I remember that glorious Maui morning that I boarded the Trilogy catamaran from Kaanapali Beach. The weather was perfect and the deep blue ocean was calling to me to come see its treasures. It was a moment of excitement mixed with some trepidation.
We’ve had so many excellent snorkeling experiences with Trilogy. If I trust anyone to teach me to SNUBA, it’s definitely these guys.
The trip from Kaanapali Beach south to Mala Wharf only took about 15 or 20 minutes. On the way, the SNUBA instructor divided us into two groups of six — the brave ones who would SNUBA first and the second group who would acclimate in the water by snorkeling before trying SNUBA. As you can probably guess, I volunteered for the second group. This plan calmed my emerging nerves quite a bit.
Once we got to Mala Harbor, I happily donned my snorkel mask before carefully dipping into the ocean. I was prepared for the slight chill in water temperature which always shocks me at first. Within a minute, I adjusted to the temperature and I was off to see some sea life.
The snorkeling at Mala Harbor was very good. We could see lots of fish nibbling at the coral on the sunken pier that was damaged by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. We also saw a few honu (Hawaiian sea turtles) in this area.
After snorkeling, almost all of my nervousness about SNUBA had subsided. I was ready to face the challenge.
Then came time to snap on the weight belt that would keep me from being buoyant.
I used the ladder to slowly lower myself into the water and grab hold of the raft that carried our life-sustaining oxygen tanks. What an awkward moment of trying to stay upright with my head out of the water while the weights on my back were pulling be downward in a supine position! Instinctively, I fluttered my legs trying to stay vertically afloat. Our instructor kept telling me not to kick my legs. For a few moments I could consciously keep from kicking my legs. The weights would pull me down backwards and instincts would take over again. Frustration mounted for both of us as my instincts to stay alive kept overtaking her instructions. We were not best friends at that moment.
It was now time for me to put the regulator in my mouth to practice breathing in and out of my mouth. Sounds easy, right? Well, not for me! I tried, I really, really tried. I stuck my face in the water. I tried getting used to it, but after a few breaths, my masked filled up with water. This was the same mask that I had just successful worn while snorkeling. Why was it filling with water now?
The instructor suggested I try a different mask. So, here we go again with the weights pulling me backwards, my accidental, instinctual leg flipping and the “Stop kicking your legs!” instruction, but this time with the added difficulty of taking off one mask and putting on another.
Unfortunately, with the second mask, I had the same issue with water seeping into the mask. I could probably take three breaths before my mask was filled.
Well, this mask-filling-up-with-water process was not going to work. I felt like I was holding up the others who were anxious to SNUBA. Time was limited, so I got back on the boat — frustrated and most certainly embarrassed.
I wanted to be able to successfully SNUBA so that I could provide you with useful information. I felt like I had failed you.
The concerned captain came over to check on me when he noticed I was back on the catamaran. When I described what happened, he said that I was probably partially exhaling out of my nose. With every exhale, I must have unknowingly exhaled out of both my mouth and nose. The air in the mask (from my nose exhalations) had to escape, which created a temporary gap that let the ocean pour into my mask.
For those who quickly learned to breath with the regulator, they had a great time SNUBAing.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever try SNUBA again. If I only snorkel for the rest of my life when I visit Hawaii, I’m perfectly content with that.
I think it’s important to mention that Andy was also unsuccessful on this SNUBA attempt. Unlike me, Andy had no fear of trying SNUBA. He was fine up until the point he started breathing through the regulator. He has a very, very mild case of asthma. When he tried to breath through the regulator, he started to hyperventilate. He tried to persevere, but it just wasn’t working and, again, time was limited and he didn’t want to hold up the others.
I’d like to point you to this SNUBA liability release I found online. Please note all the health conditions that might indicate you would have difficulty or greater risk with SNUBA.
Have you tried SNUBA? I hope you were more successful than I was! How was your experience?