Why Dive

CopyRight @ 1997

This is one of two essays that were broken from a single essay. The other one was "Flame the Industry". As such, this is going to require some major editing. Oh well...

Welcome to the weird pages. The way I write, is often puddle of consciousness. Let it all drip on a page and see what it means. Well, I did that with this topic and was rather surprised with what the message was that I had written. Why I dive.
This still rambles, but I am not going to spend any more time on it just now.
So here are some reasons to dive.
The excitement.
The challenge.
The beauty.
The serenity.
The hunt.
The food.
The socializing.
The fun.

Why I dive? Most of all for the challenge and excitement. I am the first to admit, I like a thrill. Where I like to dive, does not make for a calm or social event. I am not recommending this for everyone. This is not the reason everyone dives and diving of the kind that I talk about here is not to be indulged in unless your skills and stamina are up for it, but this is the way that many people like to dive.

I have always been a strong swimmer and a pretty big, solidly built guy. I have been diving a long time. In that time, I also managed to do a fair amount of water skiing, bodysurfing and snow skiing. I noticed that I always liked the extreme. That last run across the lake, at dusk, when it has gotten glassy and my brother shows me just how fast his flat bottom is. Bodysurfing at Steamers Lane when it is so big that the little surf nazis on their short boards can't even go out... and even bigger than that. I like tree skiing. It's a cross between powder skiing and pinball. Heck, the job I had back then could get you killed. I did not do it for the danger though and I never got hurt playing at any of these. Let's not digress. Well, I like, maybe need, a challenge. A suitable challenge. It's like modern skis though. The problem is that on a pair of modern slalom skis, by the time you even get them up to the speed that they start to perform at, you're doing at least 50 miles an hour. That's a bit fast for anybody's luck. You had better not be prone to carelessness or mistakes, but then I'm not and a lot of people I know aren't either.

We come to diving. I have habitually dive remote, rough, nasty, exposed places, because this is what tends to be the most pristine and exciting. I do not often buddy dive in these places, primarily because it is hard to get a qualified buddy, but also because I am likely to be hunting, something that is difficult with a buddy.
I used to go on open boat trips on the Truth in Santa Barbara a lot. The skipper got to know me well enough, on our trips to Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands. I give off a lot of energy. People like me when I am happy. They don't always like me when I snivel. Well, I would go and sometimes let it be known, that I would rather be diving somewhere else. That honestly annoys a skipper. They are just trying to do their job and this guy really wanted us to have a good time. That doesn't even say what I get like when I am on an outer island hunting trip and some novices aboard make it a beginner dive instead of advanced. One day I got up in the morning and stumbled to deck. It was a rough day and here we were at Santa Cruz Island. Hey, it may have been the only reasonable diving, but I am not a reasonable diver. I said something about "I'll take my own boat if I want to dive here" and went back to sleep in my bunk. That will peeve someone. I guess that it's fair. They are taking me diving and I'm sorta saying "this place sucks".
Stay with me.
Well, there was another trip on the Truth. Paul and I went and though it was a rough day with ground swell, the wind was calm enough to make San Miguel Island. We made two dives there and got beat up pretty good. It was beautiful, but it was rough. This was not one of the certified crazy trips. If I can, I like doing 5 tanks on a charter boat day trip and get nasty if I don't get to do 4. Well, the wind came up, as it will, and we retreated across the channel, back to Talcott Shoal at Santa Rosa Island. This spot is great diving, but it is exposed to both the north wind and swell. 7 of the original 22 divers made the entry. I was at 60 feet and for some reason, Paul was with me. It was beautiful diving as Talcott tends to be. It was rough water, so I was hugging the bottom to stay below the surge. Then the bottom blurred. I knew what it was, so I signaled Paul to move up and I crawled into the nearest small crack, between the rocks, that would fit me. Paul didn't really move enough. That blur is the lightest mud getting lifted of the bottom by the pressure wave of a really big swell going overhead. If it happens at this depth, it is big up there. Paul went flipping and flying. I just stayed tucked in. And the dive goes on.
Well, when I got back to the boat, I was glowing. The skipper said "this is what you like"? I said "yes". He gave a seriously disgusted look and walked away. (I effect a lot of people that way.)
I mean I was glowing. I was so excited and stimulated that it is quite noticeable and can be catching. That is the reason they like me on a boat when I am in a good mood. It is a similar, but opposite situation when I am bummed. So what was it that I liked so much about that dive? As I say, years later, I could sorta put it in words. When its like that, you can feel the sheer power of the ocean. It's contagious, the way emotions are. That power matches my capacity for excitement. That doesn't even mention the amazing sea life and the colors. Riding the surge makes me swim like a fish. I can move like an acrobat, just by changing the shape of my body. There you are. I admit it. I'm just another adrenaline junky. If I was skiing or racing a car, that would be considered fine. The dive industry, on the other hand, gets weird and says "you aren't supposed to push it any". Who are you kidding? There are a lot of sedate dives and sedate divers. I enjoy a calm beautiful dive of sight seeing and feeding the fish myself, sometimes, but when I want to get that wild, this is my way.

I enjoy diving in rough water. I appreciate and rely on what I call "the forgiveness factor". Humans have the same density as water. They are mostly water. I have, on occasion, found myself heading for a rock at fairly high speed. Well, the water is flowing around the rock. You can too. Just ride with the flow. I have done this, swimming in whitewater rivers. At the same time, a diver must be able to cut the flow and not let the currents or waves grab them. Sometimes it is just staying so close to the bottom, that the surge or current treats you like the bottom and flows over. The actual physical shape of a wave is a circle. If you want to catch a wave bodysurfing, you position yourself so that you are taking the curved shape and become part of the wave, absorbing its energy. If you don't want to get caught by a wave, you take the opposite shape.
There are a couple of interesting things related to this that I have tried and you can too, if you really need to.
A wave is a circle. You cannot bodysurf a wave that has already broken. I was boogey boarding in about 8 foot waves at Steamers Lane. That will get your teeth jarred. I took a large wave and as things got real splashy at the end, my leash got ripped off. I wanted to get to my board quickly, because I was very far from shore and I knew that it would soon disappear around the point. I had thought of trying this and it should work, so... The next wave was another big one. It broke 50 feet out from me. I laid in the water, swimming slowly to shore. As the wall of whitewater from the broken wave hit from behind, I swam forward and down in a circle. This is the shape of the wave. I made about 4 circles, wondering what my head would do to some poor rock. It was a big day and I was actually in deep water, so that was ok. I stopped circling and came up in the whitewater. I had caught the wave and was most of the way to the shore. I had no problem getting my boogey board. You can take off on a broken wave and you can ride a wave by swimming in a circle with it.
Another thing about body control when surfing on big waves. The face of the wave you are on, may not be flat. If you are on the face of a wave that is 12 feet tall, perhaps an 8 foot wave, there can be big bumps on the face. It may not be smooth or flat. Waves bouncing from shore or elsewhere may put big bumps in your surfing path. Short surfboards can have trouble with this and launch a surfer into the air. Bodysurfing, you may go down the face of a wave and hit a sizable wave coming up. You had better cut through it hard or you will get all out of shape and get the cold water spin cycle effect. On whitewater rivers, rafters depend on their rafts bouncing off the standing wave that occurs when a river hits a large rock broadside. The raft does not hit the rock. The water turns it. At the Park at Sutters Mill, the river goes through some major rapids. It is crowded near the river in the park. People go through the 2 large rapids, Double Trouble and The Catch. If they have a kayak or small boat, they can get out and walk up the trail to go through again. Photographers and spectators can stand on a large rock sticking into the river just below the first rapid. The rafts hit the standing wave in front of the rock and turn with the river. There are a lot of people on that large rock. They thought they were safe from splash. Well, I had to give them a thrill. I had been swimming through the rapids and following the sane route, but this time I fired through the first rapid as fast as I could and instead of following the current, I hit the standing wave just as I would bodysurfing. Well, I ended up about 6 feet up on the rock. Those silly dirt dwellers thought that they would stay dry.

That is what I like most about diving. The beauty is intoxicating. Sometimes, I just look around and try to grok the serenity. The people are lively and friendly, with great stories to tell. Still, it is the energy, adventure and excitement that makes me a dive nut.

To be continued and cleaned up....

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