Fast forward to my mid-teens and you'll find a young lady who wanted nothing to do with fear. I don't actually remember what it was that changed in me, but I remember deciding I didn't want to be afraid. One by one, I started tackling my fears. I made myself go on the zipper at the carnival to deal with my fear of heights. Eventually I made my way all the way to Las Vegas to ride the Big Shot on the top of the Stratosphere (a mere 1,000 feet in the air). When I was 15, we took a family trip to see my mom's family in Southern California. While there, my dad decided to pick up surfing again. He took me out into the surf at Newport Beach. I'm not totally sure he knew about my phobia at this point...but he sure did afterwards. In my mind, which surely has a skewed perspective, the massive storm surf tried to eat me alive, decided I wasn't the right snack, and spit me back out on the beach a snotty, sputtering, sand covered mess. I'm sure in reality the waves were a couple of feet...but these details are minor. What matters is that I wasn't about ready to let that ocean be the boss of me!
Later that day, Dad bought a surfboard and we drove down to San Onofre. He took me out into the surf where I screamed and yelled and cursed, but tried and tried and tried. Eventually, I managed to catch my first wave and ride it into shore. Imagine my disappointment when pictures proved later that my "wave" was, in fact, about 1 foot of foam.... But I was hooked. Maybe I could barely swim, and perhaps I had total chest-stopping panic every time I wiped out and went under water (which was often), but I was addicted nonetheless.
Eventually I worked up to snorkeling - which I realize might seem backwards, but with surfing my face was only submerged for a few seconds at a time. Snorkeling requires your face to, you know, be IN the water. It's the whole point of it. During a trip I took to Belize I went out snorkeling in some very calm, very clear, very shallow water. Even though this was almost as safe as snorkeling in a swimming pool, I felt panicked enough to stop about every 20 feet, lift of my mask, find land, breath, lather, rinse, repeat. Boy were my friends ever irritated with me. But four terrifying hours later, I felt I had accomplished another step in my mission to overcome my biggest fear.
**From top: photo1 taken at Rota Grotto, CNMI by Scott Moen; Photo2 taken by YayRafting member; Photo3 taken at Rota Grotto, CNMI by Scott Moen; Photo4 taken at Pona Point, Rota CNMI by Tara Martin; Photo5 taken at Swimming Hole, Rota CNMI by Camas Baugh; Photo6 taken at Rota Grotto, CNMI by Scott Moen. All Photos Copyrighted.