Overcoming Fear: My First Dive Experience

By Gary Ward
Learn to Dive Carriacou

Jaws, Moby Dick, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, oh and Finding Nemo.  All of them emotive portrayals which have shaped my views of the perils of the undersea environment.  I have never been more certain of any single thing in my life: I’m gonna get eaten!

I was recently vacationing on the Caribbean Island of Carriacou, a delightful tiny island at the southern end of the Grenadines chain of islands and quite unlike any place I’ve ever been to before.  This peaceful, quiet place is like a throwback to how the Caribbean must have been before mass commercialisation and cheap package holidays, before 5 star resorts and large shopping malls which have made many islands completely ubiquitous.  Instead it has small hotels and guest houses which have no pretence about them at all, family run eateries which cater for the locals and the occasional tourists.  Oh and of course there is the mile after mile of white sandy beaches, intimate coves and that azure blue Caribbean Sea.  It was on this trip that I was convinced by my travelling partner to try Scuba Diving.  Ironically, I’m not sure why I said Yes as the prospect scared the bejeezus out of me!

So with a great deal of trepidation we arrived at Deefer Diving in Hillsborough, the main town on the island, and were met by the british couple, Alex and Gary, who run the place.  It was a delightful centre set in wonderful mature gardens just off the beach.  Alex and Gary welcomed us warmly to the place and their delightful trio of dogs (Sheba, Scuba and Deco).

We prepared for our PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience by completing the paperwork and a relatively informative briefing.  I think they could tell I was a little bit apprehensive by the way Gary approached me with his very calm, fun and infectious demeanour.  Our equipment was measured up and loaded into the boat and we headed off on to Sandy Island.  I was more nervous now than that first prom at high school!

At Sandy Island, a small caye just off of the main town, we anchored up and got off the boat.  We were about to do our first under water skills.  We were briefed and I knew what I needed to do.  I knew that with Gary and the team I would be safe and logic told me that all of this works.  As I stood there waist deep in water with all this heavy equipment donned I knew I could not do this.  I mean, they wanted me to go underwater and take out the regulator and throw it over my shoulder!  Are they mad!  The very thing that is providing me with air, the soon to be most precious thing I’ve ever held, and they want me to take it out of my mouth and throw it away.  I could focus on nothing else as we went through the process of getting ready.  At this point I knew it wasn’t the Sharks that were going to eat me, I was simply going to panic and drown.  I could not do this!  I started to hyperventilate and was looking for any excuse as to how to get out of this thing without looking like a complete wuss.  Then it happened!

With a gentle hand on my shoulder I put in my regulator and tentatively took my first breaths under water.  Standing there with just my face in the water, breathing away I started to think ‘Hey, this doesn’t seem so hard’ and step my slow step I was walked through getting down under the water, breathing and….. taking the regulator out of my mouth!

Gary and the team went slowly and took great care to make sure we knew what we were doing next, how it was done and I felt great comfort in knowing that he had a firm grip on the front of my BCD whenever I needed to do anything.  I knew he would keep my safe and protect me [swoon].

In what seemed like no time at all we were piling back onto the boat and heading out for our first ever ‘proper’dive.  How did that happen?  How did I managed to get through that first session?  I’m not quite sure, but what I did know was that I was no longer very nervous.  That had been replaced by a euphoric excitement….. I was going to go diving!

What can I say about the dive?  I guess one word sums it up.  One vowel with two consonants can sum up the emotion that had built up and the excitement that I experienced.  Three little letters encapsulated the release of a lifetime of reservation and convinced me that this was something I needed to do again.  The only thing I could say was WOW!

With some help I experienced almost perfect weightlessness.  I saw an amazing array of tropical fish swimming around me in a three dimensional show of colour and motion.  All set off to the musical sound of distant whales calling to each other.  I have never before felt so in awe of my natural surroundings that I was in sensory over load: I could not take it all in.  I kept hold of Gary the whole way through the dive and he pointed out to me different species of fish.  We some that looked like they had been painted by Picasso, and others which must have inspired the face of ET.  However, in no time at all we were being signalled to come back to the surface.  As anxious and nervous as I had been off the beach at Sandy Island, I did not want to leave this amazing and beautiful place.  Surely we could stay just a few minutes more….

As we got back onto the boat, my face alight with raw emotion, I was breathless and unable to put into words how this experience had made me feel.  Even more amazing was being told that we had been underwater for forty minutes!  There was no way….. Someone must have been playing games with time, as this could not have been more than ten minutes.  Well I guess it’s true, time does fly when you’re having fun.  Not only did I not drown, or get eaten or stung, but I became a convert, an instant addict.  I’d had my first hit of this amazing drug and knew that I would need my next fix soon.  How soon could they sign me up?  Gary and the team laughed heartily as they explained that that’s how it gets us…

I’ve now signed up to complete my PADI Open Water certification course….  Can you believe it?  Me, a scuba diver?  No, me either!