Hyperventilating While Surrounded by Sharks and Acting Like a Kid Again in Oahu
Updated: Dec 18, 2019
Day 6, November 25th 2019
As you’ve likely noticed throughout my last few entries, I tend to be drawn to adventure. You’ve also likely noticed that sharks and the ocean are not within my comfort zone. So that’s why naturally, I booked a shark diving excursion ahead of this trip, in order to face all my fears at once.
I woke up on Monday at 6 am to go, solo, in a sketchy van to the clear other side of the island on the North Shore, where I’d be submerged in water with nothing but a metal tank and dozens of sharks around me.
Being either smart or boring (that’s up to reader’s interpretation), Kaitlyn refused to accompany me on the dive, opting for the comfort of Laylow’s pool instead. So, I headed out to my potential death, all alone. At first, the shuttle I had booked to drive me across Oahu did not show up at its’ designated time.
Twenty minutes later, I was still standing on the side of the road as my anxiety grew, worrying I had somehow missed it. Luckily though, I eventually received a call from the driver, telling me he was there.
Now, thanks to both the sea turtle diving and helicopter trips, which picked us up in spotless tour busses, I was anticipating the same for the shark dive. However, to my confusion, I instead was told to climb into an old, gold van, driven by a man who screamed serial killer to me.
The van was dirty and literally falling apart, so I immediately began to panic to myself. My oftentimes worry wort brain kicked in and I conjured up a whole plot in my head where somehow this unidentified man had discovered I was going on a journey alone and managed to figure out how to pick me up on his own instead. Not wanting to be rude in case I was wrong, I knew I couldn’t call the diving company on my own as the driver would hear me, so I texted my sister, gave her the details, and made her call for me. Ten seconds later she replied saying that yes, I was safe. Crisis averted.
The gold van drove me an hour over to Oahu’s North Shore, where I showed up to a dock filled with people waiting to board a small power boat to head out to take the terrifying swim. And then there I was, still flying solo, with a group of strangers - two girls from Canada, a couple from Australia and five boisterous men from Croatia. Thankfully, the two guides for the day were normal looking (and honestly very attractive) guys my age, who warmly greeted me and made me feel more at ease.
We headed out of the harbor to an area in the ocean where the guys promised us sharks would be. And whether my sense of adventure was back, or if I was just trying to impress the good looking guides, I suddenly found myself raising my hand to volunteer myself as the first person to climb into the 6 x 6 foot cage. I’m either really dumb or really daring (again, up to reader interpretation).
With another snorkel mask around my pea sized face, I lowered myself into the cage. This is when I discovered just how real our brain’s power is. While I was acting calm on the outside, my body and brain evidently knew what I was doing was dangerous, and my limbs began to shake and my breath began to shorten. For the first two minutes in the cage, I couldn’t catch my breath. It was as if I had forgotten how to snorkel, something I just did two days ago and have done numerous other times in my life, and I couldn’t seem to get air to come through that stupid tube.
I thought I was pulling off my sudden fear without anyone noticing, but within moments, one of the guides was at the boat’s edge, grabbing me and pulling me up to ask if I was ok. Still putting on a facade, I nodded that yes, of course I was! He helped me put my mask back on and I submerged myself again, this time with more confidence. After a few more moments in the water, I finally relaxed.
Sharks are my biggest fear you guys, so this is how you know that what I say next is genuine. To my relief, I was actual calmed by watching the sharks swim around both below and beside the cage. The Galapagos sharks swam around majestically, paying no mind to the metal device encroaching on their territory. Seeing them move so slowly and with so much power left me feeling peaceful, even as adrenaline continued to pump through my veins.
They say sharks are vastly misunderstood, and while I’m still not positive I’d be down to be face to face with a Great White, I do feel much less afraid of the misjudged fish. The same guide who had to pull me out of the water explained that in all actually, sharks have no desire to “eat” humans. Instead, they go after weakened or dying prey, that’s why most often they swim along the ocean bottom, where fish that are hanging on by their last thread float around at. You see, sharks don’t want to have to work for their dinner anymore than we do, so when there are healthy meal options around, they most likely don’t even go for them.
This is the same way they feel about humans, they know we’re sometimes close to their size (not so much Great Whites, but other species) and so they aren’t trying to turn us into their own personal filet mignons. When attacks happen, it’s because apparently the sharks have bad eyesight and mistake us for seals or other animals they’d actually want to eat. Which is also why instead of being completely munched on, humans usually just lose a limb to a shark, as the shark quickly realizes the human is not what it was hoping for and instead goes on its’ way to find its’ normal food choice.
Learning this made me feel much more at ease and by the end of the trip, I was texting my friends telling them that free diving with sharks was next on my list. Again, adventure Kate has been amped up.
I made my way back to Kaitlyn, thrilled with my insane day. But, instead of finally enjoying some R&R, I began to shower and get ready for a photoshoot I had scheduled with a photographer living in Oahu. I love to meet and collaborate with new creatives, so I figured I had to do so while in this beautiful state. My friend from Mosaic, Ari, recommended a girl to me that she knew while going to college in Hawaii, and the photographer, Jamie, and I quickly set up a date to have some fun.
Jamie, a nurse by day and wedding photographer by night, met me at my hotel. We hit it off right away, talking about God and goals while shooting some beautifully lit pictures in the Laylow’s colorful hotel room. To my joy, Jamie is as adventurous as me, and suggested we take a few surfing pictures too. I can’t surf to save my life, but willing to do whatever it took for the shot, I rented a surfboard, which Jamie strapped to her car, and we headed to Diamond Head Beach.
Unfortunately, while its’ beautiful, Diamond Head Beach is also very rocky. Trying to get out past the sharp objects to the water was one of the most challenging things I’ve done in a while. Struggling to maneuver the board while simultaneously struggling to avoid getting cut up by the rocks was no easy feat. It wasn’t for sweet Jamie either, who kept getting knocked over by waves. Impressively though, she kept her camera above water, even though it meant sacrificing the rest of her body to do so.
But determined to create together, we did not give up and we continued to shoot. No rocks could stop us! Getting a few pictures in, we headed back to the Laylow. Working with Jamie was such a joy. She was so kind, generous and easy to be around. She made me feel confident and at ease as she snapped my picture.
The experience reminded me why I feel so fulfilled every time I travel. I travel not to say I do, but to meet people from all walks of life along the way. Now, if I ever return to Hawaii, I have a new friend who I will be sure to catch up with. How beautiful traveling can be thanks to the gifts we unwrap along the way. Jamie and the other people Kaitlyn and I met throughout this trip, were those gifts.
Kait and I had every intention of going out one last time once we got back, but my pathetic surf session left me feeling whipped and instead we went to a local Vietnamese restaurant, Sweet Home Cafe, and enjoyed some Shabu Shabu. We then grabbed a glass of wine and hopped into the empty hotel pool to unwind before another movie night in.
Swimming in that pool with my dear friend since I junior year of college was another one of my favorite moments of the trip. Kaitlyn and I raced, played games and acted like we were in elementary school again, swimming around as our parents sat on the deck watching. It might sound weird, but it was such a fun time that I’ll never forget. It really is the little moments that you remember the most.