couldn't do it.

People ask what happened. It doesn't really make sense: I've spent my whole life in the water. The house I grew up in has a pool and I've been a water skier since I was about 5. I've always lived within 45 minutes of the beach and spent countless hours swimming in the ocean as a kid. But obviously scuba diving is different; you're much deeper in the water and asking your brain to ignore the fact that you're breathing like a fish.

People also ask if I'll ever try it again. To be completely honest, as much as I would like to say yes, I'm very strongly leaning toward no. The idea of it still makes me a little panicky, and I can't imagine putting myself through that stress again.(My husband, on the other hand, now has 25 dives under his belt and is working toward his Master Diver certification.)  I'll stick with snorkeling, water skiing, tubing, anything else. 

My stud muffin of a scuba diver

But at least I finally have a good response for Truth or Dare when people ask for my most embarrassing moment.

My new favorite thing about Catalina: Big Olaf's ice cream (on dry land!)

If you are interested in scuba and are located in Southern California, please check out PCH Scuba for your certification. The instructors and staff provide a safe, supportive, thorough certification process. They also offer advanced diver certification and organize scuba trips to exotic locations, such as Belize!

1 comment:

  1. I'm out on the island, prepping for my morning dive. Looking forward to possible guest posts about my adventures!