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The Road to Full Cave Part 1

“The sea, once it cast it’s spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” –Jacques Cousteau

The thought of breathing underwater was an intimidating and frightening idea to me when it was first mentioned that I should take up scuba diving. Never in my life had I considered myself a good candidate for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Not because I had a fear of water, nothing all to do with water. I had a natural fear of drowning and more understandably a fear of fish. I also have a deep respect for monkey bars, secondary to a near death experience, but that is a whole other story in itself.

I know what you must be thinking to yourself. How irrational the fear of drowning is. But it stemmed from a bad experience of a near drowning accident I had in a river as a kid in Puerto Rico. If it wasn’t for my Tia, who just happened to feel my small hand grab her ankle in a desperate attempt to reach air, I would probably not be posting this or around for that matter now. So, the fear of drowning is a perfectly acceptable fear.

I have no idea where my fear of fish came from. One popular theory is that i was exposed to the movie Jaws at an age where my fragile child mind could distinguish between reality and fiction. (Author’s note: Everything that happened is Jaws was real, don’t believe me? Look it up, I’ll wait… See, all real.) I assumed when I was younger that all fish were vengeful and powerful and would attack unprovoked and when you least expected it. (Spider crabs especially fit this description). Another popular theory was that I never ate fish, and probably never associated myself on top of their food chain.

By the time when I was twenty, this thought of man eating sea-bass and fluke was fully en-grained in my head and was only thought that raced through my mind over and over again when it was mentioned that I should become certified.

I figured the only way that I would actually ever become a certified diver was to sign up right then and there and to ignore all of my internal dialogue suggesting I run away. If I didn’t drive to my local dive shop at that moment, I would never do it. It’s kind of like the moment right before you jump off a large cliff or platform into a body of water. That moment of clarity when you say to yourself, here goes nothing. That is what I did, I said to myself,” Fuck it, here goes nothing.” I drove myself to the shop and signed up.

I watched the PADI Open Water diver video at least 3 times prior to attending my first pool session. I read the accompanying book and completed my take home test within 3 days of signing up and was done with my pool sessions by the end of the week.

Now came the hard part. My first open water dive was scheduled for my birthday. We would be diving in the south shore of Long Island, in a very popular fishing spot, Oak Beach Jetty.

“Oak Beach Jetty! Didn’t like 8 guys get eaten there by a rogue black fish like 3 summers ago!?” (Author’s note: 4 dead hookers have been found at the beach just this past summer, according to authorities it is thought that the Black fish was acting alone in the eating of the 8 men, and no connection has been found with the dead hookers.) (Disclaimer: Part of the black fish story may be a complete work of fiction. Mostly all of it)

As I stood at the entry point for my first dive, I couldn’t help but feel that a great white was staring at me from just below the surface, waiting for it’s moment to strike and eat my delicious flesh. The water was cool and a dark color green. Perfect camouflage for a fish stalking it’s prey. My first steps into the water were taken tentatively. I kept my eyes out on the horizon for a tell-tale sign of a shark’s fin. (Don’t get me wrong, I have swam in the ocean on countless occasions, without incident. This would be the first time I would be swimming underneath the ocean.)

The shark never came. What did come was a sense of euphoria. Suspended a few feet off the bottom of the ocean, near weightlessness, following with my eyes the movement of a herd of hermit craps, it happened. The sea took a hold of me. Even though I almost crashed head first into what I can only assume was a near sighted black fish, it didn’t shake me. The black fish and I were cool. We both knew we had an unspoken understanding. He no fuck with me, I no fuck with him, and we moved on with our lives. He went on most likely to be dinner on some one’s plate and I moved on to a love affair with Scuba. (not my buddy named Scuba, but actually Scuba diving)

Since that first dive I have traveled to many places in the world to experience the “Silent world.” I have collected many certifications beyond that of a basic Open water diver and have over came my fear of the fish. I have even been able to get Kit to join me in my journey.

I have decided to pursue a distinct form of diving. A form of diving only a small population of  the diving community pursue. Cave diving. And this post and a few more will be my chronicle of obtaining my Full cave diver certification.

To be continued…


January 14, 2011   No Comments

The Young Man and the Sea

“Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty. He seemed to hang in the air above the old man in the skiff. Then he fell into the water with a crash that sent spray over the old man and over all the skiff.”   -The Old Man and the Sea

A moonless night hung over the sea giving the water an unnatural blackness. A deep, solid blackness. Intimidating and impenetrable. In contradiction to the lifeless overcast, I knew that there was an abundance of life under the dark blanket just below the small waves.

I cast my line, heavy from the squid who selflessly gave his own life to serve as a temptation for the creatures lurking under the sea. It splashed on top of the water and quickly disappeared. The weight of the squid pulled my line deeper and deeper into the depths, until there was no more sea to dive. Now, it was time to be patient.

This is when a man has the time to contemplate the small idiosyncrasies of life and death, to ponder, to slip into a lucid dream as he waits for the majestic sea creatures of the depth to cautiously take to his line. And that is what I did, as all men are to do when they wait. I thought. I dreamed. I drank a beer. The sweet malty taste contrasted to the overwhelming salty taste that had penetrated my taste buds. The beer was cold, refreshing and almost completely gone.

I needed another.

But I dared not move. I moved not for the fear of falling into the dark sea underneath my feet. I moved not for the anticipation of another quick jerk of my fishing pole. I sat motionless, waiting. Excitement overcame me. I could feel it quickly moving throughout my body. I had felt this feeling before, long ago. During a time I can’t quite remember.

I could sense a monster looking at my squid cautiously. Nothing had happened to the monster the last time he had taken a small bite of the squid. In fact, he remembers vividly the joy he felt the last time he had the taste of squid on his palate. It had brought him back to his days as a small child fish. It had brought him back to days when his father would be standing in the kitchen of the small two bedroom apartment that he and his twelve fish siblings lived cramped as if they were sardines living in a tin can. His father sautéing squid, just the way he liked it, with garlic and a little bit of olive oil. The fish’s mouth watered. He wanted another taste.

He took another small nibble. It was unsatisfying. He was not happy just to have a small piece. He wanted more, and he greedily took the entire squid into his mouth. A rush of euphoria overcame him, the same way euphoria rushes over a heroin junkie after he depresses the plunger to the syringe. Memories raced through his mind. The joy and happiness he had felt when he was a child fish have returned with that last bite.

That is when I moved. I yanked back on the pole and felt the added weight of my catch. Temptation had gotten the best of the monster, the same way it had gotten to Eve that day in the garden. My squid was the forbidden fruit. My hook was the snake.

A battle ensued, a battle that would test both the limits of my perseverance and the fish’s determination to live. He would pull, and I would allow him to run away if only for a second just to reel him closer and closer to the surface. We fought for what seemed like eternity. And in the end, I would win. But, it was a bittersweet moment when the fish had broken the surface tension of the water. I was happy to have won, but I felt much respect for my competitor. He had displayed courage and a willingness to live so strongly, I could not kill him. I would not kill him. He deserved to live.

He was a great warrior. He had earned my respect and admiration. I let him go… but not before I took a picture first to capture this historic feat.

A huge thank you goes out to three really cool people, Chandler, Briana and Michael. I probably would not have been able to complete this list item or at least had as much fun as I did without your instruction and patience. Your parents did an awesome job with you guys. I wish you the best of luck with everything you do in your life. And If you ever need any help with anything on your own list, let me know. I will see what I can do.

From left to right… Michael Couture, Briana Knop, Mr. Fish, Danny, Mr. Fish II, Chandler Knop.


October 27, 2010   2 Comments