Guest Blogger: Shay Dooley
I caught my first wave off of the Scripps pier when I was five years old. I was comfortable with the ocean but had a different desire to unfold the mysteries of what lay beneath the surface of the beach and waves. 17 years later I would finally learn what it was like to concede myself to the depths of the ocean.
Obtaining my scuba certification was not just a process of skills necessary to dive, but rather, an experience. This experience is once in a lifetime and one that will stick out in my memory until the day I die. When I surrendered myself to the ocean and let it take me down I found myself at the bottom feeling enlightened and free. The brisk cold of the water as I descended for the first time finally sunk in, and I felt vulnerable, yet alive. This was a completely different sensation than being at the surface, where previously I had been so accustomed. I could see the life below the surface and I realized that everything was in harmony. At the surface I felt chaos from the waves, but at the bottom I felt a calmness, which was accompanied by an overwhelming peace. The only sound I could hear was the sound of the compressed oxygen leaving my regulator and the increasing beat of my heart. Even the colors that I would typically see on a day-to-day basis changed before my eyes. The water turned to a bluish-green mixture while the color red faded from my perception.
My first time going down to 20 meters I felt as if I was suppose to be there. Silence surrounded me as all my other senses enhanced. I became more aware of my settings and I could truly focus on the moment that I found myself in. I slowly realized that I was in a different world, one that is vastly different than the one we spend most of our lives in.
Once I reached the bottom and I had accepted the silence and altering colors, another sensation came over me. This sensation was hard to define at first but as time passed I realized that it was one of bliss. I could feel the current of the waves passing over me at the surface, gently carrying me back and forth as I corrected my buoyancy to stay in equilibrium at the bottom.
I swam west, deeper into the ocean and felt the temperature of the water plummet with every kick. I was able to see so much life for a 30-minute dive. I saw a crab the size of a dinner plate, with arms that extended almost a foot from its body. I also was lucky enough to see a seahorse, a pipefish, and a pod of dolphins. I had seen more activity in just 30 minutes of diving than I had ever experienced in 17 years of being at the surface while surfing. Once my first dive was done and I returned to the surface the first thing that came into my mind was; I could not wait to get back into the water again tomorrow.
Waking up at 5 a.m. is never easy, but for some reason I found it enjoyable knowing that I was going back to dive even deeper than what I had dove the first day. I had gotten to my destination, went through all the necessary procedures and was back in the water ready to make my descent once again. As I started to go deeper and deeper my ears hurt. I followed my instructor’s guidance and equalized as I descended, until I was comfortable enough to explore the shelf of the canyon that is located in the deeper water. I had never felt so small before as I stared into the vast emptiness of the ocean. As I looked out from the shelf I realized that I was so lost, not directionally, but in time and spatially. After a while of swimming along this drop off my instructor signaled for the class to emerge from the dive. I checked my dive computer and it had read that I reached a depth of 67 feet and that I had been diving for 45 minutes, but it felt no more than five minutes. Like I said I was so lost and wanted to stay submerged in the water forever.
I will never look at the ocean the same and cannot wait to get back to it, as I know it has many more spectacles for me to witness. After this experience I can truly understand what it means to be a fish out of water. Just as catching my first wave solidified my curiosity and love for the ocean; my first dive perpetuated that affinity and pushed it further than anything I can describe. Getting my open water scuba certification will be engrained in my memory forever and will continue to push me to explore deeper experiences within diving.