I don’t know when I learned to love the water. I was on the neighbourhood swim team at 5 and pretty fully immersed from then on, but I don’t remember the moment that I decided that the water was something that I loved.
It probably occurred when I discovered that swimming was something you could be good at and learning what it meant to be competitive. Summer swim team was something of a ritual during my childhood years, something to look forward to during those hot, humid Carolina summers. I remember entire days spent at the pool, lots of Little Caesar’s pizza, and loud swim meets full of bullhorns,cheering parents and slippery kids.
Summer swim team gave way to family vacations in the Florida Keys with my Uncle and cousin Nick. We’d rent a house and boat for a week, and every single day we’d head out in the boat for snorkelling adventures. Sandwiches were packed and lunches were made, because when we went out it was with the knowledge that there were exciting sights to be seen and we wouldn’t be returning for the better part of the day.
It was on these trips that I learned how to snorkel, what real coral looks like, and the difference a few seconds can make when you are quietly hoping to witness something spectacular. Uncle Dave was always good at passing along handy tips such as the appropriate response to a shark attack (punch it in the nose), not to go spear fishing alone at dusk, and how to make an out-of-this-world Caesar salad dressing.
It never occurred to me until a few years ago that these sorts of experience weren’t integral to most people’s childhoods, that snorkelling and water play isn’t always a rite of passage when you’re growing up.
Summer trips have gotten harder to plan now that we’ve grown up and are spread across cities and countries, but the love of being in the water hasn’t abated. That glorious, unbearable lightness of being when you’re happily floating just never goes away.
I went diving a few weekends ago on a local piece of paradise, Stradbroke Island. I rose early to catch the 5:55AM ferry over to Straddie in the hopes of diving with some elusive manta rays. The moment we were in the boat, headed out to the dive, everything just felt right. Some say it’s the negative ions contained in the mist that hovers over the water’s surface. I can’t attribute it to any one thing, but when I’m in the water is when I’m most present, most in the moment and out of my own head.
Everything that seemed important fades to background noise when you’re on the water, just floating and observing, watching and waiting for what may come. Whether it’s diving, snorkelling, surfing or just floating, everything simply fades and the only thoughts that fill my mind are whether or not that was a turtle I just spotted in the distance and the stunning, devastatingly beautiful shades of blue.