My first Time Snorkeling
I have a love/hate relationship with the ocean. Every year my husband and I go to a tropical location and no matter the destination I enjoy being in an ocean front villa because I love the water. I love to hear the ocean crashing up against the shore, I love the feel of sand in between my toes, and I love how the waves knock me around on the edge of the beach. There is one problem, I can’t swim to save my life – which rules out most underwater & surface adventures. I am also deathly afraid of sailing, canoeing, and rafting.
For as long as I can remember I have loved going to the beach but deathly afraid of the water. For me, 2016 was about facing my fears and on my recent trip to the Hawaii, I found myself starring my greatest fear right in the face. I signed up for snorkeling through Four Winds II Charter Company.
What to expect
I spent the Afternoon snorkeling, which included a complimentary open bar of beer, wine, sodas, juices and filtered water plus they provided all of the snorkel gear and expert instruction. For those who can’t swim or prefer more floating, they have flotation devices of almost every kind that makes it effortless to enjoy the ocean!
The trip involved a good hour or two of snorkeling in the waters and I was both excited and nervous about how this would pan out for me. Just to summarize the effectiveness of my swimming skills, I started taking swimming lessons in March of 2016 so I am no expert swimmer. I am 45 years old and I have been afraid of water my entire life and I think my progress was slower than what it should have been because of my fear. I’ve zero sense of buoyancy and a very real chance that I’ll be a complete failure at this for as long as I live. At this point, I was just praying I would make it back alive!
As we make it to the spot where we will be snorkeling I have managed to drink 4 bud lights to calm my nerves because this the open ocean that I will be getting in and Madison’s mom could die!! The guide gave us a short but thorough class on the “do’s and dont’s” of snorkeling and then walked around to ensure all of our snorkeling gear was on correctly. After I got all of my gear and I made sure I wasn’t going to drown and I was feeling a little somewhat safe, the guide then proceeds to help me put on my flippers and mask on and which caused my anxiety to go to 100. (Freaking out internally) “Lawd don’t let Madison’s mom die” “Sweet Baby Black Jesus Save Me”!
Facing my fear of water right in the face
Even though I was horrified I told myself I would not chicken out so I made my way backward down the steps that led to into the ocean. I was thinking this is a lot of water and Madison’s mom is going to die! Despite my multiple embarrassments & insecurities, I remembered why I started taking the swimming lessons and this was the year of overcoming fears. I decided I wasn’t going to let a little thing like fear get the best of me so I slowly made my way into the water holding tightly onto the life jacket as fear started to cripple me and I froze in a panicked state. The waves began to push me around like a rag doll. At that point, I promised myself, if I came out of the water alive, I owed it to the universe to write a post detailing what nonswimmers like me needed to know about snorkeling for the first time.
It was just my luck the waves were really high the day I decided to try snorkeling for the first time and everyone else has left and they are out enjoying the water, laughing, splashing water and I am having an all out panic attack. One of the guides had to jump off of the boat into the water and come save me because I was screaming and hyperventilating like I had been shot with a double barrel shotgun. After I was rescued from the water which was quite embarrassing, to say the least, it took me about 15 min to gather my nerves and say to myself I will not be defeated by water. I gathered my shit and got back in the water and with nerves of steel this time I kept saying to myself you can do this, you can do this, you are fearless, you are strong! Was I still just as horrified as I was before but I took slow deep breaths and calmed my nerves and took a peek under water? that wasn’t so bad let’s try it again. There is a sea turtle, there are fish, OMG I am finally snorkeling and I didn’t die.
After an afternoon of snorkeling, I was starving and thank God the adventure came with food. We had our choice of hamburgers, marinated chicken breasts, hot dogs or veggie burgers complete with all the trimmings and tasty Maui-Brand potato chips! Snorkeling and swimming, in general, makes you hungry so I have to warn you, in advance, after you’ve enjoyed some serious snorkeling fun and get back onboard the boat, and then smell that delicious aroma coming off the sizzling BBQ grill… YOU’LL BE HUNGRY! Great way to end an adventurous day!
Can I Snorkel Without Being Able to Swim?
One thing I wasn’t too sure about was if I had to be an expert swimmer in order to snorkel and the answer is you don’t have to be an expert but I would suggest being comfortable in the water. You don’t even really go entirely under water. Non-swimmers snorkel all the time – I did it and remember I am afraid of water, and there’s no reason you can’t.
1. Choosing a Location:
Snorkeling can often be done closer to the shore, as well as in open water. For my first time, I chose the open waters because the water can be quite choppy close to shore and the marine life near the shore is rarely as vibrant and colorful as in open waters. If you decide to snorkel near the shore, you’ll obviously be like “Why are there beer bottle floating around and yuck this is nasty! My advice is to sign-up for one of the many snorkeling trips available in most destinations renowned for snorkeling spots. This will ensure that you are taken to a great spot, there’s legit & qualified personal guidance, and there’s always somebody around to bail you out if something goes wrong.
2. Understand Your Gear, and Insist Upon a Floatation Device:
Considering you’re a non-swimmer, you’ll be given a floatation device anyway, but in case somebody forgets, make sure you insist on one and check it is functioning as desired. Once you have that strapped to you, it is virtually impossible to drown in any water, let alone sea-water.
Snorkeling gear; typically, this consists of a face mask and a pair of flippers. The flippers look easy enough but are so hard to handle. Try them on and make sure they aren’t too loose or too tight because you don’t want to lose a flipper in the water. The face mask takes a little longer to understand. It consists of a snorkel tube that you must put in your mouth and breathe through, and an eye/nose mask which ensures that no air passes through your nose and no water enters your eyes. Make sure that the strap is just below the broadest part at the back of your skull, and ensure it is tight enough so that no air or water may slip in through the eye-mask – a good indicator of this is when you can’t breathe through your nose at all. Next up, the snorkel tube – the part of the tube that goes into your mouth. It has gone into a lot of other mouths before yours so if it bothers you a lot, you might consider buying your own snorkel mask. Now, this part that goes into your mouth has a very typical indentation – a part of it is supposed to go behind your teeth line, and a part is supposed to remain in front. If you clamp down on it correctly, it will form a mold around your teeth, and you will be able to breathe through it without opening your mouth. Try and remind yourself to relax.
3. Calm Down and Breathe Slow:
The most important rule is to “Keep Calm” I have been in swimming lessons for almost and taken swimming lessons 5 other times in my adult life and the one lesson I have learned is the more you are able to relax, the better you will be able to float and the better control you have over your movement in water. When I stepped off the last stair and into the open water, within two minutes I was screaming and crying with snot flying everywhere. I panicked like a turkey at Thanksgiving and clung on to the anchor chain for dear life. After my second attempt, I figured out I was floating effortlessly, and all I had to do to keep breathing was to keep my snorkel tube above the surface.
Take slow, deep breaths, which go a long way in slowing down your heartbeat. As you begin to relax, reinforce the fact that it is virtually impossible for you to drown with a floatation device, and even if you get into trouble, there are people around to bail you out.
4. Get out of your Comfort Zone:
No matter how afraid you are to try something new just do it! What’s the worst thing that can happen? It’s ok not to be perfect on your first snorkeling attempt but don’t give up. Focus on trying to enjoy yourself as much as possible without drowning.
5. Remain Aware of Your Surroundings:
Finally, if it’s your first time be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on where your fellow divers are and how far you’ve ventured from the boat. Don’t push yourself too much or get carried away. It’s only your first time, and if this one goes well, I can assure you there’ll likely be much more.
I was so proud of myself that I signed up to go Kayaking and snorkeling again the next day through Tom Barefoot Adventures. What is your biggest fear and have you attempted to face your fears? Have you been snorkeling? Make sure you check out my post about The Road to Hana and the Westin Ka’anapali Resort