Friday, September 08, 2006

Scuba Diving - Flying underwater

Enough philosophy! Let me tell you about what I think is the best part of scuba diving.

Did you ever dream you could fly? That you were able to just float upwards and hover? I think we all have. When I was young I had a series of bad fevers, and as a result I had flying dreams while awake. At a time I should have been at my lowest, I loved the 'knowledge' that my body was completely weightless and that only the sheets of my bed were stopping me from floating away.

When I grew older (I'll never grow up) I flew airplanes, tried skydiving, repelling, rockclimbing and other fun psuedo-flying experiences. But none of them ever fully compared to my hallucinations (or enlightenments) of being completely weightless and able to fly of my own accord. Until diving....

Once you get a certain minimum of skills as a diver, you can move yourself through the water without active thought. Straight out from your initial certification it's all thinking. Every move is carefully executed and often incorrectly. But once you've got it... you fly.

Scuba divers aim to remain weightless underwater. Gear including your weight belt and buoyancy control device (a vest or harness that also holds the tank) allows you to adjust your total weight to match that of the water you're displacing. The result, neutral buoyancy. Total weightlessness. From this point the zen experience begins.

Once weightless underwater, the air in your lungs is your dominant control for your position. Breath in a little deeper and you ascend. Blow out a little extra and you sink. It's real flying! Total control of your position in space, simply because of the way your breath.

Needless to say, it takes some time. New divers tend to breath hard and heavy. The experience has frightening aspects of claustrophobia, the unknown, cold, darkness, etc.. But once those aspects become normal, and proper weighting and buoyancy are habit, then barely more than a desire to rise makes it happen slowly and gracefully.

I love being underwater. I like the colours, and the fish, and exploring, and the whole community of cool people who are attracted to diving. But most of all, I've known my whole life what it was like to be able to fly... that I could fly. And now, I've finally found out how. The hallucinations, merely prognostications of how I would feel when I finally learned how to fly.

(Image by Andrea Stanley of

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