May 2012

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live on the move Diving Right In Scuba diving past the great barrier of fear By Michelle Page-Alswager As an active woman, I've been fortunate to check many goals off my bucket list. But there's one item that's been haunting me: scuba diving. Th e truth is I'm terrifi ed of plunging into the water with nothing but a tank on my back to keep me alive. Th en again, I love visiting beach destinations, and I can't shake the desire to see what all these ad- venturous divers get to see. So on a recent evening I headed to the Sun Prairie High School pool to swim past my fear. My friendly guides on this journey were Barry Gidal and JoAnn Hoffman of Madison Scu- ba, who waited poolside next to a pile of gear. In a course designed to give you a taste of what it's like to dive, we started by mastering crucial basics such as the universal form of under- water of course). Th en I had to get my bearings with the gear: Th e breathing apparatus goes here, the meter goes in the left hand, push the air out to sink, add air to fl oat and while you keep all that straight, don't for- get to breathe! Finally it was time to take the plunge, communication (hand signals, which was where the physical challenge of getting into the water while loaded with heavy gear collided with the mental chal- lenge of learning to breathe where humans aren't supposed to. We dunked our heads under for the fi rst time and for a millisecond I felt my fi ght- or-fl ight response kicking in. But I told The Dish on Scuba What to expect: Sore legs! When you're wrapped up in learning scuba skills you almost forget you're swim- ming. Expect to be a little wobbly in the morning. What to wear: It gets chilly, so bring a wet suit (or ask your instructor if they provide a suit you can borrow). Who should avoid it: Those who are pregnant, have a history of decom- pression sickness and certain heart, lung or neurological conditions. To be safe, check with your doctor. A word to the wise: Relax. It's very peaceful (and even stress-relieving) in the water if you let go of worries and allow yourself to breathe with the tank. Where to go: Both Madison Scuba and Breezeway Bubbles offer "Discover Scuba" classes that allow participants to try scuba in a short class before com- mitting to the series of courses required for an Open Water Certifi cation and your ticket to diving all over the world. myself to relax. Hoffman then began eas- ing us to the bottom of the 12-foot pool. Before I knew it, I was gracefully kicking my fl ippers behind me as we moved deeper into the water. Th e biggest surprise? Th e calm that swept over me. Rather than a fast swim, scuba is like a smooth dance through the water. While I initially felt like a little kid climb- ing the fi rst hill of a rollercoaster, the rush of conquering these new depths made the experience worth it. Back on dry land, I can say I've now written a new item on my to-do list: Try these scuba skills in a tropical place, pref- erably one that requires a passport. 16 BRAVA Magazine May 2012 Photo by Amber Arnold

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