I've been trying to finish my diving license. I never finished the one I started a couple years ago, because of my failure to pass the basic exams.
Apparently for an upcoming trip, it's best if I'm also an "advanced" diver, so I figured I should make the first step and get my basic license first.
The reason I failed last time was that I couldn't "clear my mask". Clearing a mask requires you to fill up the mask with water, and then somehow use air pressure to snort it out.
I didn't really understand the physics principle of it, and each time I'd end up gulping a huge maskful of water and then gasping and coughing my way to the surface.
It's even worse with the second step of the test, which requires you to take off the mask and then swim around and put it back on. I never got the chance to swim, the moment I took off the mask I'd start inhaling water.
The instructor tried to act like it was all right, but after 30 minutes of this, he stopped me. I think he was worried he was going to have a student drown herself in the 5 foot pool.
So last week, in the days before my training, I practiced walking around the apartment with a mask filled with water, breathing only out of the snorkel. It took some time, and I wondered if I could become the only person to drown above water.
I'm not sure why I am so afraid of water. It's not the thought of dying that scares me, but rather the moments of panicked breathing, coughs and gulps of water and lack of oxygen. I heard that babies are natural swimmers, and that there is a class where parents will take the newborn infant and drop them into the pool, but catching them right before they hit the water. Apparently this erases any fear of water and creates a life-long love of it. I wish my parents had signed up for that one.
After getting over the initial fear, and acing the mask clearing tests (walking around with the fish tank over my head was helpful!), there was something calming about being underwater beyond the fear... it felt peaceful. Free.