Scuba diving was probably the activity Logan and I were most looking forward to on our Central America trip. We spent hours looking at the different dive shop websites, dreaming of the underwater landscapes we would soon have access too. I absolutely love aquariums, and I couldn’t wait to swim among the fishes in their natural habitat.
PADI certifications do not come cheap, but since, you know, scuba diving can be just a TAD dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing, so taking a course is essential; unless suffocation or air bubbles inside your body sound like a bundle of laughs to you. Utila, Honduras is one of the cheapest places in the world to get your certification, so we centered our time in Honduras around the tiny, laid back island in the Caribbean.
We weren’t totally sure which dive shop we wanted to work with, but we had a list of a few in mind so as soon as our ferry docked we headed out to check out different options. We chose a shop based on the vibe, the instructor to student ratio, how safe and equipped the boat felt and what the associated accommodations looked like. Basically every shop offers free nights in a dorm room (or discounted rates on private rooms) for the duration of your course, so before you chose a company to work with it is important to make sure the accommodations associated with them are going to be comfortable. We chose Captain Morgan’s dive shop because they had some of the friendliest people working in their office and their dorms (at Pirate’s Bay Inn) were right on the water. They also had hot showers, which was just icing on the cake.
Less than an hour after our arrival we were signed up for a four-day PADI Open Water course and were meeting with our instructor, his assistant, and the three other would-be divers that would be in our class. We had arrived too late in the day to start the course that afternoon, but first thing the next morning (by which I mean 10 am, as we were in backpacker paradise, where everyone sleeps in late) we all met up and spent the morning watching some informational (and mind-numbingly boring) safety videos.
After what felt like a million hours (which was, in reality, only a few hours) our instructor took pity on us and sent us for a quick lunch to fatten us up before attempting to squeeze ourselves into damp wetsuits. After shimmying and shaking our bodies into the skintight neoprene we learned how to set up our gear and before we knew it we were headed into the water to practice the skills we had “learned” from the video. Logan was a superstar at everything we were working on, but I was struggling a bit/a crap ton, especially with filling my mask and then blowing the water out.
By the time we got to the actual going underwater and relying on our regulators to breathe for us part of the day I was feeling a little unsure about my scuba skills. I was constantly panicking every time water filled my nose and fighting my instincts to pop straight up to the surface (which is a big no-no in scuba diving) was really difficult. Logan ended his day on a super scuba high; I ended mine feeling very scared and unsure (which are not feelings I am very used to).
The next morning we watched a few more videos before heading back to the water to finish practicing our skills. The weather was pretty crappy, and it had rained the night before, so the water was choppy and visibility was terrible. I couldn’t still my body because of the waves and our instructor basically had to hold me in place so that I could attempt to show him the safety skills required for a PADI certification.
On top of essentially being held underwater, the waves and the cloudy water triggered some mild claustrophobia. I felt so out of control of my surroundings and I freaked out, headed to the surface, and refused to go back down. Between my tears of panic I insisted that all I needed to do was calm down, but in the end I was simply too worked up to safely continue. I was done for the day.
Two other people in our group had actually quit after the first day, so at only less than half way through the course our group was reduced from five students to two. Logan and the other remaining would-be diver quickly finished the exercises, and without panicky, quitters holding them back they were able to go for their first open water dive later in that day. Logan LOVED it. In fact, he loved it so much that we ended up staying on Utila an extra few days so that he could move on to his Advanced Open Water certification, which allows him to dive in deeper water.
I did give scuba one final chance on the morning after my panicky exit. A new instructor took me to the only pool on the island to see if I could complete the skills in calmer water, and though I woke up feeling pretty confident in my lack of ability to dive I really did want to learn, especially since it was clear that Logan was infatuated. But all I kept thinking as I was swimming with the regulator in my mouth was “great, I am going to have to go deeper!”, which is literally the opposite thing you should be thinking as a scuba diver.
The “no way out” feeling was just too hard for me to shake and after three failed attempts I was ready to concede that scuba diving might just not be for me.
Generally I don’t have many major fears. I am uncomfortable in small spaces, I don’t particularly like moths or hummingbirds (they dive bomb your face!!), and when my car makes clanking noises I always feel a moment of terror, as if I the car will surely explode with me inside if, but I wouldn’t consider any of those things actual fears or phobias. But I was genuinely scared of scuba diving.
Maybe I’ll try again someday, but for now, I’m snorkeling and lying on the boat.