If it scares me or makes me feel uncomfortable, I need to do it. Fear means an opportunity for personal growth and I have… a little addiction to personal growth. At the end of my life, I want to feel like I made the most of the opportunities I was given. Stretched my mind and my body. Got my bang for my life buck.
When it came to my fear of fish (be nice- this is hard to admit) and my fear of the underwater world, I knew I needed to get dive certified. After a few short certification dives, I discovered I LOVED the world beneath the surface! Had I let fear determine my choices I would have missed out on some of the most memorable and unique experiences in our natural world.
I don’t dive as often as I would like. When I do dive, there’s that moment, right before I start, when I think, “Crap. Which button does what again? Did I turn on my air? How do I inflate this thing? Which means I’m OK? The thumbs up or the OK sign?”
I take a deep breath, calm my anxieties and jump. Like riding a bike, it all comes back. I bob at the surface for a minute. The cool water envelops my face and hair. I become weightless. I put the regulator in my mouth, remember how much I love the cool air and meditative sound of the most basic human functions. I deflate my BCD and and leave the world behind.
As soon as we decided to visit Okinawa, Peter and I looked at each other and thought, “DIVING!” Then, as if someone popped the air out of our dream tire, we remembered our 3 year old. Diving isn’t exactly a family activity, at least not until she’s 10.
After we arrived and Peter started making friends. One of them invited us to dive with him at Hedo Point. When we mentioned our daughter and lack of childcare, he said, “My Mom is coming. She will love to watch your daughter!”
Okinawa gets a lot of attention for its exceptional diving. There are over 100 islands in the area, all with different characteristics. 200 different species of coral, manta rays, humpback whales, limestone caves, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, trevally, whale sharks… you get the point. It’s a pristine underwater amusement park and we were excited to see it.
We made the long drive to Hedo Point which sits in a protected cove on a rugged and isolated coastline. In the end, we only rented one set of gear and took turns. One of us dove while the other hung out with our friend’s Mom and explored the tide pools with our daughter.
This dive spot is unique. You enter the water by jumping into huge holes in the reef. When I was on the beach watching Peter and his friends prepare for his dive, he was there, I looked away, and he was gone.
This feature makes this a fantastic place to snorkel with your child. You can sit on the edge of the reef, look down and see all the fish. You don’t have to swim too far from the edge to see many beautiful fish and deep underwater caves.
I was happy to dive second. This gave me more time to debate whether I would dive at all. I was nauseous and had a building headache. The memory of our friend Brian’s experience throwing up in his regulator 50 feet below the surface was making me think twice. Maybe diving while nauseous was not a good idea.
But, being the person I am- I couldn’t be “that girl.” The girl who sits on the beach while everyone else does something adventurous. I can’t stand “that girl,” so as much as I wanted to be her, I put on my big girl wetsuit, ignored the nausea, and got in the water.
The tidepools drop off in sections where vertical tunnels take you down to a network of horizontal tunnels where you twist and turn your way into the open ocean. My nausea and headache were slowly growing but the water was clear and the diving lived up to it’s reputation. The coral was healthy and colorful. The underwater community was busy and even the sea turtles came out to play.
When it was time to ascend, we made our way to the sloping reef. When it was too shallow to swim, I stood up and walked. It was at this point I was certain I was going to pass out or puke. Dive gear is heavy, especially when you keep getting knocked down by the passing waves. My hair was being eaten by my mask and snorkel, I was sweating, and could barely put one foot in front of the other. Peter’s friend was concerned but I put on a brave face and trudged my way to shore.
Once I got out of the ocean I saw Peter relaxing in a beach chair with Sage. He was too far to hear me shout so I waved at him hoping he would understand my call for help. The wave didn’t translate. He responded with a friendly and enthusiastic wave in return. By the time I got to him I was green. By the time we got home I was hugging the toilet for the following 12 hours. It’s almost a guarantee I will get sick when we travel. But like all other challenges and growth opportunities, it just makes me stronger.