The Hangover Scuba Dive With Sharks

One very important thing about scuba diving is that you only dive when you feel good. "No peer pressure" is one of the most important mantras concerning scuba diving. That means that you don't let yourself be persuaded to go scuba diving.

And then... It almost went wrong.

Scuba Diving can be dangerous.

The day we left the beautiful island of Malapascua to start traveling back to Manila my daughter wanted to make one last shark dive (Thresher sharks). That meant waking up at 4.30 am to jump in the water around 5.30 am, just when the sun came up.

One very important thing about scuba diving is that you only dive when you feel good. "No peer pressure"is one of the most important mantras concerning scuba diving. That means that you don't let yourself be persuaded to go scuba diving. So if your friends say: "C'mon man,are you a pussy or what? Let's scuba dive man!" You shrug and say: "Whatever, I am not going because I don't feel well."

In the last 20 years I have scuba dived 300 to 400 times. Often I let a day of scuba diving pass by because I didn't feel that well. I have often suffered from ear infections. In other words, I never let myself be peer pressured.

I thought.

This dive was the most dangerous scuba dive I have ever experienced.

First about the night before.

It was our last night in Malapascua and the children and I went to a karaoke bar Malapascua-style with a group of locals. Really cool. In a dusty internet café we entered a door in the back: our private karaoke room. It was really hot in there. You had to choose your song from something like a telephone-book. There was no such thing as an online database and it wouldn't have worked anyway if it did because of the slow internet -> true island style.

And if you will ever drink with Philippinos you will probably experience the same, the Petroleum Rhum costs only 1.50 Euro a liter! That is cheaper than a liter of gasoline in Europe and just a bit more expensive than in the Philippines. This is the way you drink it: there are two glasses, also if you are with a big group of people. One is for a shot of Rhum and the other for Sprite. If you have taken a shot and had some Sprite you fill the glasses again and give them to somebody else. It is a very sociable thing.

Maybe a bit too sociable in my case?

Because before you know it, you have drunk just a little bit too much.

The next day when I woke up I felt that I had drunk too much. And that I didn't get enough sleep. If I would have been with friends I wouldn't have gone scuba diving. But with my own daughter I put on a mask. The "Papa is OK because papa has scuba dived so many times"- mask. And it would have been OK if there hadn't been a very strong current. But then for real. Later I looked back and this had been the most dangerous scuba dive I've ever made. For the first time I panicked and it almost went wrong.

This is what happened.

We jumped into the water. My buddy (You always match with one other person, your buddy. This is for safety reasons.) was the dive master. My daughter's buddy was a Danish woman. In a noble act I had given her my computer because she hadn't made that many dives, and I tried to be cool.

To get to the platform of the dive site at 18 meters depth we had to swim against a strong current. I am quite healthy and rather trained, but not in my then current state of being. After 5 minutes I was out of breath and started to hyperventilate. Then we went to 30 meters depth to see the sharks. The current was massive at that depth too. I really had to hold on to a rock to prevent myself from floating away. I was still hyperventilating and started to get dizzy. I checked how my daughter was doing. She gave me an "OK sign". I looked in her eyes and saw she was OK. I pretended to be OK as well.

But I was getting more dizzy and even nauseous. I panicked because I thought of spitting out my regulator (that thing in your mouth that you breath from) and inhaling water. I realised that if that happened I probably wouldn't survive the dive.

With my 15 year old daughter next to me. Not a nice thought.

I knew I had to calm down. I don't like to use "have to" so often but this time it was "HAD TO". Because otherwise this would not end well. Neither the scuba dive, the holidays nor my life.

I just finished the basic course of the "Wim Hof Method". Wim Hof is the guy who can sit in ice and can control his immune system. On my YouTube channel you can see more about me learning this and a conversation of Wim and me (Wim and Tim). Just google for "Tim goes Iceman style". The Wim Hof Method is a combination of 3 things: a breathing technique, cold therapy and mindset. The cold therapy means showering cold every day (only the end of your shower) and sitting in an ice bath once in a while. By stepping into a bath of ice you are putting your body in an extremely stressful situation (extremely cold). But you are controlling that situation because you can simply get out of the bath. In ice you get a panic reaction which you can learn to recognize because you are breathing high (in your breast) and fast then. By being conscious of your stress, and breathing very slowly and as deep as possible (belly) you calm down again. And then the stress and pain of sitting in ice disappears and you can sit in it for 3 minutes. And Wim for about two hours :).

That was probably what saved me. I realised that I had too much oxygen in my body. I forced myself to breathe as low and as slow as possible. It worked. The dizziness disappeared. I became calmer. And luckily I didn't faint at 30 meters depth.

In the meantime my air was getting very low because I had been breathing so much. I was already on reserve.

I signaled to the dive master that my air was running low. From my daughter I got big eyes because she still had more than enough air left and usually I am slightly better with my air. Now I did signal her that I wasn't doing OK. We had to end the dive and went up. The Danish girl was signalling that we went up too fast, risking decompression sickness. (I didn't have my own computer so I didn't know.) Luckily there was an anchor going up to the boat from the plateau at 18 meter depth. As fast as was safe (never faster than your own bubbles) we went to 5 meters depth to do a 3 minute safety stop. I only had very little air in my tank left. Just in time. When we were up my daughter exclaimed: "Daddy, what is going on with you?!" I said: "This wasn't funny". She was happy though. She had seen a lot of sharks and enjoyed the current. A new generation of super divers is born I thought.

I notice now while I am writing this that I get a bit emotional. This was really dangerous. I am truly grateful to have learnt methods like Wim Hof's to notice that I am panicking. I am grateful to do the teacher training of the Wim Hof method so soon I can teach other people this method. I am grateful to myself that I was able to calm down. Grateful for my daughter to be such a good diver. Yeah, really grateful just to be alive and typing these words while I am back in my backyard in Amsterdam.

Lessons learnt:

1 When you scuba-dive you leave your mask at home. No peer pressure. Don't be tough. Especially when you are a daddy.

2 If you panic (also above water): breathe slowly and as deep as possible in your body, your belly if possible. The panic reaction dissolves and probably the reason that you panicked for in the first place is probably not too bad either.

3 Alcohol and not enough sleep are not good for when you scuba dive, and although I do it sometimes, neither healthy in real life.

These were lessons I had to go deep for, more than 30 meters. Haha, this time I am not all too superficial!

Next time I tell my children or anybody else. "Suit yourself baby. I'll be waiting for you with breakfast!"

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