They tie a rope to a piece of coral 10 meters below and you start to breathe. Big, wave-like breaths into your belly so that they roll up and out of you. Just focus on that. Just focus on that... But then your little toes wiggle in the flippers - a reminder that you still have to paddle to stay up in the air - not time to head down there yet.
"Okay, Ash, give it a crack" says Scott. He and Woody can melt down to 40 meters and stay there for minutes at a time - crawling around on the coral below like octopus(es/i/whatever) - patient, slow and curious. It's epic to watch. Ash takes her breath and dips her head below her feet, grabbing hold of the rope. We watch her place one hand in front of the other over and over until she decides she needs to turn around. About 7 meters... Damn good for a first try according to the boys.
We all take turns at this for some time. Ash has smashed the 10 meters by now, she's lived here by the water for years and shrugs her shoulders in quiet content when we all congratulate her. My turn. She's done it now so I bloody can too I reckon, but I've never been good at staying calm.
So breathe. GiGi's a doctor and she says the body can survive on one good breathe for up to 5 minutes before you're actually in trouble. Funny though, it's not knowing the science that gets you down there, it's not thinking much at all.
I roll over and down with a torso full of air and start to pull myself along. The deeper you get the more you slim out as the particles compress. Right over left, repeat. It's further down than you think. I close my eyes and think about the humpback whales we'll swim with this week. Whales! Right over left, repeat. By now I'm at around 7 meters, I open my eyes and I decide to do it. I'm doing it. If I run out of air on the way up Scott and Woody can help me. Time feels kind of strange down here, marked out by small accomplishments rather than a constant drum. Is that how time feels normally? I don't know, point is it was different.
I realise I'm holding onto the coral, I'm there, suspended upside down at the depth of a tall town-house. It's not the deepest depth in the world but it's further than I've ever gone without an air tank. I close my eyes and all I feel is a deep sway. After a few moments that feel like a deep pause I roll back over and lock eyes with Scott. He's down there with me and throws me an underwater shaka as I grab the rope to head up. I do a little slow-mo boogie and then look up at the surface. It's a way up but I take my time. I start my ascent and the closer to the surface I get the more I start to feel that jolt in my diaphragm that tells me I need air. They told me to push it aside though so I do... I don't worry this time. Up n' up I go, all the while thinking only that I like it down there and I can't wait to go back.