Learning to Dive, Or How I Realized It Doesn’t Actually Involve Math – Part One



I was under the impression that scuba diving required mathematical skills. I have always had certain issues with mental mathematics (as diagnosed by highly-paid professionals) and whenever I contemplated taking up scuba diving, visions of me desperately counting backwards on my fingers while 100 feet deep in the wine-dark sea danced into my head.

I imagined sinking backwards into the gloam of the watery black because I hadn’t bothered to get a pocket calculator, doomed to hypothermia and devourment by angler fish with big blinky eyes. Compounded with this was the simple reality that I could not be trusted to follow directions as simple “Don’t walk into that active volcano” on family trips, meaning that the odds of my parents allowing me to take up scuba diving at age 15 or so were roughly nil.

These reasons conspired to keep me away from learning to dive until I was in my 20s — when I realized that dive computers did all the math for you, and that sometime in the ensuing decade plus, I’d figured out how to follow basic directions for at least five seconds a time.

But things weren’t right: I was entirely too busy riding bikes around New Orleans and studying while at Tulane, and the Cambodia dive operators occasionally lost people, and the Thailand dive operators often featured 8 people to a certification course in locations best described as Island of the Bros. I kept putting it off. I’d Do It Eventually.


Then, I decided to do a “Discover Diving” course while visiting Komodo in April, which allows you to go on a guided dive without undergoing full certification. As is usually the case when ones descends into the psychedelic, endlessly fascinating world of the Komodo deep, I was smitten, finding crocodile-fish and shoals of glittering squid and irate clownfish without even having to try for it, transported into some sort of weird real-life simulcran of a Richard Attenborough special. I have always regarded Attenborough as something of a demigod: perhaps this was akin to attending church.

I liked the divers, too: I’d finally found a sport that combined both acute nerdiness, outdoors activity, and weird zoology into a single glorious package, and everyone seemed to celebrate a successful dive trip with beer. Enviable goals and enviable people, decked out in wet-suits with awesome tans, talking in this laconic bad-ass fashion about hanging out with manta rays and flitting through the crevices of abandoned wrecks. How could I not want to be like them?


It was decided: I was in Indonesia, the water was warm enough for my hilariously acute cold sensitivity, and I even had something approximating disposable income for the first time in recent memory. It was, decidedly, now or never.

My friend Robert, who I’ve been staying with in Bali, is an accomplished diver and underwater photographer, who has taken photographs of manta ray hordes, irate looking frog-fish, and the multifarious wonders of the Papuan deep. Looking at such photos is the best sales pitch one can imagine for diving.

He suggested that I take up with Bali International Diving Professionals or BIDP, a dive outfit located in Sanur that has an excellent reputation in the region — and located a convenient corner away from his villa in Sanur.

More to come. Gripping, I know. (I did take these pictures with a camera borrowed from my dive instructor!)

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