What I Learned Nearly Dying Scuba Diving With Sharks

 

I’ve had my fair share of near death experiences.

There was the falling off of and if front of a moving car on the way to a bush party in Whistler.

There was the sailing experience in the Caribbean that still freaks me out too much to talk about.

There was falling through a roof while partying in Panama.

There was falling down a cliff in the Tantalus this past Summer.

I’ve had to have a legit talk with my dad a couple weeks ago to ask him for his opinion on how likely I am to die with my current lifestyle and risk comfort level. He seemed to think I’m ok, but even though I’ve settled, I still seem to have close calls.

But with all the chaos these experiences have caused, these close calls have taught me a lot.

Let’s transport back to 2010 in Panama…

I’m on the remote UNESCO designated island of Coiba a couple hour boat ride off the coast of Panama for a few days of scuba diving – guaranteed to see sharks we’d been told.

I had just completed my Rescue Diver Course on the Caribbean side of Panama and the crew there somehow convinced us that diving on the Pacific side with sharks would be an excellent idea.

The first couple of dives went well, with the owner of the company leading the dives. I seemed to be running out of air quicker than the rest, so he would just signal to go up and wait for the boat that wasn’t far off.

But the last day, the owner stayed back and our leader was his employee – a younger gal who seemed fine, but a little rough around the edges and less experienced.

The last dive that day was called ‘The Buffet’ as we’d be entering into essentially a shark playground.

Cool. So far, so good. What the hell.

Turns out the ‘Buffet’ is the last section of the dive – around 40-45 mins in.

Approaching the Buffet, we turn the corner, a sharp left around a steep cliff dropping straight down into a dark abyss and open waters in front and to our right.

I’m at the back of the pack, just cruising, enjoying the scenery.

As we turn the corner, I immediately feel the current, straight into us and strong.

I wasn’t in the greatest shape at the time, so I was working hard just to keep up, huffing and puffing, but keeping up.

There are probably 6-8 sharks cruising beside us, below us, all around us.

There are also green Moray Eels on the left – big ones. About 8-10 of those.

It was intense, and my breathing pace picked up further when I saw a shark and an eel fighting right beside me.

But we made it through.

I swam a bit past the group and latched on to a rock, still breathing heavy, but relieved.

The current still strong, we all held onto the rocks to avoid being swept away while waiting for instructions.

Quick look at my air gauge and the air is low, but wasn’t too concerned as I figured we were at the end of our dive.

Then it happens.

No air.

No air!!

The weirdest feeling was still breathing through the regulator, but my lungs weren’t filling up.

NO AIR!!

We were 20 metres deep at this point, and even if I could have swum to the surface fast enough, that likely would have caused ‘The Bends’ a decompression sickness that messes you right up.

I immediately knew my life depended on me staying calm.

With the current, had I panicked I could have been swept far away from the group to my death.

Never mind that. Gotta figure out a plan, fast.

I paused ever so briefly, and then quickly made my way to the group and signalled to the leader no air.

Every diver is prepared for this scenario and has a spare regulator (breathing mouth piece) attached to their tank.

She passed me her spare regulator and took a deep, incredibly powerful breath of air.

Such a vivid experience I can still see the scene with crystal clarity today.

We rise to the surface to take the 2 hour not so fun boat ride back to shore during which the leader lectured me on my breathing technique.

We got to shore and walked in the baking sun for about 40 mins back to the hostel where due to my training a few days earlier I quickly recognized the fact that I was in a state of shock and began treatment while puking.

 

Reflections

I learned a lesson that day in trust and it’s relationship with faith.

Not faith in the religious sense.

Faith in the belief sense.

There’s a difference between faith and blind faith.

In my opinion, faith is a powerful belief that comes from a deep sense of knowing.

Blind faith is when you want to believe, so you go along with the plan/person/experience even when you’re unsure.

That day, I had absolute faith in the leader and my ability to scuba dive with sharks, but it was a blind faith.

That blind faith nearly killed me.

This theme has reoccured a number of times since then and the results for me have been clear and powerful…

Follow the proper, knowing type of faith and everything works out well – even if the result isn’t what you’re hoping for.

But let blind faith guide you and things somehow go wrong like some sort of mathematical, universal law formula.

Next time you’re faced with a big, tough or important decision, check in with yourself what type of faith/belief around it is guiding you.

Do you know this is the right path and believe that with every ounce of your being?

Or are you doing jedi mind tricks to make yourself believe it’s the right path?

Only you know.

Sometimes it takes clearing away the noise, the clutter, the distractions, the external influences.

But you do know.

All I can say is that there’s always a path forward via the knowing faith route.

Sometimes it’s difficult to see.

Sometimes we don’t notice it and often we simply ignore it, but if we are open to it and all of the fear, discomfort and struggle it sometimes represents, we can find it and live it.

Sometimes it’s the more difficult path, but it’s always the better path.

My challenge to you is to to be next level aware of which one you’re following and notice the results, feelings and experiences that each provide you.

Record your observations in a journal, discuss them with people who care about you and leave a comment below or privately message me here or here to let me know how it works for you, or if you have any questions about this whole idea.

I’d love to hear from you to know I’m not the only one this works for.

 

Until next time, keep well and keep inspiring!!

 

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I hope this has been helpful, or at least slightly entertaining. If you haven’t already, sign up to exclusive Mavrixx training on overcoming challenges and taking your mental health to the next level…

 

Brent Seal

Brent Seal is a Speaker, Trainer and Adventurer and the Founder of Mavrixx. Based in Vancouver, Brent is the creator of The EDGE High Performance Wellness Training Program and the MINDvsMOUNTAIN Adventure Program. Brent is a Co-Creator and Co-Host of the Balancing Our Minds Youth Summit held at Rogers Arena and he's likely Canada's 4th worst ultra-runner.

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