Sunday, November 15, 2009

Under the Sea

This past week has been one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, I've probably ever experienced. Being that I have a fear of deep water, going underwater, being without air, and I'm also claustrophobic, I don't need to explain how terrifying scuba diving seemed to me. Well, I could put it off no longer - Matt really wanted both of us to get scuba certified together, so we signed up for a week long class that began last Sunday at our local scuba place, Tsunami Scuba. After all, our goal is to make the most of Japan while we're here, and Okinawa in particular has some of the best scuba diving and coral reefs in the world.

We alternated between classroom and pool dives all week. I aced the quiz's and tests we took in classroom (Matt did as well), but I knew going into the actual diving portion that I might have some reservations. While I'm admitting I may have had a few freak-outs in the pool portion and didn't even want to continue the class at one point because of my fear, I finished out the week being able to do each skill that was required of me - even if it did take me a little longer than the other students. Side Note: all of the other students were male Marines - just thought I'd mention that:) Matt, of course, was an immediate pro at all of the skills, and he is naturally comfortable in and under the water. Some of the skills we had to learn included: completely flooding and then clearing your mask under water, sharing air with your buddy after yours is turned off under water, taking your scuba equipment off and putting it back on under water, navigating with a compass under water, and performing a CESA (Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent).

After a week of exhausting classroom sessions and pool dives (we were out in the pool from about 6:30 to 11:00 at night!), we were required to do 4 actual ocean dives to get our certification. Although I was especially nervous about the ocean, I decided to continue on, because (with Matt's support) I had come so far and already conquered so many of my fears. The ocean conditions here have been bad lately, and the class that went the week before us didn't get to do their ocean dives last weekend, so they were joining us this weekend. Although we were pretty sure both Saturday and Sunday would be poor conditions again and dives would not take place, that wasn't so. Saturday, conditions were a little rough, but we met at 6:30 in the morning and ended up going out to the location of the day: Kadena North, which is a spot located just a little north of Kadena Marina where we keep our Jet-Skis. Our class got to dive first, and although the entry and exit at this location was pretty rough with waves and rocks, the actual dive portion was exciting and fun! I forgot all about my fears while at the bottom looking at the gorgeous coral and fish. Since it was our first real ocean dive, we only went about 25 feet down and just looked around. The conditions were getting worse, so we were only able to go out once that day. The good news is that we recently received our underwater camera case in the mail and were able to take it on this first dive with us. This wasn't our most interesting dive, and the visibility wasn't the best either (because of the overhead waves), but we were so excited to try it out that we just had to bring it along! Here are a few photos and videos from the day:

Me putting together my scuba gear at the site

Matt under water

A cool photo that Matt took of his bubbles rising to the surface

Me under water

Me telling our instructor how much air I had left

A few video clips:

We ended up going to a new spot (the Sunabe Sea Wall) on Sunday for the final 3 dives, and the conditions were much calmer. This location also had a chain along the ocean floor that you could grab onto and it would help you make your way out to the ledge. The only downside was that we had to wait for the other class while they were diving, and all that exercise was exhausting! We were the first class to dive and the last class to dive for the day, and by the time we were finished, we had been out there for 11 hours (6:30 am - 5:30 pm)! On each dive, we tested on skills that we had learned in the pool as well as went exploring. The last dive was the absolute BEST experience! We were able to bring food out to feed the fish (it was literally a storm of tropical fish surrounding us - SO cool!), and we also dropped down to about 60 feet and explored the gorgeous reef where we saw more amazing fish, clams, sea snakes and what we described as a "field" of colorful coral and plants - we even saw Nemo in his sea anemone:) After all is said and done, I'm glad I got scuba certified, and I'm glad Matt and I got to do it together. I don't care that I had trouble in the beginning, because I know how many issues I was personally able to overcome. I wish our instructor had let us bring the camera on this dive at the Sunabe Sea Wall (we saw SO much more and had better visibility), but I guess there's always next time!



  1. Gee...that's it? You're all ready certified. Wow-it flew for me! I am so proud of you! Both! Did you have any challenges with your ears? Did Matt slow down so as not to use up all his air too quickly? Sure looks like it during the videos! Good for you, Cortnie, to push past all your fears. I'm thinking I wouldn't get certified at this point, where I know Don wants to. (My ears caused me too many problems!) Now do you own your own equipment?
    Congratulations! How exciting! BE SAFE! Hugs and Love to you Both! xo

  2. I did have some trouble with my ears for the first 3 dives. I was equalizing them, but it didn't seem to be helping the pressure too much, and it took me a much longer time to get to the bottom than it took Matt, especially when we would go to 60 feet. However, on our last dive, we went to 60 feet again, and I started equalizing in shallower water way before I even felt the pressure/pain in my ears, and I tried to continue doing it steadily every other foot or so I went, and it actually felt much better that time! I didn't have nearly as much pressure in them, and I was able to come to the bottom quicker as well. Our instructor told us it gets easier each time, and he showed us a few tricks to doing it also. I'm not sure if I was just getting used to doing it (since we had been out 3 times that day) or if I was using a better technique...

    I'm not sure how fast Matt was going in Hawaii, but I think he went slower this time, because we needed to listen to the instructor and perform skills. However, both Matt and I seem to consume a lot of air, while our friend Jason was always left with a bunch! We tried to slow our breathing, but it wasn't working too well. Our instructor told us that its just different for different people and it might also get better with practice.

    We only own fins, masks, snorkels and gloves. (enough to go snorkeling). We may end up getting some equipment in the future, especially for Matt, because I think he is interested in doing the Advanced Diver class next. For the cost of the class, its actually a pretty good deal, considering you get about 4 dives each class - I think the cost of the class was $125 each about)!