“Slime-sucking Neanderthal! How dare you question my loyalty?” ~Eva, Surf Nazis Must Die, but more likely, the staff at the Kadena Air Base weather office that make up the Sea Conditions for scuba diving on Okinawa in response to anyone who questions such determinations.
“I am the Führer of the beach!” ~Adolf, Surf Nazis Must Die, but more likely, the Officer-in-Charge of the office mentioned above, no doubt nicknamed “Adolf.” He’s probably short, clearly with a Napoleonic complex.
“If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.” ~Katharine Hepburn
“Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt
I’ve been sulking here, in my condo, since Tuesday, watching through our picture windows overlooking the East China Sea the Japanese scuba dive charter boats come and go all day long to the calm, clear and warm waters of Sunabe, literally our front yard and playground all in one. Although we have full sets of dive gear, humped across the 10,000 mile journey to Japan in order to use early and often, what we are missing are tanks.
You know, those thingies that allow you to breathe underwater and use all that heavy, expensive, and even cool-looking dive gear.
Alas, I cannot rent tanks. At least not from the US-based dive shops on island. And even if I do rent tanks from any one of the four Japanese dive shops within two blocks of my condo, I’m not “allowed” to enter the water on this beautiful diving day as a SOFA-status dependent.
Why you ask?
And they must die.
You see, the military has decided that, like every other dark recess of what used to be our personal lives, that standard rules, regulations and common sense are simply not enough. That, although we in the United States Military are entrusted to use lethal force in the name of the United States overseas and take lives, such a sacred level of trust simply cannot be extended to recreational activities. And, even though the organization we work for will not hesitate to put us in severe and prolonged danger, they wish to shield us from anything remotely hazardous outside of normal working hours. So, even though as certified scuba divers, schooled and tested in all-things dive safety-related, Big Cousin – the military’s fraternal relations to the government’s Big Brother – has decreed that they know better and can dictate our lives in a safer fashion through institution of yet more inane rules.
Rules not based on principle.
There are “Sea Conditions” on Okinawa, for each coast – East and West. Now, this is actually a pretty decent idea. The principle could be sound. But, “The Bigs Family,” the USG collection of overlords, don’t believe, it appears, it either higher education, or simple logic. One element of determining Sea Condition is wind speed: if it is over a certain amount, Danger Will Robison is sounded and not only are the scuba shops barred from renting gear, US personnel on-island are barred from even entering the water.
Ludicrous. Look at this picture taken this morning from my condo of the “dangerous” sea condition!!! Wow, all those Japanese are surely risking life and limb to go diving today….
The problem, you see, is that the Surf Nazis do not take into account wind direction, nor do they even bother with any measure of sea state, both of which are much more indicative of wave action and potential hazardous conditions to divers. Most waves are wind-driven. Even at very high velocity, winds need fetch in order to transfer energy to the water. In other words, wind has to act across a large expanse of unbroken water for waves to build to significant and dangerous height. Okinawa, being a north-south-oriented island, is a natural wind-break for winds from the east and west, which generally means one coast is rather smooth while the other can be somewhat rough. Since the majority of diving activities are best situated on its western side, when the winds are blowing out of the east for days straight – as they have been, steady and true – there is not only a complete lack of fetch for the winds to act, the winds actually act in a restorative action to flatten the seas on the west coast, where I happen to live. Hence the calm, perfect dive weather, even though the winds are blowing 20-25mph….
Diving is in my blood, and I have missed it so. In Pensacola, I traded this particular hobby and lifestyle with another highly addictive one: skydiving. Now that skydiving is gone (there is NO jumping on Okinawa), I’m itching to go diving. And not just for the fun-in-the-sun, outdoor aspect of being on the beach and in the water. And not even to see the world-renowned and always entertaining “Girly-Show” of Jody putting on and taking off a wet suit (wink-wink; it’s a scene from a James Bond movie, at least the one that plays in my mind).
It is for the magical exploration that every dive brings, especially here in the sub-tropical Pacific.
Although I learned to dive in the states (Florida), and did much of my early diving in Florida, primarily in the Florida Keys in the 1990s, I truly didn’t “take” to the recreation until my first stint in Okinawa back in 1999-2001. At the time my Ex decided to get certified, and she quickly became quite a proficient diver and excellent dive buddy. This shared experience back then probably saved our marriage, or as it were, delayed its inevitable end for another six years. Diving became a staple of our lives, mainly because of the world-class diving available on Okinawa, waiting just a few steps and few breaths away from the shore. And thank goodness; many of my more found memories of that relationship (of which I seldom speak) are dive-centric.
Both my children learned to dive here. Daniel back in 2001 when he was 13, and Naomi in 2005 at the same age. We were only able to dive just a couple of times as a family before our nuclear family imploded, and I’m not even sure they have been diving since. That is a real shame when I think back upon the opportunity wasted for everyone. Such exploits can have exponentially dramatic impacts on young minds with audacious hearts.
And now I am able to share this enchanted realm and captivating activity with Jody. Our first dive together was actually just two weeks ago, here, on Okinawa. Yes, we have been together almost three years now, but the diving in Pensacola is…well…less inspiring. And cold. I have been worried about cementing our dive partnership, since I knew that a healthy portion of our leisure lives on Okinawa for the next three years were going to be concentrated on the water, or, more appropriately, what lies beneath. And apparently we are doing okay. She’s still alive, not bent, and not just talking to me, she’s smiling! In my defense (and credit), in our first three dives here I did spot for her a sea turtle, a large octopus out in the open, and her first Pacific sea anemone, complete with a mating pair of aggressive but fun clown fish! An auspicious start to this chapter of our lives together I must say. I am eager to continue writing in this regard, but writing on this subject is best done post-dive, and diving we are, at the moment, not.
I also became a PADI Divemaster here back in 2001, and now I am enrolled in a PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC), where if all goes well, I’ll be a fully certified Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI) by the end of October. And then my playground here will become my classroom everywhere…there is a beach. And I will work where I love, and will truly be able to say that I love my work.
But first we gotta get those Sea Conditions changed.
And those Surf Nazis? They gotta die.
- Going down scuba diving. (sykose.com)