I’ve snorkeled about a dozen times in my life, in some of the world’s most majestic and sought after underwater locales. It’s cool – ish. I mean it’s awesome to stare at mother nature’s aquarium (invasively as aquatic creatures conduct their mundane daily business of eating, shitting and fish fucking) through a plastic mask suctioned onto my face (leaving substantial unsightly post-mask indentations) while I bite down on a mouthpiece attached to an oversized hard plastic straw. This apparatus forces me to breathe in and out only through my mouth, hyperventilation style.
Nine years ago was the last time I attempted this underwater feat and it went swimmingly (I’ll take a bow for that pun, thank you).
Indeed I marveled at the real life version of Finding Nemo. I calmly conducted my Darth Vader breathing as I pointed to my boyfriend at the brightly colored angelfish, humuhumu’s, triggerfish, yellow tangs, and the dazzling world of the coral reef. Moray eels darted in and out of sea caves, octopi camouflaged themselves on the submerged rocks, and I’m quite certain there were sharks. I braved this experience because I felt like I had to; I didn’t want to miss out. This is a theme I find myself revisiting often: doing things I don’t necessarily enjoy because “I think I should” or because “I don’t want to miss out” (even though I’d enjoy the missing out more than the participating).
Almost a decade later, on our family vacation to Maui, my teenage son wasted no time booking us on a snorkeling tour to Molokini, a crescent shaped partially submerged volcanic crater which forms a small, uninhabited islet, the perfect destination for scuba divers and snorkelers. With lush reefs offering excellent visibility as deep as 150 feet, Molokini is home to about 250 species of marine species. This is a snorkeling mecca – how can I not do it?
We decided on a more adventurous style tour mostly because we preferred to spend our time seeing lava caves and tubes rather doing rum and coke shots on the way home. What we booked was a small raft that accommodated 24 passengers, some who had to sling one leg over the front rim and hold onto a rope not to fall overboard. After skipping over waves and catching air, we arrive at the first of four snorkeling sites. I put on my gear and bravely jumped after my 6-year-old daughter. My husband took her and I thought I’d hang out with my 14-year-old, but he was halfway across the ocean before I was out of the raft. I dunked my head into the water and began the repetitive breathing, my head consumed by the amplified sound. I see fish, I see the coral reef, but I’m not impressed, I’m focused on trying to get enough air through the straw. It was just this year that I even learned how to breathe properly in the first place (through your butt!) and now all the rules were broken in the vast water. I looked for the fish, I looked for my kids under water, I made sure I wasn’t drowning or being eaten by piranhas or sharks, and mostly I tried to stay alive by inhaling and exhaling out of my mouth and it sucked. Nothing I saw was worth it. No tangs, no turtles, not even fucking dolphins.
I climbed back onto the raft and spent fifteen minutes calming myself down from my subaquatic hyperventilation. I jumped in again at the second stop because I had to pee and there was no formal bathroom on the raft (“We pee like the fishes,” said Captain Andy.) I took another quick look around and it looked the same; I wasn’t impressed. I longed for the warm sand back on the beach and considered how much happier I would have been if I was honest with myself rather than push to like something I truly didn’t care about. Looking around the second time, the panic had gone but I felt completely underwhelmed. My love affair has always been with the sun; it’s time I retire my sea legs.