In 2011 I discovered diving. Well, not an actual discovery as I’d had a taste of it the year before, but I decided to take things into my own hands by making a decision to dive once a month. My attempt to do this began after a short trip to New Caledonia back in 2010, when I signed up for a trial dive. 20mins or so underwater was all it took for me to make the link between diving, my interest in marine biology and my childhood holidays on Sado Island learning how to snorkel, and to know that I would be enjoying a lot more dives in the future.
As the year began I was very regimented and determined to complete my attempt. Things got off to a shaky start with a couple of trips in January and February to Ishigaki in Okinawa to see the famous manta rays which didn’t appear once. After that came the March 11th earthquake and tsunami and all notion of diving went out the window for a while, before I settled last minute on a tiny school in Atami. As of May things really kicked off as I discovered the joy and beauty of squid laying their eggs in Miyakejima, the warm tropical seas of a very hot Kumejima in June, and the fun of joining a dive group and meeting others with whom I shared some fantastic summer dives on a couple of islands south of Tokyo. I also learned not to mess with typhoons, as the weather destroyed any attempt to dive in September but things picked up in Okinawa and then in New Zealand. In both those destinations I got my first taste of deep diving, navigation, night diving and finding out what it’s like to dive in cold water. During my attempt I experienced some very different things – marine environments, stunning fish and other creatures, cold water, various skills, trying underwater photography, the fun and relaxation of swimming slowly among the fish as you literally enter their environment, sea sickness, diving with a hangover, unbelievable exhaustion, damaged skin and hair, huge bills on flights and rental gear, buying dive gear, I could go on forever. I am sad that my attempt is over but delighted that I did it and what I found most of all is that this is just the beginning. Diving once a month certainly does not make you a better diver.
So for me, 2012 is all about training. In a few weeks I’ll finish up an online marine biology diploma and start focusing on my Advanced license. If this goes well and I feel confident enough I’d like to try other courses like Nitrox or Rescue. I will be diving for fun too, including a week in Bali and hopefully here and there in Japan where the sea is much more beautiful and interesting than we realise. Of course I want to keep blogging, not just about diving but perhaps general marine issues or topics that involve Japan. Sometime this year I intend to return to Rikuzentakata which was badly affected by last year’s earthquake. I’m keen to see how the abalone farms are doing, and how the reconstruction and current situation are affecting the fishermen there.
I’ve sometimes been asked what my favourite dive spot was last year. It’s a hard question to answer as it depends on so many factors such as sea conditions, how you felt on the day or how your dive guide was, but May usually comes to mind. Of course the dives were enjoyable for all the usual reasons – warm blue water, plenty of marine life, good weather and some smooth dives. But it was also a turning point, as my diving world began to grow with the discovery of other divers and options.
In diving there doesn’t seem to be any end goal. Something new is picked up all the time and today I am still struggling with basic skills. The road I am on is long, but I’m sure it will be just as fun and exciting as 2011 was.