Saga of the Kelp

I was awoken on day two of my Optiquatics adventure by the sound of the engines turning off. Fighting the desire to roll over and return to sleep, I made my way above decks. It was bright, sunny and beautiful again just like yesterday. The boat was anchored about fifty feet away from the San Catalina Island today. I listened to the captain, Dave give the dive conditions over the loudspeaker while I sat down to some watermelon and pineapple freshly sliced by Trish. We were at a dive site called “Italian Gardens.” Dave explained that the dive site was pretty much barren except for the frequent presence of black sea bass the size of sedans. He told us they hung out at around forty feet, not often above that. I was excited to see such huge fish, especially after my experience with the white sea bass a few days earlier. Before getting ready to jump in the water Joe pulled me aside and gave me my camera and few quick instructions on how to use it. It was rather impressive looking (though nothing compared to my fellow passengers cameras). The camera was in a small Light and Motion housing with one strobe. I was to touch three buttons, and three buttons only; the on button, zoom in and zoom out. Psyched for my first underwater photography experience I got ready quickly with my buddy Steve. Before long I was striding off the port side of the boat and reaching back up for my camera which they were lowering down after me. I put the wrist strap of the camera over my glove then swam to the bow of the boat with Steve. We started our descent down the anchor line, and reaching the bottom, set out to find some big fish. I will state first that we were completely unsuccessful at finding the big bass. We found lots of gravel, lots of kelp, and several sheepshead crabs. I took pictures of the crabs with abandon, sadly my camera only shot a picture about every four times I tried to take one. The dive continued with Steve and I searching in vain for the large bass and in the meantime taking pictures of quasi exciting subjects for some time. . Annoyingly, my mask was askew and kept filling with water no mater how much I tried to fix it. Steve and I had turned around and begun our trek back to the anchor line when I noticed that I only had 850 lbs of air. We were still some distance from the line, though gradually starting our ascent, so I decided that I should tell Steve we needed to be going up soon. At this time we were at about twenty feet. Sadly, I was still working on my buoyancy in my drysuit, which becomes particularly bad in shallow water. I could feel the air in it expanding, and myself floating further away from the slope that we were swimming along. In a slightly flustered state I attempted to bleed the excess air from my drysuit to no avail. I tried to swim towards Steve again, he was getting further away. I felt something strange at my feet, they seemed awfully buoyant and they weren’t propelling me anywhere. I twisted around, and my mask chose this time to fill with water. I caught a glimpse of several giant strands of kelp holding me by the fin straps be fore I went blind. I cleared my mask. It was definitely the kelp. I tried to break it, the other divers on the boat said it only worked if you did not pull lengthwise, but snapped it. I tried. I failed. My mask filled. I got panicked as I thought about my air supply. I started breathing heavily, very heavily, and pulling in vain at the kelp. Eventually I abandoned this and clawed at my bc looking for the inflator house. I couldn’t find it. I kept trying to calm myself and think but it wasn’t working. Eventually I found the inflator to my drysuit and pressed, hoping it wouldn’t use to much air. I went up slowly, kicking at the kelp. Now I was suspended just below the water. I’m not sure how I made it to the surface, but I did. I dropped my reg from my mouth panting and splashed at the water with my right hand in an attempt to inspire a rescue. A horrible thought hit me just then….where was the camera? Moments later it didn’t matter, I was surrounded by people; Steve the crewman in the Zodiac and at least one other diver. They dropped my weights, stripped my gear and tossed it in the boat. Moments later I was in the Zodiac too, being motored back to the Peace. At the boat, I was settled onto a bench while they hurtled questions at me, trying to figure out if I was actually hurt. I was not. On the other hand my brain was functioning only at the most basic level. I could only think about breathing, eventually this effect wore off. Then I wondered where the camera was. At that moment a diver was climbing onto the boat handing up two cameras! My camera had been saved, though my weights had not. But I was still alive, I had some pineapple and started suiting up again.