Scuba diving means so many different things to so many different people, which is a topic that has always fascinated me when talking with other divers. We all have our reasons to start and our reasons we become OBSESSED - whether its the quiet, the breathing, the wildlife, the freedom and exploration, or scientific and technical prowness. On my own journey it has proven to be both the most peaceful moments of my life as well as the most adrenaline-filled adventures and everything in between. But anyone can attest to the fact that no matter why you dive, a good buddy makes all the difference!
Kyle & Camille Marshall share their story of finding their unexpected passion for scuba diving and how much learning to be good dive buddies has changed their lives and brought them and their whole family closer forever. Thank you for sharing and inspiring others to take the giant stride!
We are pounding through 4ft waves at 2am on a boat that was already questionable in its seaworthiness. It is pitch black, we are soaking wet, and my wife is on the floor barely conscious with an oxygen mask that is on borrowed time. It is still two and a half hours to get to Male, the capital of the Maldives, and the only place we can get help.
“How in the hell did we get here?”, I asked myself.
It all started about 10 years prior on our pontoon boat in Lake Norman, just a little north of Charlotte. I had a work colleague out for a day on the lake and we had a few beers. Wade started talking about his upcoming SCUBA diving trip and how awesome the sport was. My wife of 16 years at the time, Camille, was enthralled. Much to my astonishment when we got back at the house and settling in for the night she said, “I want to do that. I want to SCUBA dive!”
To say I was a bit surprised is an understatement. Here is a woman who has proudly proclaimed that her obituary should be headlined
“Better safe than sorry”.
Jumping into a sport that involves being very deep underwater and has a significant level of risk was a bit out of character. I had learned a long time ago that arguing was futile, so we started to put a plan together. But as it happens with family, work, and general life commitments, our SCUBA plans were delayed a bit, but Camille was relentless…she wanted to dive.
It was the dead of winter in Charlotte and the kids’ Spring break was rapidly approaching. Little did I know Camille had been online researching SCUBA certifications and vacations for the family. One day she announced, “We are signed up for SCUBA class. It starts in two weeks. Start studying.” The book work and indoor pool certification were a breeze. "This SCUBA is pretty easy" we thought.
Our open water dives, on the other hand, were in the Lake Norman quarry the second week of February. Nothing like 5 feet of visibility and 42 degree water for your first set of real dives.
Calling Camille “uncomfortable” would have been a HUGE understatement and it wasn’t just the frigid dark water or the 10mm of neoprene we were wearing. She was genuinely scared. The only thing I could think about while watching her was a rubber ducky in the bath tub - holding it underwater for a second and as soon as you let go, POP! Right back to the surface.
Only the reassurance, calmness, and patience of our dive master and instructor got her through the next two days. I won’t lie, I was about ready to flip the middle finger to SCUBA diving and call it all a nice try. But Camille showed a grit and bravery to overcome her fears that I had not seen before and truly earned her Open Water Certification. I swear if there was a billion dollars of gold in that quarry I would say, “Good luck to the person looking for it. I’m NEVER going back in there again.”
Our first family dive in Roatan, Honduras was less than three weeks later and was mostly uneventful. It went by as a blur of color and fascination that I think most new divers experience on their first ocean dives. We were back at our condo after the day’s dive chattering excitedly about the fish and creatures we had seen. “Pittsburgh Steelers Fish”, “Baltimore Raven”, and “the funny looking cigar shaped jobber with German Shepherd Colors.” We didn't know what we were talking about, but we were hooked! The Marshall family loved SCUBA diving.
After that trip my finance officer (Camille) approved SCUBA gear purchases for the whole family which was no small concession. I worked in sales with a streaky and unpredictable income. Camille was a full time mom working long hours just to keep the Family Circus rolling. We were far from rich…but this became a priority. So we did like many other new SCUBA divers do and cobbled together the most inexpensive sets of gear we could find. We all had different brands depending on what was on super sale. Our boys were 11 and 15 at the time and were sure to outgrow any gear we bought for them, but Mamma had spoken. Everyone will have their own gear and learn how to care for it. We were really a diving family now.
And as were diving together as a family I began to notice changes. My wife was quickly becoming the best diver in the family. Her nick name had changed from Rubber Ducky to Little Mermaid, Half Tank Camille, and Amphibian. After one particular dive in the Florida Keys, the Captain was asking our ending air pressure and when Camille gave hers the Captain commented, “What??!? You don’t like my air or something!!” We knew the names of the fish, corals, and critters. People started asking us for help and advice on the dive boats. We started going on more and more family diving vacations.
The kids grew up and were off to collage and their adult lives. That left just Camille and I to keep diving and diving we did! Cayman Islands, Belize, Bonaire, Egypt, Malaysia, Cuba. 17 different countries so far and climbing.
Along those adventures, I really started to learn not only about diving, but I
started learning more about life. I learned that there is a huge difference in hair scrunchies and that the ones used on land are DEFENITELY not the ones used for SCUBA diving. I learned that not everyone on a dive is as giddy about my BCD inflator hose quacker as I am. Camille pulled me aside after the second day of our Cuba liveaboard trip and told me, “I heard some other divers talking. If they hear that quacker one more time they are going to put pork chops in your wet suit when we do the shark dive.” And like a small child, Camille took that toy away from me before I got myself hurt. Always the Mom and the protector.
I also learned more about our relationship and what it means to be a true team above and below the water. At 80 feet in the Red Sea when my second stage regulator literally came apart half way through the dive. Camille was there and even had the presence of mind to find all the parts in the sand so I could dive again. There was the time in Bermuda when I was so sea sick I could hardly move. Camille skipped her dives and held a bucket for me to barf in for three hours.
And then there was the Maldives where this story opened. It is too long of a story to cover here, but Camille survived thanks to some amazing medical care in Male. After getting cleared from a specialist, she returned to the ocean 6 months later, careful as ever and with a newly found respect for life and how quickly things can change. She is still the best diver in the family and somehow only needs half the air that the rest of us humans do.
We currently live in Puerto Morelos Mexico and are so fortunate to have some of the best SCUBA diving in the world in our backyard. We average 100-150 dives a year. Always together. Always a team. We have both changed over the years. We have upgraded our original budget diving gear to near top of the line stuff. I don’t pack her gear when we are going away on a SCUBA trip anymore. Camille isn’t afraid of night diving anymore. In fact, she LOVES it now. She even has a place in Cozumel that she made me promise to spread her ashes when she dies. It is at 60 feet on the wild and fast current North end of Cozumel where we once saw a school of 20 eagle rays.
We used to worry about running out of air or accidenally hitting other divers on the back roll. Now we are more concerned about our fashion looks (Thanks Spacefish Army!). Do our fins match our mask? Is there fresh fruit or ceviche on this surface interval? Can we get our adult children away from their jobs for a week at Christmas to come dive with us in Cozumel? Even Camille has changed her motto from “Better Safe Than Sorry” to...
“Play Together…Stay Together.”
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