It's 2003, I am sitting on the edge of a boat approximately five miles offshore from the beautiful island of Jamaica.
As I look over the bow (front) of the boat, I see a dark overcast approaching. The sea starts to developed swells, growing bigger and bigger by the second. I turn and look at my instructor --- Cam Forbush --- in front of me, he gives me the nod, I take a deep breath, lean back, and fall into the deep blue ocean.
As my whole body submerges underwater, I open my eyes, look up, and take my first breath. It's silent. I exhale and see bubbles escaping to the surface. It sounds like the infamous Darth Vader with his respirator. I am anxious and intimidated by the vastness of my surroundings, but this does not stop me from the experience of a lifetime.
I am ten years old, and I am about to start my first dive to become the world's youngest scuba diver.
As I surfaced, I was already treading water in the high seas. But I learned to breathe continuously and never hold your breath*. With my regulator in my mouth, I swam backward like an elegant jellyfish with my fins and met Cam towards the tandem line (front/bow) of the boat.
On any given day, I would be able to see the bottom of the beautiful blue waters of Jamaica. It was not that day. Even though it was my final dive and graduation. In a Roman handshake style, we locked forearms to prevent us from drifting away with the rough seas. With our freehand, we let the air out of our BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) jackets and begin to descend.
As we latched onto the anchor line, we slowly descended even further while using it as a guide. The visibility was low --- only 2 feet (0.6 meters) --- sand and debris were moving all around us. The current was trying to push us away from the only lifeline we had to hold.
Anyone can panic in this situation, let alone a small 10-year-old me. But my training continued to kick in: stay calm and keep breathing. I maintained my breathing by focusing on my regulator and the sound of the bubbles escaping.
Once we reached the bottom, I performed all of my required exercises effortlessly. Cam extended his hand, congratulated me with a handshake, and we proceeded to surface to complete my training.
From that day forward, my passion for scuba diving began. I wanted to know more about my world and the creatures that live in it.
As I continued to dive and progress through the ranks, I learned about the many animals that inhabit it. I began to learn about the different species of fish, sharks, and other marine life. I learned more about the underwater world and how it is connected to our world. It is absolutely fascinating.
The ocean is an extension of the world we are already familiar with. It is a living being; a being that has its own intelligence and awareness. I began to see the ocean as a teacher, a teacher that is more than willing to teach me if I only listen to it. It sparked my interest in marine biology and to become an active advocate for marine conservation.
While my first dive didn't have the best conditions, it never stopped me. I was trained by a great instructor and remembered to stay calm and keep breathing.
I encourage you to take the opportunity to scuba dive at least once in your life. You don't have to weeks of training and get certified as I did. PADI and other reputable scuba organizations offer same-day training. They pair you off with a scuba professional that will guide you to an experience of a lifetime.
If you ever want to know more or share your experience, let me know in the comments. Happy to read what others have to say.
10-year-old Ethan saying it's all OK