Salty Love and Sanity

Coach Izzy

First off, I would like to say “My Bad!” for being out of touch for so long.  My computer flipped me the bird and got an attitude.  Yes, I did back up my data in case you are wondering. What a relief when I accessed my back-up account and found all my files. Blog posts, articles, pictures, podcasts in progress, videos in progress, you name it, all there.

My computer is fixed and back in action (Thanks Sal! You are an awesome tech bro!).  It took me about a whole month to restore harmony but that’s peanuts compared to the big picture.


You bet! Back up! Back up! Back up!  Those instants of anxiety and uncertainty quickly become a memory once you confirm your intellectual work is safe and sound.  Loving cloud technology!

Anyway, back to business and onto the main topic.  What’s up with this “Salty Love” thing? Hey, get your mind out of the gutter, ain’t nothing like that. The Salty Love comes from the beautiful waters in my backyard, Puget Sound.

Those who know me know how much I love scuba diving.  There’s a power in salt water I cannot describe and there is a need in me to be close to it and be part of it.  The first time I visited the underwater world in scuba gear was one that changed my life, a moment of enrichment and completeness.  My fellow divers know very well what I’m talking about.

Alas, many of you also know how I allowed my previous obligations to keep me dry and how I allowed them to create a creeping time gap. “I’ll dive next week” turned into “I’ll dive next month” and eventually “I’ll dive next season”. And within an eye blink, a year went by.  I regrouped with the best intentions and returned to the water.  I promised myself I would not neglect my diving again.

But I did not let it last.

I was still in the process of discovering myself, of learning to prioritize, and learning to step out of my comfort zone.  I was in the process of learning to separate my work life from my personal life, and I fooled myself into thinking both could co-exist in the same dimension.  The unimportant appeared crucial and again, I started compromising my personal life.  And just like that, “I’ll go diving next week” turned into “I’ll go diving next month” and so forth until without warning, two years went by.

Without realizing, I distanced myself from the world I love so much.  I was so overwhelmed I even contemplated selling my diving gear, and had the ads prepared.

Don’t get me wrong.  That hiatus was a time of tremendous learning and professional growth and has allowed me to help people like never before, but I was lacking balance.  I could only see myself occupied every hour with every aspect of what I thought should have priority in my life.  Leisure seemed an irrelevant waste of time and going back to diving out of the question and I thought I could close a chapter of my life by selling my gear.

Yet something stopped me.  Somehow I knew I’d be back in the water, but the reality I had created stood in the way.  I wasn’t miserable but I wasn’t happy either.  I was just coping and though I did not see it then, frustration was marring my health and creating stress for my loved ones.

There seemed to be no escape.  There, was my diving gear, gathering dust, beckoning me to return and reminding me life is not complete if one does not know how to fully enjoy it.

And that is when life decided enough is enough and kicked my butt to teach me a lesson and open my eyes. Life sternly showed me that ultimately, I, and only I, was in charge of my decisions and the outcomes they brought.  If I was away from the water is because I had let it happen.

The lesson was painful but it did not escape me. As my life started changing, I made it a priority to return once again and this time for good.  The curious part is things started unraveling as if they had been meticulously planned. Every event, every major action led me back to my neglected passion and to my fellow divers.

There is a curious effect I call “the sealer of gaps”.  Whenever I meet with good friends I have not seen in a long time or visit dear places to which I have not been in a while, the time lapsed seems irrelevant.  I see my friends and I feel as though we saw each other a few days ago.  I visit the old familiar places, and even when they boast change, they still feel comfortable and homey.  The time gap ceases and we pick up where we left off.

And that is how June 18th finally saw me return to the underwater realm which I so very much love.  The weather wasn’t the most stellar at Cove 2 (chilly, drizzly, rainy, hey it’s Seattle!) but the diving was awesome!  Some of the top visibility in Puget Sound and a nice array of critters welcomed my return.

I was privileged to have my friend and instructor, Bob “Grateful Diver” Bailey, as my dive buddy to help me get my feet wet again.   Diving is a skill and equipment intensive activity and it holds true to the”use it or lose it” mantra.

Getting into my cold water gear felt suffocating and restrictive, just like it did the first time I donned it.  I knew the feeling would dissipate in a matter of minutes as my body reacquainted with it but it only took a few seconds, Booyah! I was ready to get in the water.

My rig was a single tank configuration with long hose and Bob was diving side-mount.  We went over emergency procedures, gear check, and reviewed our plan; it was time.

It would be an understatement to say how awkward the first few minutes of recovering “my diving legs” were. For a second I thought I did not have enough ballast but Bob reminded me to stop kicking during the descent. Timing between BDC inflator, Drysuit inflator, equalization and trim were rusty, the first few minutes were a silted mess and I felt horrible I was ruining the visibility for other divers.

And suddenly I relaxed and let go.  The “sealer of gaps” was effectuating its magic and what seemed foreign started to feel familiar again. The struggle ceased and that incredible, addicting, mesmerizing feeling of weightlessness returned as I was now able to focus on the underwater world and its beauty.

Dungeness crabs with the boys protecting their mates, Red-Rocks crabs in their  fighting stance, shy shrimp scurrying at our presence, sculpins giving a lazy glance, lingcods, rockfish, plumose anemone, and massive starfish minding their business, and  attesting for the rich life of our waters.

The highlight of the dive was seeing my first Giant Pacific Octopus tending to her eggs.  What a beautiful sight of the majestic creature nursing and protecting her soon-to-be offspring.  I plan on returning to check the progress of the young ones in the hopes of witnessing the hatching!

On our way back I realized I was slightly underweighted.  I had not taken into account the thick (but awesomely warm) undergarments I had under my suit.  More often than not, thicker undergarments mean more ballast is needed.  No biggie, I would add two pounds for our next dive.

What a way to return to the water! The surface conditions were gloomier, rainier, and darker but I did not care; to me it was a magnificent day where the mist of the air accentuated the aroma of the salt water to reawaken happy memories.

After our surface interval, gear fine tuning, and discussing our venture for our next immersion, we headed for our second dive.  The tide was almost at peak low and dragging silt and snot. The visibility of the first dive would not be there but it was still decent.

Shortly after my descent, a sharp sensation came from the left side of my neck, radiating down my chest and left arm.

I slowed down and stopped briefly.

The sensation grew stronger and continued down to my midsection and my left leg, eventually reaching down my left foot.


My suit was flooding!

I had not experienced a drysuit flood before and what an unpleasant feeling it is.  I signaled Bob and we ascended.  Since we had been underwater for only 2 minutes, Bob offered to check my neck seal and see if this was operator error or the suit itself.

We moved to an area in which we were able to stand up and I could remove my hood.

“Oh Wow!” Bob said as he helped me unroll a bunched up neck seal – “No wonder you are getting drenched there”.

We discussed whether continuing the dive with wet undergarments or call it a day, the decision up to me. I knew the undergarments were designed to stay warm even when damp, it would only take a little longer for temperatures to catch up. I decided to go ahead with the dive with a conservative profile.

This dive was highlighted by the little critters as we made our way to wreck of the Honey Bear.  Lots of Nudibranchs, shrimp (I’m amazed at how incredibly FAST they move underwater), and my first ever lumpsucker, beautiful tiny critter in a funny looking way.  Bob has a fantastic eye!

I have to say that in regards to Bob, I was amazed at how freely he was moving underwater in his side-mount rig. He could easily turn sideways and even went upside down.  I have never seen anyone in doubles do that.  It is something I will definitely consider for the future.

As much fun as I was having, damp undergarments caught up and I started getting chilly.  We headed back to shore and I was pleased at how two extra pounds of ballast made a tremendous difference. I found myself hovering in five feet of water without issues.

What fun! Nothing like that feeling of opening your neck seal at the end of the dive to relieve the vacuum of the drysuit.

Poof!!  Ahhh!!

That was the reminder of my damp undergarments and time to change.

A distant fog quietly sat on the sound, the invigorating drizzle mixed with the salty breeze and the famishing aroma of fried fish.  A cup of coffee with a bowl of soup followed by a cold beer sounded pretty darn good!  Bob, my loving wife Kat, and I headed to the international district for Dim Sum, meet some friends, and talk diving.

The “sealer of gaps” had done its magic again.  I felt as I had never been absent from the underwater world.  All the resentful feelings I had within me for allowing such hiatus vanished.  All that remained was the euphoric post-dive feeling, the camaraderie of other fellow divers, and knowing I would be sleeping great that night, dreaming weightlessness and bubbles, and planning my next dive.

I am in charge of my decisions and my destiny.  I do not mind working hard and doing everything I have to (and then some) to grow as an individual and as a professional, but I have also learned about the importance of pursuing the activities we enjoy to reward our efforts and keep our sanity.

Being part of the saltwater is crucial for my own mental health.  Too long it went neglected, and too long I went paying a price I did not even see.

I look forward to many more adventures with my fellow divers.  If I do not see you beneath the surface…

I’ll see you on the exercise floor!

About The Author


Coach Izzy has been part of the Strength and Conditioning field for over 25 years. He speaks of the advantages of self-sufficiency and the drawbacks of relying on the liner approaches the health world seems fond of.