Explaning diving to non-divers

I want so badly to tell everyone how amazingly and mind-blowingly fantastic my week of Red Sea diving was. However, not many of my friends dive (Colorado—not known for its coast), so when I say, “I saw two Spanish dancers!” or “Whew, twenty dives in a week!” it doesn’t mean much. So, what follows is an attempt to explain diving to non-divers via an imaginary Q&A session.

A couple of spinner dolphins checking us out.

A couple of spinner dolphins checking us out.

Q:  Why do you dive?

A: Ooh, good question imaginary question-asking person! Perhaps I love the challenge of putting on a wetsuit, a process that’s about as much fun as squishing myself into a full-body sports bra while covered in tacky glue. Or maybe because the got-my-face-stuck-in-a-vacuum-cleaner look does so much for my appearance. Oh, I know! It’s because there’s no better way to wake up than by spending an hour in an enormous cold bath.

Alright, in all seriousness, I dive because there’s nothing as beautiful, educational and weird as immersing myself in the ocean, surrounded by innumerable life forms that boggle the mind, and interacting with creatures in an environment I am utterly unsuited for. It’s pretty much like visiting a distant planet populated by strange, wet aliens—who could pass up an opportunity like that?

Getting checked out by a Napoleon wrasse (about 4 ft long).

Getting checked out by a Napoleon wrasse (about 4 ft long).

Q:  What do you see down there?

A: I see the weirdest sh** on Earth. Seriously. The things that live in the ocean look like they were born from the combined imaginations of Tim Burton and Dr. Seuss, and were then painted by Picasso. There are basket sea stars that look like ferns and wilt in the beam of a flashlight; pipefish that look like sea horses come undone; and triggerfish so colorful they make you wonder if someone slipped something into your juice at breakfast. I can’t count the number of times I’ve looked at something under the ocean and thought, “What the hell is that thing??” In fact, that’s one of the most common thoughts that go through my mind while diving, along with, “Woah, dude, this is sooooo cooooool” and “Here sharky sharky sharky”.

The creepy eye of the blue-spotted ray.

The creepy eye of the blue-spotted ray.

Q:  Wait, there are sharks?!

A: Yes!! That’s so cool, right?! I love that we’re on the same page.

Q:  But…water is cold and icky.

A:   I know, right? Maybe this is a Colorado thing, but I’m usually loath to get in the water. It’s cold and wet and full of cold, wet things that could eat you.

But diving is so amazing and all-consuming that you don’t think of any of that while you’re in the water. Well, until you’ve been in for an hour, and you have no calories left to keep you warm, and you’re shivering, and you have to pee, but you still don’t want to go to the surface because you’re currently nose-to-nose with a clown fish, and how can you say no to a face like that?

Clown fish hanging out in their anemone.

Clown fish hanging out in his anemone.

Q:  Does diving hurt?

A: Um…not usually. Just don’t touch anything.  Like, not even the sea shells.  Or the rocks that are actually fish.  Or the coral that’s all around you.  And certainly none of the spiky stuff.

A cone shell, a stonefish, fire coral, and a sea urchin.  No touchy.

A cone shell, a stonefish, fire coral, and a sea urchin. No touchy.

Q:  What were your top-ten favorite moments from your week of diving in the Red Sea?

A: Good thing you limited me to ten. In no particular order:

  1. Hanging out with some enormous Napoleon wrasses.
  2. Snorkeling and then diving with pods of spinner dolphins.
  3. Finding two Spanish dancers on a night dive. They’re huge nudibranchs, i.e. sea slugs. Way cooler than they sound.
  4. Chilling with a hawksbill sea turtle.
  5. Spotting a big ol’ black-tipped reef shark off in the blue.
  6. Watching a parrotfish make sand, by which I mean watching a parrotfish eat coral and then poop out sand.
  7. Getting up-close to clown fish in their anemones. The way they cohabitate with the anemone is so cool and beautiful. And they get all territorial and come right up to your mask to try to scare you away—it’s adorable.
  8. Watching a pack of lion fish try to eat a cuttlefish that I inadvertently led them to with my flashlight. (Don’t worry, the cuttlefish inked and got away).
  9. Having to empty my mask half a dozen times in one dive because another diver kept making me laugh.
  10. Living on a boat! For an entire week my life followed the pattern of eat, sleep, dive, repeat. An amazing experience shared with amazing people!

For more photos, check out the gallery on my Facebook page.  Unless stated otherwise, all photos were taken by my most-excellent dive buddy, Pertti Rautio, and edited by yours truly.

Bookmark the permalink.


  1. All of your answers are so true! Somehow, being IN the water, WITH the wildlife is so much better than being ON the water, floating or swimming around with all the unseen critters that scare people.

    I do have to laugh about the picture of your urchin though… that one is found in cold water (like CA) and their spines are blocky and not so sharp like the ones in warmer water! These are the ones that give the sushi chefs uni… yummmmmm!
    And yes, nudibranchs are the best! Monterey Bay has lots of them, from teeny tiny to large ones like the Spanish Dancer. (Those guys like to eat the tube anenomes!) Hmmm… sounds like I miss diving… yup. Now to convince one particular person that we need to go to Little Corn Island…

  2. Spot on! I am a Colorado diver and have tried in vain to explain the allure to fellow Coloradoans. Unfortunately your article may have cost me my job as my laughter was heard by my manager. But silver lining? More dive time.

  3. An interesting change of pace, your diving blog. I have never tried it myself even though living quite near to the shore of Lake Michigan. For some inexplicable reason I missed your last few blog entries due to a mysterious disruption in emails. I will be more observant in the future. Yesterday I received your excellent Karnak postcard. Thanks so much. We were there 6-7 years ago and found it to be awesome. It is unfortunate that you were not so enamoured by Egypt but then you are truly following in Richard’s footsteps. There were places in which he was definitely turned off even though others found them quite laudable. Jerusalem was one example. Good luck in your further pursuit of the far horizon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge