Alex Ma, CFA, talks about his love of scuba diving, and the lessons it has taught him.
When I was young, I was actually a really bad swimmer, so I tended to be afraid of the water. In 2009 I was on holiday in south east Asia with some friends from university. Everyone else was going scuba diving, so I decided I had to give it a try. I was scared of choking, and was really focused on how to emerge and descend, but in the end, I forgot all of that. Everything became really natural. The thing that really shocked me was, that although I was afraid of water, the immersive, isolated environment under the water was completely calm. I was in this amazing environment, looking at the amazing underwater world, and I had a deep feeling of inner peace.
From that first experience, scuba diving became a real hobby. I became a PADI certified open water diver in 2011 and a rescue diver in 2015. I still don’t think of myself as a good swimmer, but the thing about being a scuba diver is that you don’t feel as though you are swimming, it’s like being in outer space.
I am now thinking of going to Belize, to dive in the Great Blue Hole, a giant marine sinkhole near the centre of the Lighthouse Reef. It requires different techniques, and different kinds of gear. Cave diving can be dangerous, but this is in the ocean, and somewhere between normal advanced diving and cave diving.
Scuba diving has taught me a lot. It’s like mediation, it gives you a lot of inner peace. When you are in that kind of environment you tend to forget the techniques of swimming and simply explore the underwater. There’s no better way to do this besides space travelling.
I did have a scary moment in Bali, Indonesia, when I was exploring a commercial shipwreck very close to the shore. It was an adventure dive. I went into a small compartment of the ship and I lost my orientation. I was actually swimming upside down and I couldn’t find a way out. I was breathing so quickly, and panicking. Eventually, I managed to re-establish my position in the water and find my way out, and get to my partner. I learnt two lessons then. Always dive with a partner who will look out for you, and who you look out for. And never panic. In an emergency, panic only makes things worse. Don’t panic, calm down, and find a way. Life is short, dive more.