Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef
In the 60s, I reluctantly signed up for classes on SCUBA diving. My husband was excited; he thought it would be great for the two of us to dive together. What I didn’t bring up to him, and what had been a deep, dark secret for years, was my fear of sharks and the big deep—the ocean! I’d always been the first to run into the oncoming waves, knowing I’d go no deeper than my midriff, but actually acting as though I’d go out as far as anyone else if need be. I could outswim anyone in a pool, as long as I could see the bottom. Lakes and rivers held some worry for me, but somehow I felt a shark couldn’t make it in those waters. Maybe it’s the fact I can’t see what’s down there around my legs, ready to carry me off to the deep, and then include me in their digestive juices.
But, I shouldered on, joining him in the classes. I was the only female in a group of eight men; two of whom I might add quit when the going got tough. I actually made it all the way to certification—that is until the diving instructor took us out to be certified. We had to snorkel out to the kelp beds, put in our regulator and dive to 50 feet to be certified.
It was a violently stormy day as we made our way to Black’s Beach on the California Coast. The breakers were over ten feet. I donned my suit with shaky hands, then my footies and gloves. Someone, not sure who, helped me on with my weight belt, and off we went. As I was snorkeling out with my husband in front of me, I had the distinct feeling that I was sinking. It was hard to keep afloat. I struggled so hard I began to hyperventilate. Was the fear of the darkness below? Where a shark might be in waiting, licking his chops, causing this hyperventilation? I couldn’t let this happen. I removed my snorkel and yelled to my husband: “I’m sinking! Help me!” The instructor, swimming nearby took one look at me and immediately reached out and flipped open my weight belt. As the belt sank I began to return to the surface. Obviously, someone had given me a weight belt meant for a two hundred pound wrestler. By then I was so exhausted the instructor sent me back to shore. I half crawled up the shoreline, dragging myself over the sea urchins as they tore my booties, gloves and the skin beneath. At the sight of blood I panicked. Got to get out before a shark gets my scent, I thought, as I groped in the sand for handholds to pull me up and out. Sadly, for my husband, that was the end of my diving career.
That was over fifty years ago, and I knew I would never go back into the deep. That is until two weeks ago when a friend and I visited Australia. I reluctantly signed up for a snorkeling outing on the Great Barrier Reef. Now, I knew I wouldn’t do it, but my girlfriend was so excited about the tour, I had to pretend I was excited as well. I figured I’d go along with the farce just long enough to keep her happy. But when it came time to don the gear, I’d amazingly get a headache and have to decline. However, when the instructor began to hand out the masks and snorkels, I had an epiphany: It’s time to quell your fears. You’re not a young woman any longer, and why take a dirt nap without conquering this fear.
I asked the instructor about the Great Whites. Had any been seen in these waters or nearby? “Not for years,” he said, “no problem, mate!” So I suited up. My heart beating so hard I feared it would show through my bra top. I valiantly stepped off the swim board and jumped in. The water was glorious, so clear you could see for miles. I did some rather strange rotating, though, to make sure nothing could sneak up behind me. The longer we were floating out there, the more brave I became. “It’s okay, I said as a mantra: You’ve finally conquered your worst fear.
Then something brushed my leg. Something big! Omygod! I whipped my head around, terrified that I might see a huge shark, and there, staring me right in the mask was the most beautiful fish I’d ever seen. It was over three feet long, and the most vivid turquoise blue. Its lips were the size of tractor tires and it was smiling at me. Our dive instructor told us that this fish always visits the groups in the water, and has been doing this for quite some time.
After my heart quit doing the Macarena, I meekly reached out to pet this beautiful fish. You see, I thought, all those fears all those years, for nothing.
This morning as I worked on my computer and half-listened to the TV news, the anchor interrupted with: “We have breaking news” which normally means a car chase, a stock market plunge or surge, so I paid scant attention. That is until I heard: “A Great White Shark has just killed a man off the Australian coast.
So much for conquering your fears!
Dodie Cross Bio
About the author: Dodie Cross is a freelance writer who has received numerous awards for her writing and poetry, among them the prestigious Southern California Writer’s Conference First Place Award for “Best Nonfiction,” as well as First Place in their inaugural Poetry Award. She has accrued first and second place prizes in her published articles. Dodie has traveled the world, writing about her life in foreign countries such as Iran and Thailand, as well as American locales such as New Orleans, Orange County, California.
Check out Dodie’s website where you will find her next book: A Broad Abroad in Iran: One Strappy-Sandaled Foot Ahead of the Mullahs: An Expat’s Life in Iran Before and During the Revolution.
Thanks Dodie for sharing how you overcame your fear of scuba diving and snorkeling, and just jumped back in. To find out more about Dodie Cross and her humorous writing, please check out her blog: A Broad Abroad. Please share your comments or questions with Dodie who will be over to respond to them.
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