The site was Baby Beach. It was just after 9am. And the waves were big. Really big.
We stopped the car behind Bas. We’d dived with Bas once before, a bit further to the south, off the big lagoon. Bas is who you dive with in Bonaire if you want to dive the east coast with a guide. The east side is much more lively and current-laden than the west. Oh, and there’s East Coast Divers. They have a boat and are more expensive.
But Bas is Bas. He has a black, hand-painted pick-up truck. It looked spray-painted in mud this morning. His wheels stick out past the frame of the vehicle. We parked behind him as we reached Baby Beach.
I knew what he was going to say. He was going to say, ‘Sorry guys, it’s too rough to dive here.’ Looking at the waves coming in large sets, it felt like a certainty. A relieving one.
We got out of the truck and stood in a line, quietly watching the surf pound onto the shore. An old surfer’s hut stood in between us and the shore.
Bas turned to us. He started with, ‘The good thing is that because of the direction of the waves, there’s no rip current today. That will make the diving easier.’
We swung our heads towards him. This was a green light? That there was no rip current?
He glanced at us bashfully. ‘We’re going to put our gear on, and walk down to the shore. This is the really slippy part. But, by the time you get past, it’s flat sand. No surprises. Well, a few urchins but they wont bother us too much.’
I felt my mouth fall open more. Well, that’s ok then.
Bas must have clocked our faces by now, because he smiled – before he carried on. ‘We will wait for a lull in the wave sets. When I say so, I want you to walk. Walk fast. Get as far as you can until you can no longer touch the ground. You will have waves coming at your head at this point, so you can decide to jump or duck as they roll past. Do you whichever you feel more comfortable.
When you can longer touch the ground, I want you to put your regulator in your mouth. Let the air out of your jacket and descend. You wont be able to see much – it’ll be all stirred up, so put your fins on by feel. And once they’re on, swim underwater. Don’t touch the ground because you don’t want to be washed back to shore. You’ll lose the ground you just made.’
We nodded. Rather numbly.
Bas continued, ‘Then we’ll swim for another 15, 20 metres. After that, we surface back up. Now we are past the waves. We carry on surface swimming to the drop-off. Finally, once we reach the reef, we’ll go down for real.’
That was a lot of very precious information to hold onto. Next of course, was how do we get back out? First we had to go in.