Hands up if you are convinced that you evolved from a fish not an ape! Not likely. But still a fun thought.
A love for the ocean can start out at a young age, be developed over time, or even start out as fear and be manipulated into passion. I have met many people all with different reasons why they love the ocean and how they became to appreciate it. I was one of those kids that had such an amazing upbringing on the coast, travelling around Australia in the Nissan Patrol and the Troopy with the family and enjoying what the Aussie coastline had to offer; it was pretty much inevitable that I was going to forever pursue the ocean as a passion.
Growing up mainly in Mandurah, Western Australia where it is known for plenty of Great White Shark activity, made it a little harder to stick to my passion which involved so many water based activities and I ended up resorting to other things like: fishing off the rocks at the Dawesville Cut, jet skiing in the Estuary or just chilling out on the boat, as opposed to being IN the water. The chances of being attacked by a shark are slim and I know that, but the fear factor plays a huge part in my decision process when it comes to me considering going for a surf that morning/evening. You start to really listen to your gut feeling/intuition and understand it probably isn’t worth the risk if there has been a sighting nearby that day. Despite my fear of sharks I still truly believe that we are in their territory so I am extremely against shark culls and baited drum lines. I cannot see how this benefits our community nor the marine life. Sharing the ocean with them is a choice and I have become to accept being part of their world.
For me fear is a great motivator but it also stops me from doing things I want to do. Sometimes I let what scares me prevent me from branching out and trying new things and I have now come to learn that the only way to embrace these fears are to simply face them. One of the recreational activities I was longing to get into was scuba diving. I have been snorkelling and essentially free diving my whole life, not necessarily correctly and with the best equipment but there was a lot to see in Western Australia with a huge array of reefs and marine life that you can literally walk from the shore and dive in and explore it all. For me though I was never diving down to huge depths, I was pretty much only going around 5-10 meters max as I am not the greatest with breath control but I was so curious to know what was at the bottom of the ocean…I wanted to venture out to more depths.
One day at work I spontaneously booked my scuba diving course during my lunch break for that weekend, it was a 3 day course essentially with theory being the initial assessment on day 1, pool and shore diving day 2 and boat diving day 3. I think it was roughly $500-$600 for my Open Water Diver Certification Course. I am such a little nerd and studied the theory so well that when it came to the assessment I found nearly everyone cheating off of me haha! I am glad I did study properly though because scuba diving can be rather dangerous…there have been many fatalities in regards to this sport and I do take my health and safety seriously. The practical was actually a little challenging for me as I would float so much in a wetsuit, I breathed too often (no not hyper ventilating if that is what you imagined haha) but I was extremely buoyant that I had to wear the same amount of weights as the boys on my first pool dive – I think it was something ridiculous like 8-10 kilos. I find my legs just float and I go upside, I was not very good at it even though anyone would have thought since being a competitive swimmer and physically fit that I surely should have been a natural at it? Nope. That’s okay though because you have an instructor there guiding you the entire time, training you for instances that may occur underwater. They even turn your oxygen supply off to see what you do. Keep in mind they do this during the pool dives in a safe environment and under full supervision. It was rather tiring hauling all that heavy equipment around and I was ready to go home by then but..
Rockingham shore dives here we come! We had 2 shore dives to complete that day in order to be marked competent in our first open water dives. It is different being in a pool – in comparison to a beach with waves, strong gusts of wind and a currant. It wasn’t too bad because you can see the bottom (when it’s good visibility), we only went down to about 10-12 meters during these dives, just to get us use to the feeling of essentially breathing under water in an unpredictable environment. By the end of the day my ears started causing havoc, unfortunately a lot of scuba divers suffer from ear pain and/or discomfort, regardless of the fact I can equalise with ease it’s just water logged and uncomfortable after a full day of diving and you can’t keep pushing yourself if they hurt. Luckily, I had completed all my dives thus far and was able to go home and rest for the night before tomorrow’s boat dive in Bunbury.
Blowing gale with a huge winter storm rolling through I’d say what a perfect day to learn how to scuba dive 5km’s offshore at a Shipwreck am I right? If you want to add to the fun experience, don’t take your sea sickness tablets until it’s too late… I can guarantee that even if you haven’t eaten corn within the last two weeks, you will still throw it up. 🙂
I passed out. I got so sea sick that I passed out. I was fortunate enough to have a team on board that knew how much it meant to me to get my certification that they actually suited and geared me all up and pushed me into the water. They knew that once I was in and under where there wasn’t so much ocean surge I would feel better. Very true I felt 10x better within the first minute of being in the water, it was much better than lying face first on the dive boat. Yep go ahead, you can picture it.
Without sounding too cheesy I would really like to explain how I felt on my first proper ocean dive. I felt unprotected to say the least. Looking beneath me and all I see is dark blue, not an ounce of colour nor a sign of marine life. I genuinely had the worst imagination that drifted along the lines of movies like ‘Jaws’…you catch my drift? However, this feeling lasted probably less than 10 seconds as I began to descend and started making out the bow of the ship. I gradually breathed slower, less and more efficiently and really felt the change in my buoyancy as I learnt to control my depth purely via my breathing. I suddenly felt a real sense of peace of mind and it was really calming to just float in the water and breathe without having to surface. It felt comfortable. It felt right.
I won’t go into detail but I did encounter a number of issues along the way… main concern consisted of the fact that while I was passed out, whoever put my gear together didn’t strap my tank in properly and it slipped out. Yep. Scary shit right there folks. I panicked because that’s what I do, I am not really great in dealing with moments like these in life because I am an absolute stress head, but I was fortunate to have a team around me that was well equipped in emergency training. The experience didn’t scare me enough to keep me out of the water. I have dived roughly 20 times since my course, improving my ability with different weather patterns, stronger currants, shark encounters, buoyancy issues… I still have a long way to go but I am definitely seeing some improvement with confidence.
I have compiled a list of dive sites that I have frequented and really enjoyed, which you will find below:
- Rockingham Wreck Trail, Rockingham WA
- Lena Wreck Dive, Bunbury WA
- Agincourt Reef (Great Barrier Reef) 3 *Top Secret Locations* Port Douglas, QLD
- Cook Island, Tweed Heads NSW
- Julian Rocks, Byron Bay NSW
- A few aquariums – WA & QLD – until I found out that they hunted Grey Nurse Sharks purely to ‘dump’ into a tank to boost tourism! Disgraced.
Now here is a little list of dive sites in Australia alone that I hope to dive in the future – in no particular order:
- Fish Rock Cave, South West Rocks NSW
- Wolf Rock, Noosa QLD
- Ningaloo Reef, Exmouth WA
- HMAS Brisbane, Mooloolaba QLD
- Pyramid (Coming Soon…) Gold Coast, QLD
- SS Yongala Wreck Dive, Townsville QLD
If you know of any cool dive sites that you think I should check out, please do leave a comment! I am always looking for little weekend getaways that include lots of diving in Australia’s largest backyards (Indian & Pacific Ocean of course).
Any questions hit me up – I would love to run through Scuba Diving for beginners with you. Or even if you want a scuba buddy.. I would love that also. Remember…
Just keep swimming swimming swimming.