OkiLog #7: SCUBA

Hand signals are a huge deal underwater.

When I first received orders to Okinawa, folks that had already been here began telling me how beautiful the waters were, and how easy it was to get SCUBA certified.  I listened with rapt attention and promised myself that it would be one of the first things we did.

I arrived a few months ahead of my family, and I resolved to wait for them so my wife and I could get certified together.  When they finally did arrive, I was foaming at the mouth waiting to get in the water.  For a variety of reasons, immediate immersion didn’t happen.  Work trips, expensive plane tickets to the States, and a thousand other things got in the way.

We finally managed to carve some time(and a fair amount of disposable income) out of our lives in late 2011, so for my wife’s birthday, we signed up for SCUBA lessons.  I’m still kicking myself for “wasting” a year-and-a-half.

Me in my gear. In addition to being heavy, this stuff’s expensive!

Cruising along the wall at the Okinawa Toilet Bowl

Our instructor was a retired Green Beret named Scott. Scott is a large, happy ex-pat that loves to do nothing more than dive, talk about diving, teach diving, plan diving,  and talk more about diving.  He has a reputation for being a by-the-book instructor, and is known far and wide for his Pikachu wet suit. Seriously, the guy has a giant, yellow Pikachu suit complete with ears on the hood. It’s AWESOME!

Me and a lion fish. Note the washed-out color.

Same lion fish with a light shone on him from four feet away.

Shortly after earning our Open Water certification, I began pre-deployment training in Hawaii.  This afforded me the opportunity to do some diving there as well.  The reefs in Okinawa are vastly superior to the reefs off of Oahu, though Hawaii does have a few neat things to see.  I think it has to do with the amount of tourism.  Oahu has great quantities of non-certified vacationers, whilst Okinawa hosts more dedicated divers.  The mantra I live by is, “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but bubbles.”

This is the Sea Tiger. It was a smuggling ship scuttled off the coast of Waikiki in 1999.

Something you’ll notice in these pictures is a TON of blue colors. The deeper you go, the bluer it gets, as other colors are slowly washed out.  See this link for a more thorough explanation.

Since I returned to Okinawa in the later half of 2012, I’ve had tons of opportunities to get in the water and I’ve made the most of it.  I’ve made new friends, seen cool things, and can’t wait for my first chance to dive at my next duty station.

I’m told that San Diego has fairly chilly waters(50-65 degrees Fahrenheit), so most folks use a thicker wet suit. It will be a big change from Okinawa’s 70-ish waters.  Apparently the Kelp Forests are filled with sharks and seals, etc.

As much as I’ve loved learning to dive here in the warm East China Sea, the new environment and new critters will be a welcome change.  I can’t wait to get home.

Up Next: A photo blog featuring the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium!

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