In 1999, I took SCUBA lessons. It seemed like a good idea- I liked snorkeling. I lived near the ocean. Why hadn't I done this years ago?
The first lessons (in the same pool I'd learned to swim, decades earlier) were easy. Then the day came. The day we'd venture into the ocean!
I couldn't wait. There'd be fish! Marine wildlife! The Redondo Canyon (an offshore fault I'd heard of since childhood)!
Problems started on the beach. The water is cold, so you have to wear a wetsuit. This makes you buoyant, so you have to strap on weights. Add fins and SCUBA gear and you're more encumbered than someone in a Mickey Mouse costume.
"Okay guys, " the teacher said, "Wade in until it's deep enough to swim. The go to the buoy"
I started in. The water was up to my knees when a wave slapped me sideways.
"Pull her out! Pull her out," the teacher screamed. His thug helper yanked me into deeper waters. The carcass of a shovel fish smacked my face.
Somehow, I made it to the buoy.
The water was cold, brown and cloudy. Maybe it was runoff from the storm drains. Or leftovers from the nearby sewage treatment plant. No fish, no invertebrates, not even sea weed. Just the chain of the buoy snaking down into darkness.
When the teacher and his helper got the rest of us weenies out to the buoy it was time to visit the ocean floor. Fifteen feet under it was darker, colder and cloudier. I kept drifting upside down. A white flounder zipped by. The teacher gestured towards a dark hazy area- apparently the Redondo Canyon.
We returned to the surface. Another girl forgot to inflate her buoyancy bladder, grabbed me and pulled me under. I
The instructions for leaving the ocean sounded simple:
Swim to shore until it's shallow enough to stand, then walk out. If a wave knocks you over, crawl out.
I almost made it: two feet of water, one foot... Wham! A wave slammed me down. Time to crawl out...
...but the weights and equipment were too heavy. I couldn't lift myself!
"C'mon!" the teacher hollered from the shore. "Crawl out! ^&*(*()!! Crawl out! Crawl out!"
Every few seconds a new wave smashed over my head, than pulled back and sucked me deeper into the sand. I was terrified that I'd drown or be buried. The teacher seemed to be under the if-she-really-tried-she-could-get-herself-out fantasy.
Nonsense. I wanted out of there more than anything. I was trying desperately to push myself up. It wasn't working!
Disgusted with my "laziness," the teacher finally dragged me beyond the waves and, without the current, I was able to stand. It was only then that I discovered that, while I didn't have the strength to lift myself when weighed down, I was strong enough to have chewed the nubs off the mouth piece.