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Thursday, 16 April 2015

Nosedive

Just as I was starting my whole "Fear of Failure" project, I had a situation that put me to the test. My friends and I went to the pool for a day and the staff at the pool had opened up the diving boards and there was a lineup of kids diving in. It was interesting seeing the different levels of fear the kids had. Some of them were tentative and wouldn't actually bounce on the board, while others bounced up and down with complete abandon. Then I saw one guy step up who towered over the others. He was a Japanese man and despite his size he looked very young at heart, with a pot belly and a big cheesy grin. He stepped up to the side of the diving board and turned the attached crank to its bounciest setting. Then he walked out to the edge and began bouncing. Really bouncing. I mean, this guy got some air. Every time he hit the board, it would bend so low that I'm surprised he didn't slip off the end. Then he'd bounce back up and he'd get so much air time that he could have made a cup of tea while he was up there. After four or five bounces, trying to get himself as high as possible, he'd launch himself out over the water and tumble in head first, making an almighty splash. He had created a spectacle, attracting other pool-goers to sit by the edge of the pool and watch.

I headed over to join in. But I could barely trust myself to stand on the board with all the shaking and bending - much less bounce or dive. I was worried that I would slip or trip. Smack my head on the board or somehow break my leg on the side of the pool. So I feebly stepped off the edge and flailed my way through the air, hitting the water feet first and struggling my way to the surface.
"Okay, that wasn't so bad," I thought as I rejoined the line. "But the point of a diving board is to dive. So I want to dive."
I stepped out onto the board again, stopping at the edge. That kamikaze Japanese man had set it back to its bounciest setting, so even breathing made it bend. I worked up the courage to wobble the board up and down, before lifting off and jumping with a bit more enthusiasm.
"Alright, that's and improvement!" I thought. My friends were sitting on the side laughing at my awkwardness. Kamikaze was doing the same old thing as before.

Third attempt: I managed to get a bit of air time. My feet left the board for a whole tenth of a second before the launch. I still landed awkwardly, but my gradual improvement was encouraging. I got back in line.
'Let's just push the little kids in,' came a voice from behind me. I turned to find a surfer-looking guy who - while still young - looked way too old to be saying things like that. Not wanting to look stupid, I chuckled and murmured in agreement.
'I mean, they're hardly diving. More like tumbling in.'
'Um... Yeah, you're right.'
I got to the front of the line and suddenly felt this surfer's eyes on me. I'd have to try and lift my legs up this time, or he'd lose respect for me. I couldn't have that. So I mustered up the effort, started bouncing up and down, and threw myself up and forward, hitting the water head first.
"Ha!" I thought. "Nailed it! I wonder if my friends saw that?" I turned and saw that they were sitting on the side of the pool with the rest of the crowd, who had all fallen about in hysterics.
"What's so funny?" I thought. But that thought was quickly replaced by another one - "Why does my stomach hurt?" A wave of sickness washed over me, as I realised that what I'd just done wasn't to dive, it was to bellyflop. Hard. I was out.

As I sat on the edge recovering, I watched the remaining divers have fun. Surfer Dude was doing flips and bombs and it was making me jealous. Why was he so fearless and I wasn't? Then Kamikaze stepped up again. He got into his rhythm of bouncing higher than physics should allow. But as he got to the top of his jump, something went wrong. He overbalanced. The gathered crowd gasped as his feet just caught the board in time. He tumbled off and hit the water sideways. Some people panicked, running to go get the lifeguard. And then the man's head reappeared above the surface. His grin was as big as ever and he was laughing his ass off. This was all just part of the fun for him.

"That does it," I thought. "I'm going to dive if it's the last thing I do."
I groaned to my feet and joined back in on that line. In front of me, I saw Surfer Dude jump and twist in the air, hitting the water with apparent ease. A few kids later it was my turn. I decided that if I get injured at least it'll add an interesting end to the story. So I bounced up and down with some real intention this time, and... well... I did it. It wasn't a perfect dive, but I was vertical enough for it to not hurt. My friends clapped on the side of the pool and I grinned a cheesy grin. It was the cheesy grin of accomplishment.

Soon after, a staff member approached us in the line.
'Were opening up the platform higher up. I'm sure you guys are tired of jumping from just one meter above the surface. I stared at the platform above us. It was a stand of solid cement nestled three meters above the pool's surface. Could it really be that much harder?

Kind of. Three meters doesn't sound like a lot, but it looks like everything. This fall would be long enough to actually allow me to think.
"You know what? I've made my point," I thought and I catapulted myself into the biggest cannonball I could muster. It was my final move for the day. As I started packing up my gear, very satisfied with my achievements, I watched the rest of the kids take the plunge. Kamikaze and Surfer Dude were both looking off the edge, then at each other. Then they backed off and started waving kids ahead of them. Eventually Kamikaze took a deep breath and sprinted out into the open. His arc through the air was incredibly ungraceful, but his imposing frame made a big impact on the water. I burst out laughing. Surfer Dude shook his head and walked back down the stairs defeated. All was right again.

24 comments:

  1. Kamikaze is a much, much better role model than Surfer Dude. He was having fun rather than posing. And I love that SD finally realised he had been outclassed. By a long way.

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    1. It's especially funny because all that bravado came at just the one-meter board ;)

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  2. When I was a kid, I had to repeat beginner's swim lessons three years in a row before I would jump off the diving board. Then I repeated junior's swim lessons two years in a row before I was able to do a headfirst "dive" -- i.e. a tumble roll off the side of the pool. So it took me five years to do what most kids did in two. That was the end of swim lessons for me! Every other swimming task I was good at though.

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    1. That's weird that diving was such an important skill to them. It has nothing to do with survival, it will only be useful if you start competing.

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  3. Climb up to a diving board? No problem. Diving from it? Easy peasy. Bounce on it?

    Nope, No way, Nuh-Uh.

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    1. It seems so unlikely that your feet would stay on it!

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  4. Those belly flops hurt a lot. Poor surfer dude chickened out.

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  5. I completed my " duckling " award at the age of 42

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    1. Well that's awesome that you completed it anyway and you didn't just think "It's too late now" :)

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  6. Great use of the letter, "N". I almost expected you to be jumping from a plane. Wonder if Surfer or Kama have ever done that? Ha! Good for you, Michael.

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    1. I like to imagine Kamikaze's grin as he plummets through the air ;)

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  7. How funny that there was competition on the board, ha! I love it!

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    1. And I was kind of sucked in by it as well :P

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  8. How brave you are. I would have watched from the sidelines, filled with fear at the sight.

    Love,
    Janie

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  9. Diving off of diving boards has always made me nervous, too. I keep thinking, "What if I hit the water the wrong way?" Good for you for giving it a try!

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    1. The thing is I think falling on your stomach is the only way you can get hurt :P

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    2. Nope. Belly-flops sting, but if you dive (especially from the higher elevation) and don't get your arms and hands out in the proper position to break the water for your head to follow, then your HEAD will break the water... and it will feel like the WATER broke your head. Believe me, it's way worse than a belly-flop!

      You only need to make that mistake once (twice for a slow learner) before you've learned NEVER to make it again: Get them arms stretched out above your head and make your hands like arrows.

      I remember as a kid, learning to swim and dive, the little ones (like me) would climb to the top of the "high-dive" and just stand there staring down for the longest time, trying to muster the courage.

      I'll never forget when my Sister finally (after chickening out many times) went off the high-dive. She stood there forever, looking down, and then finally sort of just tucked herself into a ball and kinda "rolled" off the board into the water below. It didn't look too good, but she'd finally conquered her fear of the high-dive and that's what mattered.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      'Loyal American Underground'

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    3. That's a cute story! I stand corrected about the belly flop :P

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  10. I remember jumping off the high board when I was a kid. I never dove off of it, though, and you couldn't pay me to do it today. I've either gotten a lot wiser in my old age or I've become a lot less brave.

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    1. I'd say it's wiser. A little while ago I refused to get on one of those rip-sticks because I was certain I'd fall and crack my head open :P

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