Moments & Misadventures :: Treading Water In A Panic Isn’t Swimming??

Okay, I admit it- I can’t swim. After years of swimming lessons at the local pool, not to mention countless one on one lessons with my navy veteran father, the best that I’ve ever been able to do is tread water for a few minutes. And probably because of this fact, I have a near incapacitating fear of bodies of water. Nothing will get me hyperventilating like being in the water and not being able to touch the bottom. Throw in the fear of creatures that live in the water such as sharks and jellyfish and it’s a wonder I’ve ever touched the ocean at all. But this was going to change because I was in Tahiti and I was determined that not only was I going to get in the water, but I was going to try snorkeling and surfing for the first time.

We went to the far tip of the island called Teahupoo, which is world famous for surfing competitions that are held here, and found a relatively secluded spot where the waves were pretty mild. I was trying to practice some deep breathing as I sat on the board and started paddling my way into the water without actually looking at the water, trying not to think about the dark finned shadow that passed next to our boat the previous day coming back from a neighboring island. This pseudo zen feeling lasted right up to the point that I stood up on the board. The wave came and knocked me off the board, sending me into the water where I pulled out my great skill of treading water in a panic. More waves came hitting me, moving me forward, until finally I ended up with my face in the sand of the beach spluttering out water and curse words. My board had ended up a ways down the beach and as I lugged it back my friend said “Good, now try it again.” And back in the water I went with the same result…again…and again….and again…and again. Finally I’d had enough, and said that I was going turn in my board. I pulled out the snorkeling mask and fins and started making my way back into the water. Snorkeling is not nearly as easy as it looks. And it took me a few times of my breathing stick going under before I got the hang of it. I was floating along, with only minor bouts of hyperventilating, feeling proud of myself, when I noticed a finned creature just ahead of me. I yelled out, causing water to flow down the tube, as I tried to make my fins corporate into reversing only to find that you can’t reverse with fins. While I was wildly and ungracefully trying to put as much distance between me and the creature as possible, with water filling my breathing stick over and over, my friend casually comes over to take a picture of the little baby shark that is causing this great commotion. I made it back to the shore vowing I would not be going in the water ever again. As we drove back along the coast, I couldn’t help but feel a returning sense of pride. I didn’t surf, and I didn’t really snorkel, but I tried it even though I’m so terrified of the water. And really, there is no better place to tread water than in the beautiful waters of French Polynesia.

9 thoughts on “Moments & Misadventures :: Treading Water In A Panic Isn’t Swimming??

  1. Ha that’s not only funny but very familiar. Michaela is like a fish, can swim for ever and take on any water borne activity without fear. Me, I have the same hyperventilation panic button as you as soon as I’m out of my depth, and found snorkelling just too damn difficult to get right. Nine weeks in Turkey last year finally, finally saw me conquer some of those irrational fears and I actually enjoyed some deep water swims, for probably the first time ever. So my message is, keep going, it’s never too late!

    1. That is good to know! I’m so glad to know that I’m not alone in my irrational fear of the water 🙂 I’ve heard from people who scuba dive that it is much easier than snorkeling because you breathe more naturally…but the thought of being attached to heavy gear underwater makes me nervous just to think about it.

  2. Well done you! Takes a lot of bravery to battle your fear like that. I would LOVE to go to Tahiti one day and would definitely like to do some snorkelling. Only actually tried it once, just off Tioman Island in Malaysia. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself and have another crack at it one day.

    1. Tahiti is incredible- I really hope you make it there one day. It was one of those places that I’d always wanted to visit. There were some parts of it that were not anything like what I expected and other parts that completely surpassed my expectations. I want to try snorkeling again one of these days. I think I would have fared better with it if I’d done that first and not after the disastrous attempt at surfing.

    1. So glad I’m not alone in this! It makes it hard for me because Tessa is such a water baby and would live in the ocean if I let her and I become the crazy protective mom every time she makes for the waves 🙂

  3. Oh no that’s awful for you. Some people just don’t understand phobias and how real they are. Better stick to paddling

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