Geeks Underwater

Geeks Underwater at Julian Rocks, Byron Bay

What happens when 5 landlubber geeks go diving at one of the worlds most beautiful dive locations? Lots of salty water, the smell of fear and plenty of fun! I know because m a self confessed computer nerd and I take breathing for granted every day of my life.

Located just off the coast of Byron Bay NSW, Julian Rocks is one of the worlds best dive sites. Through our relationship with underwater.com.au, the Nextwave Media team was set to dive into this magic location. After months of internet development, we were about to taste the salt water Tim had been telling us about.

"..downing the brews like we may never return from the deep sea voyage ahead..."

Matt is excited. Julian Rocks, Byron Bay

The night before, most the crew from Nextwave were out on the town, talking big of our upcoming adventure, downing the brews like we may never return from the deep sea voyage ahead. Kym had been diving before at the Great Barrier Reef, but later exclaimed that Julian Rocks was far better. Matt was scared out of his wits and went home early to get a good nighs sleep. Ryan was also worried after I kept jesting about the shark attack stories I had heard from Matt. Nick was smart enough to sleep early, the rest of us barely caught 6 hours shut eye; not sleeping was a good way of avoiding the reality of what was to come. As for myself I had fear in the back of my mind, but I realized it was one of those things that just had to be done.

Nick, our resident database guru. Julian Rocks, Byron Bay

8:30 at Sundive, only 4 of were on time, worn eyes and growling stomachs to boot. After the late stragglers had assembled, we were taken through a little introductory lesson by a guy called Matt. (there is an company joke about this name, as there are at least three Matts that I work around daily.) Any 6 year old wouldt have had any problems with the intro lesson, but it was the re-occurring questions about sharks and other lethal events that kept us on the edge of our seats.

"..we headed to the pub for what could have possibly have been for the last time.."

In the pool we learned to breathe underwater, recover our regulators and clear our masks. This was to come in handy later on. After splashing around blindly like fish in a barrel, Matt proclaimed us ready. Stripping off the gear we headed to the pub for what could have possibly have been for the last time. Unfortunately we were advised before leaving not to consume alcohol. We ate lunch under the advice that a full stomach made for a better dive. After that boat trip I would advise not eating too much, and if you believe in karma, try and avoid the sea food.

Green Turtle, Chelonia mydas. Julian Rocks, Byron Bay

Meeting back at the ranch we began suiting up and loading the boat. The air was thin and everyone seemed to be slightly nervous. The trip in the truck was interesting. The drivers talked about shark attacks, death from sky diving and other related themes that helped comfort everyone, particularly Ryan, who is not at all fond of sharks or dying.

"...I traveled down the rope, amazed at this new underwater world..."

Once we were on deck things started feeling real. I sat at the front, and bouncing over 4 metre waves made me reconsider my choice of lunch. We arrived at the buoy and it was crunch time. Geared up we all launched backward into the water. I remember lots of splashing and yelling. Later I heard that some of our crew were reluctant to submerge but managed to continue after some coercion from the instructors. I traveled down the rope, amazed at this new underwater world. At the bottom I felt a clam wash over me. m not sure if it was the copious amount of oxygen I was consuming while hyperventilating or the restrictive movement that made for a slower paced mood; but everyone seemed to chill out.

I began familiarising myself with the equipment, buoyancy was a bit tricky. I started using my air inflator as a jet pack which may have contributed to my lack of oxygen near the end of the dive. You dot totally realize it but so many behaviors are automatic. I tried to talk to Ryan when we met at the bottom. All he would have heard wasbubble, blub bbbbb, blah, bubble blub blub I opted for the okay sign after that.

Once we were all on the bottom, we were ready to go. We followed the instructor through a sort of under water canyon. My first impression wasWow, this is AMAZING I mean, I'd seen video of stuff underwater before, but nothing will prepare you for the brilliant vibrant colours and all the sea life!. There was so much variety, lots of them, and some of these and one of those. Sponges that looked like mushrooms or fungus. Another that looked like grass, rustling in the underwater breeze.

"...Next up was a giant sea turtle. Man it was big..."

I kicked and swam over rocks and down into a hollow, Kym pointed out a cave to my left that was filled with those yellow fish (hey im into computers, not classifying fish species!). It looked like I had stumbled upon a hoard of pirate treasure. Next up was a giant sea turtle. Man it was big. We were watching it under a little shelf, when I turned to look at some of the other amazing things going on. Upon turning back I found the turtle about 15 centimeters from my chest heading straight up. That was a heart pounding moment as I fluttered about in the water, waving my hands around trying to move backwards.

Further along we came to a path made from broken shells that had formed a fine sand. The texture was amazing and you could almost walk on the bottom like it was dry land. The journey took a dramatic change as we descended several metres over a sheer wall down to an open sea bottom. Following the rock wall along we got to another alcove. The instructor stopped and turned to greet us, He pointed down at something.

"...the thrill of having my boss nearly eaten by a shark .."

I think I was too bust taking everything in to notice, but when I looked down there were 2 wobbiegongs lying on the bottom. I didt get totally scared but I was more in awe. Their camouflage skin didt hide them on the white bottom but it looked amazing never the less. To think that they could have freely taken a hand or foot off anyone of us is very primal and grounding. Its also ironic as Kym managed to sink down to within 1 foot of one of their heads and only realize almost too late, pushing water onto it as he frantically tried to go up. Fortunately nothing happened but the thrill of having my boss nearly eaten by a shark was something that made the experience even greater.

Numerous times along the trip I had to clear my mask, I think it was loose but I wast able to tighten it. m glad I learnt the maneuver in the pool well, and after several attempts it soon became second nature, like someone adjusting their glasses. I think the mask clearing, hyperventilating and jet pack propulsion all greatly subtracted from my air supply. My advice to first comers is, relax and breathe slowly. Dot use your air flamboyantly because you never know when you might need it most.

"We had battled the deep unknown and returned to talk about it..."

I signaled a dive instructor that I was low on air, about 40 bars worth; and remembering the training in the pool that the dial was up to 40 bars inaccurate, made me think I could been on the way out. I started to really try to conserve my oxygen, breathing slowly like the professionals had the whole time. On the return trip we almost had a head on collision with some incoming divers. They seemed more experienced and passed us by without a second glance. Ascending the rope was reassuring and after hitting the surface I knew I'd made it. We all got on board and removed out gear. The air was excited this time. We had battled the deep unknown and returned to talk about it. Long before scuba, an experience like this would have seemed like a heroic feat, and we weret sparing any of those feelings.

After completing the introductory dive, I'm keen to get into it. We are planning our next trip for a few weeks away. We are so lucky to be able to experience another world so easily. Its got some of the feel of space, with lots of alien life forms and the quality of a discovery channel documentary.

Swimming and surfing are one thing, but 36 feet under the surface is certainly another world. One where you entrust your life to the equipment you use, the people you dive with and lady luck to protect you from giant squids and the sort. Scary thoughts aside, I would recommend scuba diving to anyone who hast tried it. If, like me, yore not the most able seaman who ever lived then you should share a similar experience!

Thanks underwater.com.au, Sundive and my workmates from Nextwave for being part of it

By Madhava Jay - Photos by Tim Hochgrebe Planula Divers Retreat and VideoMan of Byron Bay www.planula.com.au

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