They say the first step of recovery is realizing that you have a problem. I have an immense problem and it’s that not more people love the ocean as much as I do, it’s a real struggle and painful to see how little knowledge people have about our most important life-line. I’ve always been incredibly fond of the oceans and all their beauty, and I always keep coming back to it.
When I was very young, I almost drowned and while the memory is very vivid in my mind, it doesn’t haunt me. I was six or seven, I didn’t know that I put myself in danger, I thought that all was going to be fine and while I can’t recall any other specifics, I still remember seeing my dad running towards me. I just recently realized how traumatic that very moment was for my parents. My dad said, a local fisherman saw me and got me just in time. A moment later and I would have been swept out the ocean, taken by the current, never to be seen again. 25 years later and I could still hear the ear-shattering fear in my dad’s voice.
I’d like to say that this was my only near-death-ocean-experiences, but honestly it wasn’t. Somehow the ocean has the ability to teach me fear like I’ve never felt fear before. Every now and then I ask myself if all this is really worth it. It’s not just a feeling of being out of my comfort zone, it’s being so far out there that my comfort zone looks like a tiny little dot in the distance and yet, I’m still at it, every chance I get. If I never had a near-death-ocean-experience ever again, I’d be fine, but you can’t have one thing without the other. You cannot eat ice cream every day and not worry about diabetes or any cardiovascular disease, but you won’t constantly think about all the things that could go wrong while eating ice cream. That’s kind of what it feels like when you’re addicted to the ocean.
You can worry about it all day long, but the truth is, when you breath ocean air, you feel the ocean spray on your skin, the sun is high above you, and you’re onto the next big swell, all your worries go out the window. People ask me why I am out so often, they ask if I haven’t seen it all already, if there is anything new to be seen. The thing with the ocean is, you could be out every single day for ten years straight and every day will be different. If you dive at the same diving spot every day at the same time for thirty days straight you can almost feel the changes. The biodiversity transitions subtly but noticeably, your interactions with fish and crustaceans will change, and each time you’ll see something new, something you’ve never seen that way before.
Plus, when you’re out on the ocean you’re fully immersed. Everyday distractions cannot reach you the same way (although mobile internet makes it possible to stay on the grid, much to my dismay). For so long, ocean-life has been limited to flat screens or horrible inhumane small tank conditions. Now we’re slowly making it possible to share the ocean’s magic with many more people than ever before. It’s simply amazing. Every time I get to go out with people who’ve never seen the ocean like this before, it fills my heart with so much love. Just being on the ocean, being able to witness this amazingly awe inspiring endless and natural beauty fills me with so much calm and appreciation.
The other part of being on the ocean is the anticipation of detecting marine wildlife. My palms get sweaty, my grip tight, my knuckles almost white, and I’m blending everything else out and focus on that one thing, the thing I can almost feel is about to happen. My favorite part is when I can smell a whale close by (I know that sounds funny, but anyone who has smelled a whale once will remember that smell forever – you just know!), and I look around, into the direction the wind is blowing and I know they’re there. And then in the moment you don’t expect to see them, that’s when all of a sudden one or two pop up and that’s where – without skipping a beat – I instantly start tearing up. I’ve never seen anything as beautiful as whales in the water doing their whaley things.
Being on the ocean is rarely smooth sailing, mostly it’s rough weathers, lots of rain, lots of swells, a very bumpy ride, but even so, no two days are the same, no experience can ever be replicated, and that’s the exhilarating adventure side of my addiction. Knowing this is a big part of choosing the marine-life, knowing that sometimes you’ll be sheltered in a harbor you never even knew existed and you’re waiting for a weather window. It’s not an easy life, but it’s pure magic.
I am very open about my addiction, in fact I’ll bring it up any chance I can, so that more and more people will get into it and embrace our life-line as what it is, the essence of our lives – so much more beyond touristic activities. We depend on the oceans for clean air, food security and safety, livelihood, transportation, health, – you name it. So next time when the current global debates just seem too much, and you almost feel defeated trying to understand the arguments, consider reading a bit more about oceans and why they are so important in keeping our land-based life balanced. You’ll be amazed and surprised at how much they do for us and the wildlife – oh the wildlife!