Hard to believe of me for anyone that knows me. I’m not usually short of a word or six and once I have a few drinks in I can’t shut up and the volume increases,it goes to eleven. But its happened on more than a few occasions that I am stuck for words. Once you interact with the people I suppose its bound to happen and when it does, it strikes me dumb. Maybe not at the specific time. I may not always show it simply because I am not always aware of the enormity of the situation at that time.
The thing is fear. Blessed am I who lives near the Ocean and gets to spend my life diving in it, surfing on it or just admiring its wonder and beauty from the shore as the Sun sets on it. I love it with a passion and while I respect it to an almost religious degree, I rarely fear it.
Every so often I have a student come along with the fear of water, or if not water then open water. The vast expanse of the Ocean and the fear of being out of your depth several times over. If you can’t see the bottom it can feel like you are floating over an abyss. An endless pit of nothingness. Sometimes these people are part of a group of students and sometimes they are on a one to one course. Sometimes people come to me admitting they fear water and want help with that but sometimes they don’t announce it until the end of the course or as we are about to leave the shore. You can often tell someones ability in how they move in water during a pool session but not always. A person can be super confident in the pool and super nervous in open water.
These thoughts don’t always come to me at the time but usually I can spot them. I reassure the student and some of my confidence passes over to them and we go on our merry way. We do our dives, our skills and enjoy the liquid element. We may have a brief chat about it afterwards or we may not. Its only later the facts strike me or sometimes they are brought about by something completely unexpected.
I had one student who as part of a business group was down doing a discovery day. He had forgone the pool element for personal reasons and went straight to open water. As we had a large group I had a boat instead of the usual shore dive. At the end of the day he confessed to me that he didn’t think we would ever get him in the boat, then didn’t think we would get him out of it and never mind getting over to the dive line. The picture above is of him returning from a 4m dive. While I was happy with the result that day I really didn’t think more about it.
As a follow on to that course, a year or so later about 150 people were gathered to hear some speakers etc and the audience was asked to contribute events that had made a lasting difference in their lives. After a few had gone I recognised the voice of the student who I had chatted to briefly beforehand. He told the crowd that at his age not that many things were life changing events but the day freediving was. He admitted that he had never been deeper than his knees and that the memory of him conquering this fear of deep water led him to say “If I can do that after all these years of it holding me back then I’m ready for anything”. Needless to say I was stunned but happily surprised that something I was a part of had had such a profound affect on someone.
The lesson here isn’t about freediving but about the human spirit and the ability after so long, to still be able to stand up and say I’m going for it. To kick back the fear that was holding you back, grab it by the scruff of the neck and go for it. It’s not always apparent to me at the time but when I do see it or recall it, it makes me contrite, humbled, inspired and privileged to witness it.