Over a freshly made coconut shake with whiskey (my favourite tipple on the little island of Koh Tao). Natalie, Sunshine’s IDC Course Director let us know that unfortunately, she’d got her dates wrong and would be leaving turtle island, earlier rather than later for Australia – I had been hoping she would help me rebuild my shattered confidence in the water, with her level of experience in instructing scuba and her genuine love for the sport and industry.
I felt a little nervous, knowing I had spilled my guts to her about my fear in an attempt to move beyond my last experience of diving, which had me jumping out of the the water pretty sharpish. The trust placed in my DM proving to be ill placed and my fear misunderstood, for the first dive on our return earlier in the year.
Natalie reassured me that the DM taking me out would lend me the extra support I needed, to assist me in getting back under the water.
Vera (our dive guide to be) then became ill. My nerves grew.
Until I was introduced to Chris – an English Instructor taking over. He relished the challenge of helping someone overcome their fear. With a direct gaze and an excellent level of communication, I hoped he would assist me and truly understood the stumbling block I had encountered stopping me from continuing to dive.
Kim, who had been left in charge of the centre whilst Natalie was away, also spoke to me about the trip. Reaffirming for me the extra care and support being given. I relaxed a little.
The day of the dive finally arrived.
In the UK I had bought a zip up 3mm top from Decathlon and a pair of board shorts to dive in, on my husbands suggestion. Hopefully to take the stress out of zipping my buxom body into a wet-suit, on top of the fear present.
The first difficulty I encountered, accessing our boat – moored at Mae Head Pier.
Three boats abreast and furthest out.
Consciously I spoke to myself quietly. ” Keep your head Janice, this is the way they do it here.”
Kim acknowledged me at this point, which helped tremendously.
I didn’t feel alone or judged.
It was slippery and a little hairy, climbing over the sides of undulating dive boats, not necessarily at the most optimum of places. Housing wet decks and wandering with bare feet, with a few well placed hand holds from other divers, I managed to overcome the first hurdle.
Once on the boat I enjoyed rolling atop the waves, until reaching our dive site. Chris had briefed us, on our first dive earlier and we waited until all the others were in the water before making our way downstairs to gear up.
Fumbling with attaching regulator to tank and BCD, it all started to come back to me as I stood wide legged to keep my balance. The bay we were moored in, holding a dive site called ‘The Lighthouse.’ Shallow and calm. Exactly as Chris said it would be. My trust in him for this purpose was deepening. My nervousness slowly retreating.
With right hand on mask and reg, left hand on weight belt, I made my leap into the shallow blue.
I had asked him to hold my hand on the way down, knowing how difficult I found it to descend. My right leg kicking (always) intent on keeping me afloat.
‘A strong survival instinct I hold.’ My thought. As once again, inside my head I spoke to my leg, reassuring it that I wasn’t drowning and it was ok to be still. All whilst letting the air out of the BCD and attempting to not panic at being left on the surface alone.
Finally on reaching our dive depth of 8.5 metres, the wonder and awe of the underwater experience took over.
I let go of Chris’ hand pretty quickly. His eye contact clear and helpful. The body memory and enjoyment of diving reappearing, surprisingly quickly within myself.
For 41 minutes I observed a school of yellow tailed barracuda, long fin banner fish, christmas tree worms and yellow gobi amongst other reef fish.
The wonder was returning…