I’m underwater. Water floods my lungs. I’m choking….and laughing. I’m an idiot. I’ve always considered snorkeling to be a low-class version of SCUBA diving but now my dive instructor, Kevin, tells me to alternate between breathing through my regulator and taking puffs through the snorkel. You may have to wait on the surface, he says, without air left in your tank. The waves may hit you so you should be able to breathe through and clear your snorkel. I can walk and chew gum; I should be able to do this; as I swim from one side of the pool to the other. No, it does not go well.
Suddenly, I’m a tiny bit afraid. I’ve always been a huge SCUBA fan after getting certified in 1990 in Club Med Turquoise in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Tonight I’m swimming in a pool and worried! I’ve never felt like I was drowning; and this one was from the inside. Now I’m filled with what ifs. But Dive Utah still signs off on my Underwater Refresher. Snorkeling is important but not part of PADI’s SCUBA testing criteria. Kevin validates my prowess. He says he’d be my ‘buddy’ anytime. And I’d be his. He made the work fun and painless (except for the drowning). Dive Utah in Holladay sees a surprising number of customers in the fall and winter- perhaps looking to escape from our long cold seasons- but tonight I’m the only one in their indoor lap pool. Like most dive instruction in Utah, the final ‘deep dive’ for normal Open Water Certification is held in the Homestead Crater in Midway but I’m “advanced”. I get to do mine in the open waters of New Providence.
There’s this amazing cache to quoting- “I’m off to the Bahamas for the weekend.” We are flying in the morning. Actually 1 am. That’s still night for me. 1 a.m. to noon; landing in Nassau, Bahamas, for four days. Scratch another one off the bucket list.
PADI- the world’s largest dive training organization is flying a group of women down to the Islands to get intimate with our gear underwater. They want us to write about what I already know. SCUBA diving is not a male, macho, extreme sport. Anyone, even 10-year-olds- can do it. Women especially should be– if they’re not already- gravitating toward this sport. Think about it- you get to wear cute bathing suits and sundresses, shop tropically, spend afternoons on the beach after you’ve just spent a morning swimming with the fishes and burning 300-500 calories. Plus, you’re surrounded by men. The only requirements so to speak are a tolerance for seasickness, neoprene and saltwater. My sister got PADI certified last summer for her 50th birthday and her most ‘extreme’ experience before then had been tubing on the Weber River. Again, anyone can SCUBA.
My trip is in conjunction with Jacque Cousteau’s former company – Aqua Lung. Aqua Lung has just rolled out a sweet line of women’s specific dive gear “made by women for women”. I get to test the product while getting certified as an Advanced Open Water Diver. Can you say dream assignment? But what if something goes wrong and I can’t breathe down there?
The water in my lungs has dissipated in time for my flight. With knees stuffed into my chest, my ass screams from the uncomfortable seating arrangement on Delta. There’s got to be some law that prohibits public transportation from treating us like livestock. It’s those damn “premium seats”. By creating seats they can sell for extra money, they’ve eliminated what little space there was for regular coach setting.
Three hours to Atlanta; two hours to Nassau. Our Dan Knowles Shuttle driver gleefully plays tour guide; pointing out Bob Marley’s house, the church that gave Anna Nicole Smith her funeral. We get stats- New Providence is the fifth largest island out of the Bahamian collective of3000-plus islands. Nassau, its capital is a mere 27 miles long and seven miles wide. The roads are well-maintained with a straight shot from the airport to the hotel. The anticipation grows.
Finally we pull into the Sheraton Nassau. It’s nice but not opulent. We have little interaction with the staff other than to check in and grab a beach towel from the shack by the pool. But when you plan to dive every day, you don’t need much. Working A/C, clean shower, soft bed. Bed. That’s what I need right now.