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The Power of Vitamin Sea

One dose released Tristan to bloom.

Story & Photos By Kelly Currington

The sense of peace and balance instilled by the sea can create more healing than any therapy session.

For anyone who loves the sea, the feeling of being connected to its powers seems to come naturally. We feel drawn to it for our sense of peace and balance, and to reset from the chaos of everyday life. When we slip below the surface of the waves, our souls are at home, and everything is as it should be. As a scuba instructor, I have had the pleasure of experiencing those powers first-hand and understand they create more healing than many a therapy session could provide.

Teaching people to scuba dive is rewarding in so many ways, but every now and then you come across a student whose transformation is as rewarding to you as it is to the new diver. These are the moments instructors live for. Teaching skills is pretty straight forward, but when the power of the sea makes an actual, literal, and visual change in a person it stays with you forever. One such experience is definitely worth sharing . . .

A young man and his mom walked into the dive shop to fill out paperwork for a Discover Scuba Dive, and it was immediately apparent that this 16 year-old was very shy and withdrawn, and that I would need patience and understanding to get him through the training. During the pool sessions he surprised me, and accomplished the skills with ease, though he never maintained eye contact for any length of time. He would look long enough to see the skill demonstrated and then look down. But he was proficient and comfortable in performing them. I was confident that he was ready to explore the underwater world.

On the 45-minute boat ride out to the dive site, I briefed him on the dive plan and as before, he never looked at me—just stared at the deck. The time came to gear up to enter the water. He was very quiet and waited for instructions. As soon as we stepped off the boat into the sea, I looked up and saw the worry on his mother’s face. I assured her that I would look after him as if he were my own son; she nodded and off we went.

As we swam to the mooring line, I stayed beside him and assured him he was doing just fine. We made it to the line and I briefed him on how we would descend—exact instructions. I asked him if he understood, if he was ready, and reminded him that he must look at me and communicate. He nodded and we slowly slipped below the surface. As an instructor I was on high alert, fearing that he would either panic and try to bolt to the surface or never look at me for instructions or assurance. 

I noticed his mask was fully flooded. I gave him the signal to clear it and he did. It flooded again; he cleared it. This is a skill that can derail experienced divers, but he had listened and learned and did exactly what he should. He stayed calm, looked to me for guidance, and followed those instructions. To my surprise, he was fine and didn’t seem stressed at all. 

Sea anemones are actually marine animals, named after a terrestrial flowering plant because of their colourful appearance.

In the next few moments, the magical healing power of the sea took hold of this introverted, shy teenager, and he blossomed like a morning glory in the early morning light. I could not believe what I was seeing. He started pointing out fish and coral and looking at me with bright, excited eyes. His SOUL was smiling! It was truly magical to watch. We completed our dive, did our safety stop, and got back on the boat. I was so proud. We went to the bow between dives to debrief and plan the next dive. With his mother beside him, I asked how he felt about the dive. This young man looked me square in the eyes and talked about all the fish and coral we had seen. He wanted to know the names of each one, and asked questions about how to learn them all. We spent the entire surface interval conversing about the beauty the sea held.

When I asked if he was ready to do the next dive, he looked at me and said, “Would you really take me on another dive?” The process was different this time. He was looking at me and smiling; he was ready to go. We geared up and off we went. He was equalizing and signaling, looking confident and relaxed. With no mask issues to deal with, he went right back to looking for creatures and showing me his hand signals for each one he found. My mask filled with tears of joy as I watched this young man experiencing the wonder of this underwater world and the healing power of the sea. We stayed side-by-side, and he showed me creatures and I showed him creatures, and when he saw his first shark, instead of being afraid, he turned to me, beaming the biggest smile and did the “shark” sign. 

Spotting a Hawksbill turtle during a dive or snorkel in the Islands is a treat. Staying quiet and calm can encourage it to stay near.

We made our way to the boat and headed back to shore. The flower that had blossomed was closed again. He laid his head on his mother’s back and never said a word. She told me that he had never had a conversation with another adult and when he talked to me the entire surface interval, she knew something special had happened under water. She opened up to me about his struggles, his low self-worth, and his depression. The things I learned about this young man broke my heart, but also made me realize that being below the waves had reached a part of him previously shut off and inaccessible. I was determined to help him re-gain the happiness and confidence the sea had drawn out of him.

Back at the shop I addressed him directly and told him how amazing it was to see him smiling and pointing out fish and taking charge of the dive, and the confidence he had demonstrated. I encouraged him to nurture the experience and get certified and assured him I would dive with him any time. He looked at me and merely said, “Thank you.” I encouraged his mother to keep this experience fresh in his mind, and reiterated the difference in the shy, withdrawn, closed-off kid above the waves, and the excited, smiling, happy, and confident young man I had seen on our dives. She promised me she would and thanked me.

The day ended and I went home, but the events of the day weighed heavy on my heart. I wondered how this kid felt and if he would ever bloom again. I wondered if he realized the effect that being underwater had on him. I wondered if he knew how he had affected me. 

What a treat to spot a friendly Nassau grouper, so-named from its historically large populations in the Bahamas.

The next morning, I was at our shop getting gear ready for the boats and I saw two people on bicycles cutting across the lot. It was this young man and his mother. I was a little stunned to say the least. She approached me and said, “He insisted on getting up at 5:00 AM and coming down here so he could say good-bye to you.” I felt the tears welling up and choked them back as he stepped in front of me. He said he wanted to thank me for taking him diving and for showing him all the amazing things down there. He asked for my e-mail address so he could stay in touch. I told him what an incredible young man he was and how proud I was of him. I reminded him to find a dive shop in his home town and get certified. They hugged me, went on their way and my tears were free to stream down my face. THESE are the moments that remind us how powerful and healing is a single dose of vitamin “Sea.” 

He did get certified, keeping me informed through his journey. He and his mother came back two years later, and he and I went diving together. On the last dive of his trip, he motioned for me to approach him underwater. This young man hugged me tight, and gave me the “Thank You” signal. My mask was again filled with happy, proud tears. He has continued to come out of his shell and has dreams of becoming a divemaster, and maybe even an instructor.

The powers of the sea took this shy kid and drowned his insecurities and self-doubt, unveiled his curiosity for exploring, and filled him with the desire to grow. Of all the students I have taught over the years, this young man’s transformation remains in the forefront of my mind and heart. Vitamin Sea had saved my life many years back . . . and now I watched it save another. 

This is Tristan’s story, and how one dose of Vitamin Sea empowered him to bloom . . .



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Marta Morton spent an hour filming a “flamboyance” of flamingos last September at aptly-named Flamingo Lake in Providenciales. For more of Marta’s beautiful images of the TCI, visit www.harbourclubvillas.com.

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