An unexpectedly scary adventure

Lester Beach, Lake Tahoe

Not sexy

So. I must begin by catching everyone up to date. I have a long list of “to-do’s/want to do’s/have to do’s” for this year ahead of me. With no particular regard to any order I jumped in and purely due to scheduling the first on the list was- SCUBA! I was going to get my scuba certification.  Honestly, there was no particular reason or burning desire to learn to scuba dive. I explained it as this to the class and fellow puzzled friends, “I want to have a reason to go to tropical places.” As if I ever needed one.

I signed up at fisheye scuba in Folsom because they had an open water certification in Lake Tahoe, and I got it in my head I wanted to be certified in Lake Tahoe and not Monterey. So with some limited timing options two weekends in mid July would be devoted to my scuba adventure.

We started in a local pool. Let me tell you those oxygen canisters are freakin’ heavy. We learned how to gear up, I met my scuba buddy Ron and as the summer sun rolled up into the sky we pulled on our wetsuits. Does anyone look good in a wetsuit by the way? I found myself kneeling on the bottom of a pool- 4ft deep wearing my buoyancy vest with weights, regulator,computer,inflator device all attached to a freakin heavy oxygen canister on my back, goggles and snorkel. This was to get us comfortable under the water breathing from the regulator. I stared at the instructor. She went around asking the class with hand signals if they were ok. I debated my panic rising. I It was loud, I couldn’t see, I was wearing a football player and it just kinda sucked.

“Relax. You can maintain. Calm down, you are just panicking.” I try to tell myself calmly. Hell yes I am panicking.

“Just motion that you are ok to the instructor,” I think to myself. No dice. She looks at me, I make the motion for “not ok” and head straight to the surface…well ok I just stand up. She ambles over to me and ask what’s up. I thoughtfully pause and say something quite introspective. “I think…I am panicking.” She talks me through it and gets me to give it another go. And so I did.

We learned to clear our masks underwater, find our regulator, breath with a malfunctioning regulator, take our vests off at depth and then put them back on, flood our masks and clear them again, breath from our buddy’s spare regulator, take our equipment off at the surface and put it back on again, manually inflate our vests-on the surface AND underwater, and clear our masks again…and again. The pool was thusly tamed. On to Tahoe.

My terror increased day by day as I thought of doing all of these tests and exercises at a depth where one cannot just.stand.up. I will admit this fright compelled me to even practice the dreaded mask clearing exercise repeatedly in my tub. Oh yes.

The Tahoe weekend dawned beautiful, the water was a fairly comfortable 60-65. From what we were told that was balmy for the lake. I wouldn’t know because I was wearing: a lycra longsleeved full leg suit, long sleeved full two piece wet suit, booties, gloves, and a hood. Scuba was fun.

Gearing up at 730am

I will spare the details, but I survived and even enjoyed myself quite a bit. We got to about 40 ft and cruised around with the crawdads…and rocks…and dirt. It was clear water at least. Highlight was moving a small log and peering down at a little crawdad family. I am now officially a scuba diver! Someone somewhere is allowed to trust me with their life underwater. Scuba buddy anyone?

I promptly walked myself back into the dive shop and bought the first of many parts to this expensive hobby- my BCD or flotation vest. Perfect fit and specially designed for – yes that’s right- tropical waters. Next stop Fiji in April!