Benjamin Law: I learnt the hard way that scuba diving is not for ... - WAtoday
Illustration by John Shakespeare. IT'S ON the second day of my scuba course in Sydney that I'm convinced I'm going to die. Visibility is near-nil, I've momentarily lost sight of my instructor, my mask is slowly filling with water, salt lacerates the back of my throat and I desperately need to cough. I'm panicked and thirsty – and nothing makes me more thirsty than panic – and the only thing I can hear is the soundtrack of my deep, panicked breathing: "HOOOORrrrr … HOOOOORrrrr … HOOOOORrrrr …" And with every breath comes a question that plays on loop: why did I sign up to this? Benjamin Law. Photo: James Brickwood I had wanted to see the Great Barrier Reef – swathes of which are already dead – before mankind did the scandalously inevitable and murdered it completely. Our Pro Dive instructor is Michael, a young, bearded, bespectacled German who looks like a graphic designer who discovered the outdoors and got a tan.During our pre-water induction evening, Michael half-jokes, "We try to teach you how not to kill yourself underwater."After an evening of running through the myriad ways in which we can die – decompression sickness, embolism, stroke – the next morning is spent gearing up. On top of that, we put on boots, fins, mask and a weight belt: literally a belt of weights designed to hold us down in the water, which feels vaguely medieval and plain wrong. As I strap on the extra kilos, I feel like Virginia Woolf filling her pockets with rocks before she drowned herself.There are brief moments of beauty down here in the harbour. We spot a small seahorse, and a blob fish swimming in the muck. But soon my mask fills up, and though I empty it repeatedly the way we've been instructed to, water sloshes around my nose. After completing an exercise where I save Michael from drowning, share my oxygen with him and take him to the surface, I rip off my mask and splutter. Michael is annoyed: taking off the mask means I've failed the exercise."I panicked," I say."Why did you panic?" asks the man who had told us we could die at any moment.Afterwards, I stand under the shower and my body breaks out into stress-induced hives. I resemble a lizard.I figure scuba diving isn't for me. In the dying days of the Great Barrier Reef, I'll probably do what every other Asian tourist does and see it from a crowded, glass-bottomed boat – still catching my breath, still struggling for air, but for other reasons entirely.
No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment