Aging Aquanaut: A Scuba Woman Celebrates Birthday with Wreck Dive

Aging Aquanaut: A Scuba Woman Celebrates Birthday with Wreck Dive

As a recently certified Scuba Woman, my weekend has been planned around my 55th birthday. Proving there is no age limit for scuba diving, I am in my fifties, my son in his twenties, and my sister in her forties. To celebrate my approaching 55th birthday, I have bought my own scuba gear, and I will be diving my first wreck with my son and sister. We have come together to share our love of all things scuba. Still very much a novice diver, I am both excited and apprehensive to be diving a wreck. The dive gear shopping didn’t go as planned; the weather is looking ominous, and as a Senior Scuba Diver, newly certified, I hope to keep up with my younger, more experienced dive buddies – after all, there is no age limit for scuba diving.

Senior Scuba Diver Marks Birthday with Deep Sea Celebration

Leaping out of bed on my birthday and enjoying a good coffee and breakfast before triumphantly diving my first wreck is the plan. Instead, my stiff muscles move begrudgingly, my back aches and even my cuticles are sore. I haven’t run a marathon or even been to the gym. I have been buying dive gear and trying on wetsuits. Waking up physically exhausted after a marathon is understandable, but waking up fatigued from trying on wetsuits is pitiful. I am not giving in; I am reclaiming my youth. I am proving there is no age limit for scuba diving. I have decided I am in the body of a 35-year-old, and I am proving it on my birthday dive weekend. 55 is the new 35 when you dive

Birthday card and coffee

A small concession – I enlist the help of my sister Natalie to tug on my wetsuit before heading to the dive center. Josh my son, having seen way too much the day before, quickly disappears. He is more than likely shaking in a corner somewhere – traumatized by images of his half-naked mother being pulled out of a wetsuit in the center of a busy dive shop.

Female Scuba Diver Gears up for a Thrilling Wreck Dive.

At the dive center, nervous excitement fills my body as I look around at the Scuba Women next to me, competently setting up their gear.  Out of breath and a little overheated from putting my wetsuit on so early, I try to look confident as I put my BCD on my tank. I put it on backward, not once but twice. Flustered, I make a guess at how much weight I’ll need and slip the integrated weight pockets into my new BCD.  “At least I won’t have to wear a weight belt,” I think to myself.

There’s raw fear in my gut as we board the dive boat and head out into the unknown.

Woman Scuba Diving – Dive Anxiety – the Nerves are Winning

At the dive site, the boat lurches in the swell; bending over to rinse my mask, I watch in dismay as my snorkel is ripped off and disappears under the boat. Disconcerted, I am still determined to be exhilarated, not nervous.  My Buddy Check is slowly completed as I painstakingly go through BWRAF. I tell myself I am ready to dive.

The surface swim through the rolling waves to the descent line is exhausting. I am reconsidering the wisdom of this dive, but I am in the water and begin to follow the line down. Visibility isn’t good, and the current is pulling me sideways. I am overwhelmed.

Divers descending down a mooring line EMPTY NEST DIVER

Eerily through the gloom, the wreck looms ahead of us.  It is quite a sight.  The current has lessened & I descend to 23 meters quite comfortably, noticing an increase in my air consumption. Huge schools of baitfish dance in front of me, quietening my mental chatter and entrancing me with their sheer numbers.  The highlight must be two big eagle rays gliding above us. Natalie looks at me, clapping her hands. I try and relax into the dive, amazed at the size of some of the fish swimming by.

New Scuba Diving Gear Put to the Test by Fearless Senior Diver

My new dive gear is feeling foreign. My BCD is comfortable and seems to fit. I appreciate the power of my fins though my legs are feeling their weight.  The amount of air I have used reflects my anxiety. The guide takes me back up the line for my safety stop as Natalie & Josh remain on the wreck. The current is racing through. Clinging to the rope, I watch my 3 minutes slowly tick by, my left calf cramping as I struggle to stay in position. Finally, my safety stop is complete. I haven’t been able to stretch out the cramp, and swimming to the boat is debilitating.  Twisting to pull off my fins at the bobbing ladder causes my other calf to cramp. I am in agony. Wryly I think, “There is an age limit for scuba diving, and I am past it.” Relief rushes through my body as I finally make it up the ladder and onto the boat.

Senior Scuba Diver’s Safety Tip: Dive Within Your Limits

I wait for Natalie & Josh to surface. Both come up looking worse for wear. Natalie, who suffers seasickness even in calm water, is very green around the gills, and it isn’t long before Joshua is hurling off the back of the boat. I wasn’t the only one to struggle with the taxing safety stop.

Natalie is keen to get back in the water just to get off the boat. Wanting an easier descent, I add extra weights to my integrated pockets. Josh is hiccupping loudly and nauseous and sensibly decides to sit the next dive out. I secretly envy him, but I am determined to put on a brave face and be a confident Scuba Woman. Conditions have worsened during our surface break, and my anxiety levels are high. The ocean is looking formidable as we roll back into the water.

” Swim, swim, swim,” the guide yells to me as I desperately try to pull myself to the descent line. “Did you see that?” I hear Natalie call. My weight pocket has dislodged and sunk. Another weight is added to my wet suit pocket. All the weights are on one side, and still not enough. I am lopsided and can’t get straight. I am fighting to descend and start to panic. I can’t manage it, exhaustion is flooding my body, and my calf is cramping again. I am in a world of pain. I have no choice but to return to the boat, unsure if I can even swim back. With help, I get back on board. They offer to weight me correctly and get me back into the water, but I am done.  Every inch of my body is shattered.  Mentally and physically, I am exhausted. Both miserable, Josh and I watch as Natalie surfaces from the second dive. She spends the return trip at the back of the boat, throwing up.

Storm clouds

Worsening weather means our planned shark dive for the following day is canceled.  I hobble around like an old lady, every cell in my body aching; even my lungs are sore. Natalie is unusually quiet. Nobody feels like champagne or dining out.

Empowering Women Scuba Divers: Dive Safely and Confidently

Unfamiliar gear, my first dive away from the Keppels, out in the very open ocean, strong current and depth. I will never put myself in that position again. This was a defining dive for me, and I learned a lot about diving and myself. It is imperative to dive within your limits. I spent most of my time out of my depth and managing my anxiety. I was diving with a good company and instructor, but I should have tried my new gear in familiar surroundings and waited for better conditions.

Is There an Age Limit for Scuba Diving?

I am back to believing there is no age limit for scuba diving, and I am sticking to my mindset – 55 is the new 35 when you dive. I am determined to get my body and mind strong and healthy.

With each dive, I learn and grow as a Senior Scuba Diver. I almost always suffer nerves on a new dive site, but I now have confidence in knowing my limits. I am comfortable missing a dive if I am mentally or physically compromised. I will practice, learning from every dive until I am a confident, relaxed, competent Scuba Woman. I love diving and owe it to myself and the sport. I will face the challenges head-on and celebrate my achievements.

It’s Never Too Late – TAKE THE DIVE WITH TANYA – Helping Women Dive Confidently

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Published by emptynestdiver

Learning to dive in my fifties has been a great adventure, I am a senior scuba diver but young at heart.

7 thoughts on “Aging Aquanaut: A Scuba Woman Celebrates Birthday with Wreck Dive

  1. Enjoyed your story and found a lot to relate to. I’ve had those moments too. It’s all valuable learning. I’m determined to be competent, confident, independent, fit enough and keep active.


    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes I feel the same as you, it is part of the reason I love diving, I really have to overcome different challenges and push my boundaries. When I get it right it is so good and I learn when I don’t. I’ve come a long way already, but still have a journey ahead


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