Getting certified in Miami

It may seem a little crazy to go all the way to Miami to become a certified scuba diver, but at this time of the year it would have been crazy not to. Apart from the temperature dipping to 4*C in NYC, we needed to complete 4 open water dives to gain accreditation. So sunny Miami looked like a good option, and would give us another opportunity to add a dot to the map on the kitchen wall.

I had always thought Florida was full of people who had retired – or who wanted to. How wrong could I be ?! By absolute chance I booked us into a dive shop ( run by an Australia so thought it must be good ) in walking distance from a hotel ( recommended by a hair stylist from a previous job ) which found us in the middle of South Beach. Think Latin, think Mardi-gras, think tropical party-mode and you’ll get the picture. Versace had a house ( which he was murdered in ) on this stretch.  There are art-deco lifeguard shacks on the beach, wall to wall bars selling ‘bulldogs’, a scary combo of 2 coronas perched in a giant cocktail glass, and music and people jiving until the early hours. So much for retirement!

The beach itself is long and wide with a healthy breeze off the sea and lifeguard shacks at regular intervals. The shacks are all individually decorated to fit with the look of the area – an opportunity afforded when Hurricane Andrew blew away most of the peninsular in 1992. Maybe it’s the transience that living in a hurricane zone instills, but there is a relaxed vibe in South Beach, it’s laid back and self indulgent. Even the police follow suit. Traveling along the road from the beach to the lagoon for a diving lesson, we encountered police cars at strategic places, sitting unmanned but casually monitoring the speed of the traffic. At Starbucks I encountered a woman with an outrageous handbag made of feathered rosebuds. When I asked her if she made it herself she purred ‘Armani’…. So it’s easy to see how fashionistas and eccentrics would fit right in here, and how the coffee guy would have no second thought about calling out ‘Versace…..expresso for Versace….!’

I had a particular interest in discovering Cuban food after learning that the Latin flavor of South Beach was primarily attributed to the influx of Cuban and Columbian immigrants. Pulled pork, slow cooked anything with peppers, onions and garlic, and deep fried plantain were typical dishes. But with limited time and a diver’s hunger, the best food we found was thin crispy pizza made by a Turkish New Yorker, tuna salad tossed by a surfing Frenchman and cold cider courtesy of an Irish pub. Maybe I’ll find that Cuban food in the Bronx on the weekend….

Our time was spent mainly in the company of our PADI instructor, who took us first to a pool to learn basic diving principals, and then to a lagoon to complete open-water dives when the wind proved too dangerous for diving on the reef. Laurent was a fastidious teacher, a Monsieur Poirot character, who had all the arrogance of the accent, but the same disclaimer that entitled him to a unique level of superiority. Struggling into my wetsuit ( the achievement of which I thought everything else had to be downhill ) I longed for the days of Mr RG Martin at the Ungarra Primary School where earnest attention and enthusiasm was everything. In the pool I suddenly had to learn how to be fish-like in breathing and in motion, but the combination of rubber suit, air hoses, waisted weights and three foot fins, gave me the dexterity of an oxymoron ( axolotl ? ) and Laurent was not amused…. It was even worse the next day when I inflated instead of deflated at the bottom of the lagoon and suddenly rocketed to the surface in a flurry of bubbles. That was actually a lot of fun and my lungs didn’t explode as he said they would. Even the giant iguana in the overhanging mangroves appeared to be amused…

But I did somehow manage to pass the various tests to become a certified scuba diver. So it was definitely worth the trip, and means I will now be in a position to hire the air tanks and respirator for our next underwater adventure. Opportunity is a wonderful thing…


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1 Response to Getting certified in Miami

  1. John Reynolds says:

    Always look forward to reading about your latest adventure. Your writing gives me an insight into another world through another’s eyes. Looking forward to the next installment. Have a great Christmas

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