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My Maiden Snorkeling Adventure

By: Wendy Hively

Date Posted: 2000-08-11

I was apprehensive, yet excited! The thought of snorkeling was very appealing to me in spite of the fact that I have never been fond of the ocean nor had I ever lived near a beach. My only exposure to snorkeling had been on television or in the movies. It had always been a dream of mine to swim amongst the mysterious creatures of the sea, but I had always felt that my fear of the enormous ocean depths would preclude me from such enjoyment. Only after we received orders to Okinawa and heard of the spectacular underwater scenery did I believe that my dream might actually become a reality.

My initial attempt at snorkeling did not go as smoothly as I might have anticipated. The beach was beautiful and a review in the newspaper claimed that the snorkeling in the area was fantastic, but I could not get over my fear. I worked up enough nerve to don the snorkeling gear and followed the lead of my very experienced snorkeling partner as we waded out into the Pacific Ocean. We struggled out past the surf where the water was much calmer and I could no longer touch. I fumbled as I attempted to strap the fins to my feet and keep my head above the water. After exerting most of my energy on readying myself, I gasped for air through my snorkel, but it wasn_t nearly enough to help me relax. My snorkeling partner tried to reassure me but my anxiety level was still very high. I tipped my mask into the sea water and looked around, but it was very cloudy. Where were the fish and the beautiful coral? What else was swimming below me that I couldn_t see? I suppose my memories of the old JAWS movies overtook my usual good senses and I was forced to swim back to shore feeling defeated. I vowed to try again on another day, but had to find a calmer environment in which to acclimate to the equipment. I decided the swimming pool would be the safest place.

When a friend suggested we try snorkeling in a different location, I was a bit nervous. A week had passed since my last experience, but I never had the opportunity to practice with the snorkeling equipment. Lingering memories of my previous failure intimidated me, but I couldn_t stand the thought of sitting on the shore while everyone else enjoyed the magnificent underwater view. I worked up enough courage and resolved that I would not let my fear get the best of me. We pulled up at the seawall behind Kadena Marina and lugged our collection of gear from the car.

I carefully descended the steep concrete steps of the seawall and surveyed the crystal clear water of the East China Sea. The water lapped gently at the bottom step while the calmness of the surf invited even the most novice snorkeler. I struggled to keep my balance as I stepped onto the slippery rocks. With more reluctance than I had previously felt, I slipped into my fins and mask. I maneuvered past the shallow rocks and placed my mask into the water. A feeling of peace washed over me as I looked around at the assortment of beautiful creatures that surrounded me. A large aqua-blue starfish, giant sea coral and schools of electric-blue angel fish. I kicked my feet and was propelled forward with surprising speed. I continued to explore the scenery in a small cove until my snorkeling partner lured me away with the promise of more impressive sites.

We glided along the surface of the water as the occasional rock skimmed the surface of our wetsuits. As we approached a steep ridge, I could see a vast expanse of blue ocean and I could feel the grip on my partner_s hand tighten. We cleared the ridge and I let out a muffled scream. The ocean floor was so deep and I wanted to retreat to shallower waters, but I felt myself being pulled along by my partner. I forced myself to scan the surrounding area and discovered huge schools of damsels and clown fish as well as the occasional sea urchin tucked within a small crevice. After several minutes of exploration, I decided to swim back to shore. As I returned to the small cove where I had first entered the water, I caught a glimpse of a long, thin, almost transparent fish. It_s color and shape were so unique that I can only recall seeing such beautiful fish on television or in an enormous aquarium. The experience was exhilarating. As we packed up the gear and headed home, I looked forward with much anticipation to the next opportunity to swim with the magnificent creatures of the sea. If I continued to conquer my fear of the ocean, I knew that one day I would be ready for SCUBA.

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