"" Writer's Wanderings: The Least Glamorous Sport--Scuba Diving

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Least Glamorous Sport--Scuba Diving

Don't get me wrong, I love scuba diving. What I don't love is looking like a wet waddling half-drowned long-haired cat each day. As I describe a dive trip, "It's putting on the gear, jumping in the water, getting wet, and drying out ten days later."

Glamorous? Check out the gear. First of all there's a dive skin or a wet suit that you struggle into as if it were a body girdle. All those body flaws that make you cringe in the dressing room while trying on bathing suits are accentuated in all black--unless you are as daring as the lady we saw today in a psychedilic frenzy of colorful dots on her dive skin. Wonder what the fish think of that?

Next comes the swim fins that may make you a bit more agile in the water but definitely are not for a fashion runway. A bouancy vest fits tightly across your middle when fastened and adds bulk to your physique. The vest is attached to an air tank that weighs about 30 pounds. Attached to the tank at the top is a bevy of air hoses that lead to an air pressure gauge, your vest for inflation if necessary, a regulator (the breathing mechanism that fits in your mouth through which you recieve the most valuable substance underwater--air) and a secondary regulator in case your dive buddy runs out of air and you are gracious enough to share yours.

Added to all of that is, believe it or not, weights. Some people wear them on a weight belt around their waist or, like us, in specially made pockets of our vests. The amount of weight you need to be able to sink even with all that equipment is based on your body weight. The more you weigh the more weights you need. Sounds silly doesn't it? A diver should have weights equal to 6-8% of his/her body weight. A 150 pound person would wear about 12 pounds.

To finish the ensemble, there is a swim mask that needs to be sprayed with soapy substance and rinsed before fitting it snuggly over your eyes and nose. You know your mask fits properly when, after diving for a morning, there is an impression left in your skin where the mask has been. (The mask imprint usually lasts the rest of the day.)

Once a diver is geared up, the diver moves to the back of the boat carefully tring not to get the swim fins tangled as he/she totes the extra 40+ pounds to the dive platform where, holding the swim mask and regulator in place with one hand, the diver takes a giant stride off the boat into the water and begins the adventure. Did I mention the waddle?

In the water, the diver deflates the bouancy vest and gradually (if there is enough extra weight) sinks beneath the surface. When the desired depth is reached, with a little air in the vest if needed, neutral bouancy is acheived--a bit like being weightless in space. All the unnatural, unglamorous shenanigans and attire to get to this point are forgotten as the beautiful world beneath the surface of the ocean unfolds before you. For 40 to 60 minutes, you glide through the water and explore and remember that it is all worth it.

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