Last Updated: September 7, 2009
I consider myself a total water person; water is my element. I`ve always loved being underwater, since I was a kid. I remember being six years old asking my parents to time how long I could hold my breath in our bathtub or the pool of our apartment complex (I think it was 20 seconds or so, haha). I loved swimming at public pools where there were diving boards and the depth was 12 feet, going to the bottom and just sitting there as long as I could hold my breath. The pressure has never bothered me; I seem to be able to equalize pretty well. In college at the US Naval Academy I swam a lot, sometimes 2+ miles per day, preparing to be a Navy SEAL. That career path didn`t work out (I`ll be reporting to a Submarine instead, eventually) but I continued swimming as a workout and got very comfortable in the water.
Snorkeling and SNUBA in Maui
The summer before my senior year at the Academy I spent a month on Maui doing an internship at the Air Force research lab at MHPCC. I went snorkeling almost every day, mostly at Ulua beach and the Kamaole beach along South Kihei road. I also went a couple times at Kapalua and even did a boat trip with my parents to Molokini, where we all went snorkeling and did SNUBA together. That was my first experience breathing underwater. I remember the air-hose only let us go down 20 feet or so, and I kept straining at it because I wanted to go deeper; that seemed so shallow. I did better freediving, going down to 50 feet or so, but of course I could only stay down a couple minutes that way. That was also the first time I saw scuba divers - way down below me, moving along at a relaxed pace, their bubbles coming out in bursts every few seconds and slowly floating to the surface.
Learning to dive - Monterey, CA
After graduating from the Naval Academy in May 2007, I moved to Monterey to attend the Naval Postgraduate School for a year. I had my snorkeling gear (just fins/mask/snorkel) but had let a friend borrow my snorkel and never got it back. So, I walked into this dive shop on Del Monte Blvd I`d seen driving by, to replace my snorkel and ask about local snorkeling. That`s when I met Bruce Sawyer, the owner of Aquarius Dive Shop. I bought my new snorkel as well as a map of local dive sites and a guide to Monterey area diving. Bruce asked whether I`d done any diving and I said I hadn`t really thought about it, but I took home with me a little flyer with the next Open Water course dates and info about the course.
I decided it sounded fun and adventurous, and after all Monterey is one of the best dive locations in California and as long as I`m living here I might as well take advantage of that. I finished my Open Water certification on September 30, 2007. My first two checkout dives were, of course, at Breakwater (aka San Carlos Beach in Monterey). And this is interesting - our class started out with 8 students, the max Bruce will take in an open water course. We finished with 3. Not sure how it worked out that way, some people just didn`t think diving was fun and a few others had other things come up I guess. Anyway, the 3 of us finishing the course were more comfortable in the water so we did dives 3 and 4 at Monastery, a more challenging site. That was fun!
I remember thinking all the gear was so bulky and hindering at first, since I was so used to swimming and freediving. It does seem bulky in a swimming pool but once I had a few open water dives under my belt I adapted to it and don`t even notice all the gear at this point; it just feels like a second skin.
After earning my Open Water diver certification September 30th, the month of October was a blur of dive courses and purchasing gear. I did Advanced Open Water the weekend of October 12-14; Emergency First Response (CPR/First Aid) October 17, and Rescue Diver the last weekend in October. Between Open Water and AOW, I most of the gear I still use (see My Gear blog entry), during that 10 days I’m sure I was the dive shop’s best customer, coming in every other day and spending thousands of dollars. I knew diving was going to be a lifetime passion for me, so I had no qualms about buying the best gear I could possibly get.
I did dozens of dives in Monterey, making new friends and having a wonderful time underwater, and earning the Master Scuba Diver rating. I have all my own gear and love diving as often as I can; I just love being in the water and seeing new dive sites, new aquatic creatures and meeting new friends. I love the atmosphere I`ve observed in the dive community, whether it`s on a crowded boat trip or talking with people in the shop after a good day`s diving, it`s just a good feeling.