This means that while I can be most comfortable and relaxed whilst in a bath or spa pool of some sort, my anxiety levels rise as the distance between my bum and the bottom of the water-filled vessel I may happen to be in increases.
Another thing I don’t like about swimming is the pool experience. I always seem to successfully ingest quantities of chlorinated water which also makes my eyes burn. I don’t have the body for Budgie-Smugglers™ – there are different types of Rippling Bodies.
That whole swimming in lanes business also gives me grief, particularly if it involves sharing with others. And it’s tediously boring. I am always amazed by competitive swimmers who do several kilometres each day up and down pools. Apart from a black line on the bottom with lots of splash and bubbles, and the regular arrival of the end of the pool, there is absolutely nothing for them to look at or listen to. And they can’t chat with anybody either.
I grew up in central Taranaki, where expanses of flat water were largely confined to cow troughs. The local primary school, just up the road, had a pool. It was 15 yards long and was about nipple depth for an eight-year-old standing on the bottom at the deep end. Swimming lengths was straight-forward enough. Diving in required some skill to avoid concussion-related injuries. Most of us who grew up near this facility soon had it mastered.
Other pools thereabouts were a bit longer and deeper, but easily able to be swum end to end on one breath. I decided at an early age that that was the trick to swimming in a pool. However in my teen years I was introduced to the newly-opened Kaweroa pool in New Plymouth. It was one of those 50 metre Olympic jobs with posh floating lane markers and black lines that stopped just short of each end. Into it I dove, lungs brimming with air, off in search of the far end. It never arrived. Its Deep End also happened to be in the middle. Cruel Forces were afoot and conspiring against me.
So that was largely the end of me and swimming.
Some years later I decided, for some strange reason, to do a scuba diving course. This started with courses held in Auckland’s Newmarket Baths. It had some things that gave me great comfort. These included wearing a wet suit that imbued positive buoyancy – lead weights had to be worn if one aspired to descend into the depths. An air bottle with a regulator attached for breathing was also a great idea – snorkels make me hyperventilate and also facilitate the passage of water to my lungs.
And then there were the fins, what many people know as “flippers” – a term beaten out of us by our instructor in much the same way that Army training Sergeants do to new recruits who call rifles “guns”. Fins were amazing forms of propulsion. Seemingly vast distances could be carved off with little effort, compared to thrashing around on the surface whilst ingesting vast quantities of ocean.
Over the next couple of years I did quite a bit of diving, checking out most of the offshore islands between East Cape and North Cape. And always off a boat. I hate diving off beaches. And a boat also has the advantage of being able to come around and pick one up when one gets tired, a service not provided by a beach. Lots of great times and amazing experiences were had. Many crayfish were devoured. I even passed an advanced scuba certificate course!
Then I moved to Wellington. Divers here dive off beaches. The water is cold, so thicker wetsuits are needed. Other things were happening in my life at that time. I haven’t been underwater since 1984. And my wetsuit has shrunk.