Sunday, July 27, 2008

Day 210: Knowing When to Fold 'Em (Scuba)

Things did not turn out as I'd hoped at my Scuba open water dive this weekend, and I'm doing some soul-searching and serious thinking about what I want to do.

This is Small Potatoes in the grand scheme of things, but I have to level with myself about what's realistic and wise when you're just a week or two shy of 55 years old. And live in a land-locked state with infrequent chances to even be where scuba diving would be available.

Doug and I went to Long Lake this weekend and I was pretty excited about this part of the dive training. It was to be the first time out of the pool (other than the Mexico trip), with 4 dives in the lake. I'd worked hard on reviewing written materials, having the technical details down in my mind, doing water aerobics, and doing laps in the pool with the snorkel, mask and fins. I even watched videos of some of the skills on You-tube to ease my way into some competence with this.

Long Lake, MN Look at all this gear!

You would not believe how hard it is to get these wetsuits on!

Putting on the fins is a two person, coordinated, effort.

That's me to the right of the center. Me and many, many pounds of gear.

The instructor is trying to help me establish neutral bouyancy and get the correct amount of weight added to my gear. He's literally standing on my feet while I fall back under water.

Snorkeling to the float; I'm in the bottom right. Already, I'm having trouble with the position of my snorkel, the bouyancy of my wetsuit, and water leaking into my mask as I mess with the snorkel.

This is where my attempted descent and undoing occurred.

But I was really thrown by the wetsuit and its level of bouyancy. Snorkeling out to the float in the lake felt very unstable. But then I really struggled with the descent. Once you let all the air out of your bouyancy device (a jacket with air in it), you're suppose to sink. I wasn't sinking. And my fins kept floating up behind me, and I compounded the problem by floundering around with my fins (which makes you go up and not down), and somehow also flooding my mask. At this point, I started to panic, couldn't get my mask cleared and kept swallowing water, and then surfaced.

I told the instructor that maybe scuba just really isn't for me after all. The instructor, who is very good, was reassuring and willing to help me calm down and try again, or take a break on shore and he'd help me individually with a descent. He later reminded me that once I got below the surface, the water pressure would have compressed the suit enough that bouyancy wouldn't have been so problematic; it's while you're on the surface that you struggle the most with controlling movements. So I headed back to shore, but didn't know the proper way to exit the water. I got very close to the shore and stood up with all the gear on (a 40 lb tank, and about 30 lbs in weights!, as well as the rest of the gear.)

I felt this snapping in my knee and it twisted out. At this point, I pretty much knew my diving was over for the day. But as I sat on shore waiting for my husband to come back and the rest of the group and instructors to return, I thought more about this. The lake water was not anything like what I'd hoped. The visibility was really bad; it was hard to even see the person right in front of me. And realistically, these would be the lakes I'd get to scuba in maybe once or twice each summer.

Maybe once a year (although likely less) I'd get to go on a trip to a more tropical place, and see all these really cool fish and ocean life that I saw while I was in Mexico. You don't need extremely bouyant wet suits in Mexico. But I live in North Dakota!

Doug doesn't scuba, (and I was a Terrible salesperson for him this weekend!). I have this fantasy of getting to go diving with my kids (2 of them have gotten certification), but how often would they even be able to go diving or take trips as they launch into their young adult lives? Or want to with their mom!

And I actually like snorkeling more in some ways. The only thing I really like more about scuba, strangely, is getting to play with the equipment, and maybe the "boasting rights." (as in, "when I was on the bottom of the ocean, I saw a creature that has a mustache just like yours!") Ok, maybe not that.

Which brings me to this point as well. I really don't NEED to know how to scuba dive or have this as a hobby. Scuba diving is really interesting and exciting, but so are other things. Like photography. And there's plenty of equipment I can play with in photography! And if I don't do scuba diving, I'll have more of a chance to buy photography stuff. And at 55, how many more years could I do this anyway? I know that in diving, the 50s are actually a fairly frequent point at which people learn to do this (kids launching and all), but in ND??????

But sometimes I want my life to be less "Andy (Andrea?) of Mayberry" but not quite "Biker Chick" (with apologies to Biker Chicks).

Interest in diving did get me going to the pool to do water aerobics, doing the lap swimming with the fins, snorkel and mask, and I'll probably sign up for adult swimming lessons in the fall (because maybe, after all, I really should know this as well :) And if next summer, I really, really still want to do this, I can start the pool portion of diving over and make sure I really have the skills down before heading out.

What are your thoughts about all this? Oh, and by the way, my DH took these photos. . . .


Shanna Jones said...

Yikes! I hope your knee is okay? What a disappointment that would have been. I agree though, not really much point where you live. Unless you move somewhere else. What are the chances of that though? I'd stick with snorkling on vacation and swimming/water aerobics where you live.

Reds said...

I think you are much more daring than I am!! Would love to learn to scuba - but would feel panicky at the idea of having all that stuff on me!! I think if you love it - you should try again!

Michelle said...

you are definitely more daring than i am also! i hate fish so the thought of being in the lake and actually seeing them freaks me out. hope your knee is ok.

Sharon said...

Wow! That's a big decision. I applaud you for getting that far. I could never even get the hang of using a snorkel in the tub, I panic.

pat said...

Angela, I really hope your knee is ok! That is a lot of weight OUT of the water. I would much rather snorkel in tropical waters than even in ours--the water is warmer, clearer, the fish are more colorful and exotic. I applaud you for busting out of your box and trying something new. It NEVER hurts to learn a new skill--at the very least, you are keeping your brain young.

Gypsy Girl said...

Ahhh I hope you try again. You say 55 like its old, its not. But you are an inspiration to us. I need to get out and get active. These are very cool shots of you.

Gypsy Girl said...

BTW thank you and we are all doing good. Driving each other a little crazy.

Nicole said...

Ouch, hope your knee is better! At least you have the photos right?

Mom2Drew said...

Good for you for getting out and trying something new. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn't, but you did it! That is huge.

If you honestly feel this isn't for you, don't sweat about it too much. But...maybe you could try it one more time just to be sure? Especially if it's something you really wanted to do.

Fun pics, definitely one for the memory books and again, good for you for getting out and doing something new. I'm proud of you!

Jeanne said...

Oh Goodness! Is your knee okay?? Do you know how much I admire you for doing something like this? (not messing up your knee, but learning a brand new skill)? You have made a super effort. My thoughts are this...are you questioning yourself because you have found at this stage you don't honestly like it as much as you thought you would and would rather not continue, or are you questioning yourself because you didn't "ace" this part of the training? Only you can answer that.

No one could fault you for not pursuing this further if that's what you really want. You made an effort to learn and even made changes in your routine (the water aerobics, etc) to prep. Maybe that's what was intended by starting this adventure. Changing your fitness routine.

Heck I don't know, but I DO know you are to be applauded and admired for starting the journey. It's more than most would probably do! Good luck with our decision. And I REALLY hope your knee is okay!

HLIP said...

I want to talk to you about this! Please email me. I'm Laulley on the 2ps.

I'm close to your age (year or two) and a certified diver. I got certified in 1996. I had horrible problems on my first attempt to certify & did not do it until a few weeks later.

I hope that I have 5-10 more years of diving. I know lots & lots of people who are mid 60's diving.

I hope you email or peamail me. I understand totally how you're feeling. PS: I'm in Utah - also landlocked.

mel said...

Your hubby took some nice shots! Hope your knee is feeling okay! It's awesome that you gave this a shot - kudos to you! I don't think I could do it! You'll have to go with your gut if you want to try it again. No shame in deciding it's not for you though.

Amy said...

Sorry you're disappointed, but I think you're being pretty pragmatic about it. I give you lots of credit for trying though!

Heather said...

I love your quest to learn. It's one of your strong suits, my friend. I just started swimming laps at the local rec center. I stink at swimming, and about died doing 10 laps the first day. I'm up to 18 laps at a time now after two weeks. Although, I found out 36 laps is a mile. Oh well. :) I'll keep going until I can do a mile each time. And then, oh I don't know, 50 laps? This might be a pipe dream, but I sure do love my huge collection of pipe dreams firmly ensconsed in my heart and soul....

You go, girl!