In May 2009, Anthony Jochim, Josh Blakeslee, and I found our selves on Long Island in the Bahamas. My chair caught fire before we left home but we rewired it on site and got it working on day 25 of our 28day trip.
Anyway, in September, I took a team of 9 to the same place for an extended visit. While I was there, I met Kris Newman, a cool machine shop, and dive master, Jack-of-All-Trades - kind of like me. We hit it off quickly cuz we have a lot in common and I needed some structural work done on my chair.
Kris and I got talking about diving, regulators, etc. I happened to mention a dive shop up in Washington wanted me to buy a full-face mask to try it out and there was no return policy... Kris just happened to have a set of high quality full-face masks called "Supermask 48"
I was like a kid on Christmas Eve - I couldn't wait to try one on. A few days later, we had a free day and I tried one on. Wow, it felt securer. I could suck it to my face and felt no leaks.
Kris and I wanted to take it very slow - baby step by baby step. We hooked up to an air tank and breathing was real easy. I didn't need to bite a mouthpiece or anything. I simply took normal breaths through my mouth. Thinking to myself, "no, this can't be, this is way too easy."
Never the less, the "SuperMask 48" worked so well, I was chomping at the bit to try it on the surface of the water. It worked flawlessly! I was expecting some flooding in the eye mask or mouthpiece areas, but they kept bone dry. "This is too good to be true!" So after a few more tests on the surface Kris and I decide, "lets take the next step." We try it with my face down and a life vest on. This lasted about fifteen minutes around a small jetty at Kris' place.
Big schools of small shiny fish, odd looking holes in the sand, mounds of sand, fish, conch shells all the time felling so secure. I remembered at the same time to stay aware. We then tried it without a life vest for about ten more minutes which felt so free!.
Floating without worrying about air is so relaxing and fun it's hard to put into words. After we were done, Kris and I talked about trying the same thing at Dean's Blue Hole the up coming Saturday. Not deep, just on top. Kris wouldn't let me anyway cuz, I'm not a diver. I might know very basics - however, my rule of thumb is "test equipment for many hours before you rely on it." Wheelchairs, masks, whatever it is, test it.
I see a thirty or so degree funnel shaped ledge dropping off into dark blue. Translucent fish were everywhere but they weren't scared off. Every now and then I'd see a fish with fluorescent coloring, WOW!
The northern side of the hole had more cliffs. We floated all the way around the perimeter that I can't begin to describe. Brain coral, lionfish, soft coral, Sea Weed, fish, everything!
After we went around the hole, I just floated for a while, stretching out my back and simply putzing around. Again, it felt so awesome just floating around. I'm hooked!
Here are a few "words of Kirk" - I don't think agencies and organizations or even people with disabilities realize how many times the disabled take life in their hands every day. Wheelchairs; if a joy stick spring breaks, ZOOM-BASH. Brakes lock on a hill and face plant on asphalt. Misread an edge on a road. Your hand spazzes on a dock - oops...
Try not to limit yourself, but think safety first!
Thanks Kris for being willing to try new stuff.
A good friend.