Yesterday during swim training I paused in the middle of the workout to don fins and do some kick work. After a dozen or so lengths swimming on my back, I stopped to remove the fins and one of them popped off and sank to the bottom of the pool.
I looked down at the fin on the bottom of the pool. It was directly below the 12 FT marker on the pool wall. I reasoned that I could easily dive down and get it. After all, I’d grown up diving to the depths of the Meadia Heights swimming pool. Why shouldn’t I be able to do the same as an adult?
But when I tried, I got no farther than six feet under the water before giving up. Getting twelve feet down seemed impossible. At that point the lifeguard was making her rounds and I asked, “Do you have anything to fetch a fin from the bottom of the pool?”
She looked at me funny. Then she said, “Exhale first, blow out all your air, and let yourself drop down to the bottom. That should work.”
I tried that strategy too. Then I got out of the pool and jumped back in hoping to sink far enough to finish the job. Then I realized. “You dummy. The ROKA swim shorts you’re wearing are keeping you afloat.”
Once those were peeled off, I slipped into the water again, this time determined to dive to the twelve foot depth and get my fin. It sat down there still as a deceased tuna, mocking my inability to reach the bottom.
I got determined, took a deep breath and began swimming with all my might down toward the bottom. At about eight feet down my ears felt like they were starting to implode, and I genuinely wondered if my eardrums might burst. That scared me. But I finally grabbed that damned fin and let myself float back up to the surface just in time, because I was running out of oxygen too. In all, it was not a feeling of triumph, but of relief.
I tossed the swim fin on the side of the pool and looked over at the guard, who gave me a bit of fake applause, clapping her hands close together like a silent seal. I laughed.
Later on I mentioned the incident to a fellow swimmer in the locker room. He related that he’d once dived to fifteen feet in the ocean and thought his head was going to explode. “You have to pop your ears like you do in an airplane,” he said.
That’s sane advice, I responded. But a better plan is never to let another swim fin drop to the bottom of the pool. At least not in the 12 FT depth. If there’s something worse than being six feet under, it’s surely being twelve feet under. I can attest to that.