The Fear

In the Winter months of 2008 I became a certified open water Scuba diver.  I did it through UCSB, and it was a 3 week course, with  Ed Stetson.  I thought Ed Stetson was a really cool cowboy name.  He is also one of the most professional, experienced, and thorough instructors I have had the pleasure to meet, and he was my instructor for 3 weeks.

We met twice a week for over 3 hours.  PADI Open water students will wonder at what we were doing this whole time, but I tell you, we were doing a lot.   It was 1.5 hours of class, and 2 hours of confined water in the pool, at night, in Santa Barbara winter, and I did this confined with no wetsuit.  Including these confined sessions, I have been scuba diving without a wetsuit less than 10 times in my life, and that was some of the coldest I’ve been.

Ed Stetson did me a lot of good.  On top of pushing everyone in the class to achieve more and learn more,  he gave us The Fear.

The Fear.  Scuba diving is serious business. And while I have a lot of fun, there is always the chance of serious injury.  I notice that a lot of people who learn to SCUBA dive while they’re on vacation, they don’t get The Fear, and therefore maybe they never learn how serious it is.  How serious it is to learn the possible repercussions, just to learn the seriousness.

Ed Stetson first gave us The Fear our second week in class.  We were all sitting quietly, taking notes, because Ed Stetson told us to take notes.  He started that day’s class with a declarative statement. “One day, you will see someone die.”

Everyone looked moderately startled at this statement as we wrote it down in our notebooks.

“Who in here know CPR?”

Maybe 3 of the class raised their hand, and I was not among them.

“One day, you will be on a boat and you will see someone have a heart attack. Or you will see someone drown. You will see someone die. And you can only hope that you can do everything in your power to put it off to another day.”

We all felt pretty serious about this. I felt so serious about it that after class I signed up for a Red Cross CPR class and have taken one every year since, except for 2011 where I actually took TWO classes, one through Red Cross and one through the American Heart Association.  The Fear is not meant to be shed, it’s not meant to lessen. I guess it’s like, falling off a horse, or more aptly for me, the first time I wiped out on a surfboard, banged my head on the sand, and couldn’t breath for what felt like eternity. I did not want to get back on that surfboard, but even though something icky was wrapped around my leg, I finally did stand up again.

Well, I’ve still got The Fear from Ed, and every now and again some divers I’m leading remind me why I carry it with me every where I go.  And every time it looks like the shit might hit the fan, I think of Ed. Luckily this far, it’s been crises averted.

Do you have The Fear, Diver, and where did you pick it up?

I used to be so innocently unafraid of turtles and waves. And then I met Ed.


One thought on “The Fear

  1. I did my open water course at a college too. I started off a NAUI diver. It was a whole semester long course with I think 12 or 13 2 hour pool sessions. We had a class in the morning and we went over dive theory every week for a semester. Looking back now it was instructor level theory we went over in our open water course. We did 8 dives and one freedive for abalone. It was a way more in depth course then I could ever offer. No one wants to do a open water course that takes that long.

    I tell you what though, that program made me the diver I am today. However, a program is only as good as the people in it. I had an experience on my third dive that reinforced the fear. We at a Mendocino county favorite dive site called pipeline. We were going to 60 feet on this dive. I had a dive buddy that had a hard time in the course. First off, I’m from Humboldt so I have to say for the record that seeing people smoke pot is not a big deal for us. Well between dives I saw my dive buddy smoking. I thought nothing of it since we were eating lunch. It didn’t hit me until I was underwater that my dive buddy who was already hard to manage was stoned off her ass. She kept popping up and I had to keep grabbing her the and pulling her down. At one point she was on the bottom on her back slashing around like a turtle on it’s back. I just sort of looked at her until she righted herself. Another thing I noticed was the DM was not paying any attention to us and freaking out! His eyes where huge! The DM then decided to cancel the dive, but what he did was grab us my the back of the tanks and then went up. We started an uncontrolled accent to the surface from 60 feet. I tried to get free but he had a death grip on me. I looked up and out of the blue came an angel. It was Andrew another DM. He pulled us down and set us on a self. There we did our safety stop. I look over and the DM signed he was out of air. I went over and tried to give him my air. He refused to take it! He eventually just went up and so did I.

    As a dive instructor I find it hard to get the dangers of diving across. Teaching an in depth course to people on vacation is even harder.

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