Monday, May 3, 2010

Snorkeling as public entertainment, 2009 version

Another thing that’s big all over Hawaii is snorkeling. Or at least the idea of snorkeling. After Peter, our son, and Susan, our daughter-in-law, snorkeled from Kauai several years ago, I had begun to get a faint interest in snorkeling. So I tried it on Maui
last year. Twice.

Dottie says that my first experience was a complete comic success. I think she means that I would have enjoyed it immensely, if I had just been able to watch it. For starters, the mere sight of me would probably have astonished me, if I had stopped to look in a mirror. Shortly before leaving for Hawaii, I went to REI to see what they had in the way of sun block shirts and pants for snorkeling: They had good long-sleeve pullover shirt, which I use in outdoor pools and in the ocean, and sun block wet pants of some kind for the legs. I took the wet pants as unisex, but that I think they were for women. Wide-hipped women.

Smeared with sun block; covered with my sun block shirt, hat, and pants; and carrying the boogie board from our time-share and mask and flippers rented from Snorkel Bob’s, I charged out for adventure. This very bay, we had been told, is a great place for snorkeling. And sure enough, when I got there, I saw people lying face-down in the water and nobody lifting a finger to save them. I guess they’re snorkeling. OK, this must be the spot. The water didn’t seem to be very deep, and I assumed that these people were actually seeing something, so in no time flat, I thought, I’ll be waist deep. I’ll just lean over and see something.

When I got to the water, I pressed straight on, but the flippers wanted to hang with the water at the edge. Under the combined weight of flippers and water, moving my feet was like pulling anchors. My heels pressed straight down. I could feel the water swirling under them. I plunged ahead. I pushed down on my heels to make sure that the water was undermining them. It was. Quick backward steps to get my balance. Ker plunk on my keester. I stood up, in a Pilates pushup, and headed back toward the deep, once, then again. By then, one flipper was coming off my foot, and I was having difficulty holding on to the mask, the snorkeling tube, and the boogie board.

Back to Dottie with the boogie board to lighten my load and then back to the water’s edge. As I got there, a man to my right and woman to my left began to administer ESI, expert snorkeling intervention. They told me to watch the others going into the water. Now there’s a thought. Why hadn’t I had that thought myself? See, they said, they go in backwards. Oh, that’s how you do it. Piece of cake.

See how easy it is? With my flippers on firmly and my mask and tube at the ready, I backed in. Just a few steps in and a wave sneaked up from behind and rolled me over, feet high in the air, hat hanging by the cord from my neck. OK, not so easy. Another try or two like that one and the experts suggested that the surf might have come up too much for me to make a go of it. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

As I left for the day, one little triumph came home with me. I remembered glimpsing the sandy bottom through my goggles two or three times in all the tumbling. Enough to make me want to try again.

About two days later, we found a more placid snorkeling beach east of Lahaina.That went better. This time I wore a float around my waist, went in backwards, and soon was seeing lots of pretty coral, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins. Not many fish, maybe none. I had some trouble keeping water out of my mask and mouth, and when I stood up to adjust them, I couldn’t always touch bottom, but I reached shallower water quickly enough.

No pics of the events of 2009. Sorry about that.

© J. Russell Burck, 2010

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