17 Jul 2009

Enjoying the BLUE!!!

Yay!!! I finally made it into the water!!!

This may surprise you... but last weekend I actually managed to go swimming in the Mediterranean for the first time this summer (and we're in July?! oops!), but I haven't been down to the beach yet! lol!

I'm not a beach fan... it usually involves something called sand that is icky and sticky and just plain bothersome... and then there's that scorching sun beating down on you ('cause of course when you go with people they always want to go in the middle of the day!)... I have to constantly reapply sunscreen (that's one of the problems in being a lovely readhead!) which means more sand sticking to you! Plus I just don't like excessive heat. So I just avoid the "sandy" beach here as much as possible. When I do head down to the beach I tend to go to the one 3 blocks from my apartment which is a fossilized beach and so nice smooth slabs of rock, with almost no sand! Sure it's not the most comfortable of surfaces if you want to stretch out and catch some rays, but when I go down all I want to do is be IN the water!

But for some crazy reason I haven't been down there yet! I guess I don't like going alone (what with leaving my things there while I swim and all that), plus for exercise the pool is just easier...

And yet... I did get some swimming in on Saturday! How's that? Well there are these wonderful things man has invented called... BOATS! Yup! They bypass all that icky sand and you just have water! Isn't it wonderful?! Even better when in said boat you have some crazy friends, everyone's suited up (and so sweltering and losing body weight via loss of body fluids!), watching their respective air tanks and ready to plop over the side of the boat the moment the motor's cut and the guide says GO!

In other words, I went scuba diving this weekend! :o)

(old photo from NC in 2003, none of us thought to take a camera this time out! oops!)

Hmmm, sure took me a long time to get around to that point didn't it? I'm in a rambling phrase of mind, sorry! :p

Scuba diving is one of my favourite past-times! It doesn't make numero uno because of a) the expense involved (sigh!) and b) the hassle of all that equipment! Who out there actually enjoys cramming themselves into a 5mm wetsuit that sticks to every part of you and so have to tug and tug and tug it on... under the harsh rays of the sun and 30ºC heat?! Raise your hands! No one? I didn't think so! And putting on a weight belt and then lifting those heavy tanks onto your back? Hmmm? Nah, tampoco! But all that weariness vanishes the moment you slip into the blue. The moment you head down into the deeps and the sun is no longer a sweating machine but instead something that gives a lovely glow under water, that helps you spot that lovely pale yellow anemone with long tentacles with purple tips! Or reflects on the bright blue spot near the tail of a Serranus escriba that indicates it's mating season. Or creates some awesome shadows and reflections over the rocks and sand! And somehow I don't mind the sand so much when it's on the bottom of the sea. It's actually a nice soft place to rest your knees on while you're peeking under those rocks to see of the octopus wants to come out and play! ;o)

Serranus scriba by Jaime Romero (fotonatura.org)

I was a bit worried about the dive initially because of my back... After over a year of "my back hurts" and seeing a physiotherapist regularly, my lower back froze up on me last August (for the 2nd time in 13 months) and finally forced me to go see a doctor who sent me to get an MRI which basically confirmed the initial diagnosis: herniated disc with the hernia being so kind as to press on my sciatic nerve. Ouch! Fortunately those things reabsorb themselves within a couple of years so it should be done with in another year or so. Anyhow thanks to a great doctor (who is also a chiropractor, he likes the "hands-on approach") who did some weird things with his hands and then dosed me with muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories for a month it stopped hurting! Of course the week before my insurance-authorised physiotherapy sessions were to start (2 months after my back incident, slow insurance process!), go figure! But back to the diving point: silly me thought I could still go diving last September as long as I didn't lift anything heavy - my friend put my tack in the boat, I put it on in the water, isn't buoyancy a wonderful thing? - and no problems for the back! Until it was all over, after an hour swimming/diving with all that weight on my back and my leg beginning to hurt. Oops! The ride back on the bouncing zodiac was torture!

So even though I've had no problems with my back since last November I was still a bit anxious... but hey! No problemo!!! I'm not sure I should try a shore dive (meaning walking into the sea with all that on your back, definitely more problematic!) but I think I'll be o.k. with boat dives from now on! It probably helped that I was only wearing a 3mm wetsuit so put on a lighter weight-belt than usual (4kgs instead of 7), and also that I didn't do much of the heavy lifting... but I was down in the water swimming around with all this stuff on my back for 82 minutes, and felt wonderful after it! In fact once I got my gear up on the boat and had peeled off my second skin I just jumped back in the water and paddled around for 20' waiting for everyone else to be ready to head home! (but the colour of my back is telling me I probably shouldn't have taken the wetsuit off, oops!)

Oh my, all this bla-bla-bla and I haven't even started talking about the dive itself! It actually wasn't that impressive a dive site, except for the novelty of being further up the coast than I've been before (diving that is) and the sea-bed covered in boulders from the cliffs. All covered in algae (Acetabularia, Padina pavonica) with quite a few fishies nibbling on the vegetation (but not as many as in other parts of the coast I've been to). Was so cool seeing all the tiny baby fish, barely a few mm long, swimming in the protection of the rocks! Some funky hermit crabs waddling along the rocks (one in a crazy big shell!). And an octopus poking out of a hole and then hiding back in when he noticed out presence! Still, compared to other dives I've done on the Costa Blanca it was rather tame... but so not the point! I enjoyed just being underwater, and since we didn't dive too deep -barely a quick check in at 17m- and the water was warm 25ºC!- I could enjoy one of the longest dives I've done! A very relaxing 82', floating, flapping my fins, watching my two friends who were doing a "dive baptism" (going in for the first time ever) and listening to the snapping shrimp or whatever was making all that noise underwater (whoever said the seas were "silent" lied! lol!). I did see more "espirógrafos" than I usually do in a dive! If I remember correctly about 4 of them... shy fellows, they quickly hid back in their tubes before the diver behind me could see them! :p

Hmmm... for some reason I don't have any of my old dive photos on the computer! I'll have to dig out the cds one of these days and introduce you to some of our Mediterranean underwater inhabitants! But not today... I've already dragged the writing of this post for a couple of days and I want it done! The critter photos above are by photographer Jaime Romero, if you'd like to see more of our fauna check out his album on fotonatura.org here! (my old photos don't look anywhere near that good!)


  1. AWESOME report Cris - I'm so jealous! I am seriously contemplating the need for trip to Spain. I laughed out loud as you explained the "gearing up" process. I have a Henderson Hyperstretch wetsuit and weight integrated BCD and it makes a huge difference with comfort. With that suit, you can gain 5 lbs over the winter and it will still fit you in the Spring AND I don't get wedgies anymore. Well done...

  2. Oh Chris this sounds awesome! Wow, I wish I knew how to dive. Hmmm maybe something to learn.

    Thanks for your comment on my post today. I totally agree with the European view of work, and I think we are getting there now with this downturn.

  3. Hey Nancy!

    As far as I'm concerned scuba diving is one of the most awesome things you can do! It totally lets you get the feel for being "in another world"! :o)

    Yeah, as one of your commentors said this downturn might turn out to have some positive effects on how people view their lives...

  4. If I ever come visit, I'll avoid the sun with you and go for a night swim!

    Nice shots.

  5. "I'm not a beach fan…" What? I had to read that several times before it sank in.

    That's okay, you redeemed yourself with the dive narrative. I've never dived, but I love snorkeling. Much less equipment, but you miss a lot. Must have been an incredible 82 minutes! Even if you didn't see a lot, just being surrounded by all that water would make me happy!

    I'm with you on the midday heat though. Here I only hit the beach in the morning and evenings in the summer heat and most days I stay indoors until Fall. Not a fan of oppressive heat. I have those redheaded genes from my daddy and grandmother. I'm not a redhead, but I've got the fair skin that burns easily. Now on the coast of California it is much, much cooler and very low humidity. There you escape the heat of the valleys, by going to the beach. I'm still California Dreamin'.

  6. MzzLily, you're on! Those are such fun! :o)

    Rhonda, I used to enjoy the beach much more as a kid... when I wasn't conscious of the problems caused by the sun and I could spend hours playing with sandcastles, throwing frisbees with my sisters, jumping waves etc... If I had kids of my own I might come to enjoy it again!

    But as it is what I really really REALLY like is being IN the water! (so yeah, 82' underwater was fabulous!) There's a reason I chose Marine Biology, and it ain't just the dolphins! :p
    I usually grant my friends one "beach" day per summer (i.e. a whole day out at the beach, lounging, picknicking, playing games etc) but they actually haven't suggested it yet this year (nor last year!) and I'm not reminding them! Those hours between 12 and 5pm are a killer for me! And it's not just my red-head skin but the heat! I have trouble dealing with all that heat! :p

    I'm sure I'd enjoy the beach more in some place where the sun didn't beat down so mercilessly at noon! Oh, and some place where you could actually find some cool sea shells on the sea shore! ;o)

  7. Nice post! I want to do scooba diving atleast once in my life...Lets see when I will get a chance.

  8. You should Pra, it's WONDERFUL!!!

    Check out if a scuba club along the coast does scuba "baptisms"! This means in one session they teach you the basics of how to put the equipment on and basically take you by the hand in the water (an instructor is always by your side) and lets you get a first "taste" of what scuba diving is about! All the equipment is usually included...

  9. Jealous! I tried scuba diving last year for the first time, it was amazing! Totally with you on the heat and sand and heat.... good thing indeed you have a/c and of course the med!


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