This is Why I Learned to Scuba Dive

My fins were in my left hand and my mask was on my face. The Red Sea was so warm I could barely feel it against my skin. 

Straight ahead across the turquoise waves the low hills of Saudi Arabia shimmered in the heat haze.

I picked up my feet and floated, weightless. 

There was no neoprene between the water and me. I learned to dive in the frigid waters of the North Pacific, wearing three layers totaling twenty-one millimeters of rubbery discomfort over my torso. All that plus a hood, gloves, booties. It was a chore.

None of that to bother with this day, though. I wore swim trunks and a t-shirt — the t-shirt so my BC wouldn’t scratch my back.

I bent my knees and slipped my fins on. Ready.

I rolled forward and submerged in water so clear I could barely see it, water so clear it nearly ceased to exist.

The seafloor — sand and pebbles — sloped away to the edge of the wall. Beyond that, nothing but blue. Down the wall, where I couldn’t see, waited the reef, the fish, the bigger animals.

I swam forward. Swimming turned into twisting; twisting morphed into turning underwater somersaults.

All this fun before the dive had properly started, before swimming through fish swarming in numbers that would shame mosquitoes — tiny black fish with bone-white tails, fish built of bits of flame cast in molten glass, menacing scorpion fish, the full-color-spectrum riot of reef fish.

Before weaving my way through giant boulders resting 150 feet below the surface and lolling onto my back to watch my bubbles festoon upwards toward the sun.

Yes, it was before all that, but even then, even before all that, I was drowning in joy and aware of only one thought:

This is why I learned to scuba dive.

© Copyright 2021 by Jim Latham
Photo by Christian Lischka SJ on Unsplash