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Well, there’s that.

by Courtney Whitman 5 months ago in female travel
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SCUBA diving certification mayhem.

”Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.”

Have you ever been SCUBA diving? What an entirely different world there is underwater. As some of you may know, I have some amazing friends in Hawaii who opened their home to me for two months in 2017. What an adventure it was! I couldn’t possibly recap the whole two months in one post, so you will be getting clips of it over time.

To tell this story, I need to jump back a few years to the very first time I ever dove.

I was lucky enough to find myself on the beautiful island of Kauai back in September 2016. While there, I was determined to go on a discovery dive. For those who don’t know, a discovery dive is where a dive master accompanies uncertified people on a short, shallow dive. My travel companion and I decided to give it a shot on a day cruise of the Na Pali coast line. It was absolutely stunning. During the ride to the dive spot, we were briefed on the basics and what we needed to know to keep us alive underwater. By the time we arrived at the dive, the instructor had strapped what felt like 50 extra pounds of weight to me and told me to follow him into the water, off the side of the boat. He had not explained to me how the vest works, and that even though it didn’t look inflated, there was air inside it. So I started panicking.

We were out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a “calm” 15 foot swells day. Yeah, calm is what they said. Growing up on the east coast, nothing to me sounded calm about 15 foot swells. After watching the instructor and Brad (let’s just call him Brad) jump overboard, it was my turn. I couldn’t move my feet. I was physically incapable of walking off the side of the boat. For some reason, my brain did not understand how this vest was going to bring me back above water with all the extra weight they had strapped to me. I thought for sure I was sinking straight to the bottom. After what felt like forever (probably no more than a minute) the captain, threw me off the boat. As soon as I resurfaced, I began hyperventilating. I could not breathe. I was having, for the first time in my life, a full blown panic attack. As the 15 foot swells kept coming, bumping me into the boat and getting water in my mouth, the dive instructor swam over to me and shoved the regulator in my mouth. He then told me to stick my face in the water and breathe. After about 5 minutes of this, I was finally calm enough to proceed with the skills and then begin the dive. Sounds fun right? Just ready to jump out of your chair and go diving? All the panic aside, I wouldn’t change a single thing about that experience.

I am so grateful for that dive instructor. While I was panicking, he kept so calm and knew exactly how to calm me down and get me to continue on the dive. I am so glad he did. Being under water, seeing all the stunning colors, sea life, and topography was life changing. In the moment I couldn’t imagine not being able to do this whenever I wanted. I was euphoric. When the dive ended, I knew I was going to be doing this again, and I promised myself I would be certified within a year. With all that being said, here’s just the beginning of the hilarious, life altering week I was about to embark on.

Towards the end of my trip to Hawaii the following year, I decided to look into actually getting certified. I was in paradise, might as well get the certification I promised myself while there. I went to the dive shop on Hickman Air-Force Base and asked them about their certification programs and if they had any availability. Lucky for me they did have a spot left in their class the last week I was in Hawaii. They told me too come back on Memorial Day because everything in the shop was on sale, including the course. Score!

I was the first one to arrive the day training started. After filling out legal paperwork and going through the formalities, Dan and Stew (not their real names, the instructors) handed out a test of the things we were supposed to have learned in the e-learning course.

Next, they got us all fitted for our gear for the week and told us to bring it out to the sidewalk where we could see Dan. I put my things down where Stew told me to. As soon as I sat it down, he told me to move it again. So I picked it all back up (we’re talking 50 pounds of gear) and moved it again.

As soon as I got settled he goes, “wait, sorry. Move over here.”

I looked at him and said “are you sure this time? Cause as fun as this is, I’d rather not keep playing this game.”

Stew laughed and said, “wait! Yeah I’m sure. Move over here”.

We then put together and tore down our kits 3 times (for maximum retention...still forgot how to do it the next day...) After that, we put all our gear into our cars and headed to the pool. If I thought some of these chivalrous military guys were going to help me lug my gear around, I was wrong. OK, Courtney, time to step up and do it yourself. You definitely ARE strong enough to lift this tank.

Over at the pool we were told that we would be doing the swim test, 200 meter free swim with no time limit, and treading water for 10 minutes. Naturally, I hung back because I didn’t want to be in the first group to do the test. I wanted to see how everyone else did first. At this point, I was thinking, I run 5 miles a day, how hard can a 200 meter swim be? I can swim, but I do not, and never have, swam distance.

Mistake number one, thinking this was going to be easy. Mistake number two, choosing to wear my Victoria’s Secret bikini. Now, those of you that swim, at this point may see the very serious error in my swim attire. I, however, did not. As I was swimming along, I started to think that my top didnt feel like it was still in the right place. I told myself, “you’re just being paranoid. You always think that and it’s always fine. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” So, I just kept swimming.

Halfway through and I’ve lost track of how many laps I’ve done, and oh yeah, I am dying. I cannot breathe. What the hell? I run 5 miles a day! How can I not breathe from this swim? Swimming next to me is Ben. I was selfishly glad to see that he was also struggling with this swim test. He grabbed onto the side of the pool and looked at me and said, “this is going to kill me.” I started laughing and replied, “I was just thinking the same thing!”

With only two more laps to go, I started to wonder how the first group made this look so easy? It had to have taken me 10 minutes to swim 200 meters! Everyone from group one was standing on the side watching us all, waiting for me and Ben to finish our swim. After what seemed like forever, I finally finished the swim. As I got out of the water, I realized there really was something wrong with my top. The complete bottom half of not one, but both, my boobs were being squeezed out of my bikini top! I didn’t even look down, I just knew. Everyone was looking at me. As my face was turning every shade of red, I went over to where my towel was and quickly wrapped it around me to safely adjust myself. In those 10 seconds that seemed longer than the entire swim test, I went from completely mortified, to laughing at myself, to embracing that I had just become “that girl” and would remain “that girl” for the entirety of the week long class. What are ya gonna do right?

Until next time, keep traveling wanderlust!

female travel

About the author

Courtney Whitman

Sharing my stories from life, love, and travel.

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