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Dive Master
By Donny Shankle 

During my trip to Indonesia in and around the Islands of Komodo, Labuanbajo Flores, I did some SCUBA diving and loved every minute of it. I did 11 dives over the course of 4 days. With each dive my breathing became more relaxed and got better control of my buoyancy. SCUBA diving is nowhere near as difficult as weightlifting. On the contrary it’s very easy on the body and quick to learn so long as you’re taught in the beginning by someone with knowledge and experience. Someone who can see through the shadows. Learning from a good dive instructor is essential if you want to catch as much of nature’s wonders on each dive you do.

I’m always fascinated by nature’s wonders and have an affinity for learning about all the different types of flora and fauna. Plus, the immensity of the ocean keeps a man’s ego in check. No matter how big and bad you think you are the oceans teach you quite well there’s always a bigger fish. With that being said, the water for some reason feels like a welcoming home to me. I am to my surprise very comfortable in the ocean and feel very much at ease. The relaxed feeling I get from the weightlessness in the water can’t be found anywhere else except on top of the podium after winning in competition. All of my physical aches and pains disappear. The mobility problems I have in my shoulders and hips go away because the water is supporting me. I can relax in the water and in so doing I open myself up to seeing more of the beautiful coral and creatures around me. However, for as confident as I am in the water, I understand I am a beginner and can’t yet see through the shadows. I can see what the light shows me but not what lies in the enigmatic blue only a little further away. The large animals change the light and cast shadows on the ocean floor. This puts me in danger but with a good dive master next to me I feel safe. His eyes are trained to see not only what the light shines on but also the movement within the shadows.

For example, in the waters of Manta Point there are manta rays anywhere between 3-5 meters long. I even heard there is one down there 8 meters long! On this particular dive, I was instructed to deflate my BCD (buoyancy control device) if I saw one until I touched bottom and hold on to a solid rock to anchor me to the ocean floor. While I was down at only 15 meters I could see far off into the distance manta rays but they were so small and barely visible. I kept looking around to see if I could find one close to me but there were none nearby. Or so I thought. My dive master comes over to me and deflates my BCD all the way and I sink like a rock to the bottom. No more than 20 meters down. I figured he must have seen something which I couldn’t so I held on to the nearest rock I could find and the moment I lifted my head an entire squadron of manta rays swam past me! 9 in total to be exact. They were so close I could have touched the first one which was the largest had I only stretched out my arm. I couldn’t believe I couldn’t see this on my own. Had it not been for the dive master these marvelous creatures would have maybe crashed into me or worse yet I would have never saw them at all. This was the highlight of the trip which brought me close to sea turtles, barracuda, moray eels, white tip sharks, fishes and coral of every color imaginable and even an octopus. As we surfaced my entire dive group gave each other high 5’s and laughed with excitement to see something which was so awesome.

After the dive was over and the boat was heading back home, I thought to myself how similar that experience was to watching the weightlifters in my gym. The dive master could tell the squadron of mantas were coming because he was watching out for the shadows. He wasn’t just concentrated on what the light could show him but he was also focused on any changes in the light. His eyes are accustomed to see the changes not just from in front of him but all around him the same way a good coach or experienced weightlifter can spot the initially unseen errors in the athletes form, timing and approach. As I sipped my tea and felt the waves roll under the boat watching the sunset I smiled. What a heck of an experience. Not only did I see something wonderful but I also learned a lesson and compared it with my own discipline. I love seeing weightlifting in everything. It’s my passion if you couldn’t tell already.

The beginner first learns the principles to later become a champion through excellent instruction and practice. Things like moving your feet or keeping the bar close are the fundamentals which the light easily makes visible. With enough practice and as your body becomes stronger these fundamentals become second nature to you. There are other things however lying below, in the deep recesses of your mind which you must also uncover if you want to win. These are the shadows which only a master’s experienced eye can see and help you mature. Things like attitude, timing your change of direction, your discipline off the platform, rehearsing visualization or improving the strength of your will.

Once you are good at spotting what the light easily shows and you find your secure anchor it’s then time to summon the shadows from within. Perfecting these too until you are your own master. This is a buoyant and weightless feeling. When you compete you will be totally relaxed and highly confident in your ability. It will feel like coming up to the surface for air after seeing something below so beautiful.