Appreciation for an incredible experience

By: Kate Matheis, high school alumna High School Dive + Sail , Scuba Diving, Sailing

My adventure began on June 18 as I boarded a plane to San Juan from Chicago. Little did I know then that such an experience awaited me that would change my perspectives, challenge my beliefs, and open up a world to me which before I could only imagine. This adventure was Underwater Discoveries 14 aboard the noble vessel Le Galion, lovingly called El Grande.

The apprehension of the first day soon faded into excitement as I attempted to sleep before our first sail to Colombier the next day under a foreign sky that seemed so far away from home. I’ll never forget the first sail, as I was one of the few who remained untouched by seasickness. The unexplored islands and the never-ending sea brought a sense of adventure that still remains with me.

My first attempts at diving in confined open water seemed childish and awkward, feelings that were soon overcome by an amazing sense of floating in a world which I now belonged to. As my diving skills increased, so did my relationships with my fellow crew members. The six other girls, five boys, and two awesome counselors that made up our crew began to form a community in which we all belonged, no matter where we were from, or what we looked like. I looked forward to dinner as the leader shared their quote and toast, and as we all shared “the squeeze’, and our glums and glows. We became a part of each other, not only because of our confined living space, but because we shared the same challenges, feelings, and adventures day in and day out.

Each day seemed to bring a new challenge, whether it was a hike, dive, or group conflict. Along with these challenges came the rewards of making lifelong friends, exploring the underwater world, and seeing the rainforest for the first time. The dives were amazing, my personal favorite being the wreck dive. A huge sea turtle, a giant eel, nurse sharks, black tipped reef sharks, and an octopus include only a few of the amazing underwater creatures that I came in contact with. Each day presented a chance to do something totally new with a group of people who you came to know as your family. I loved being there, and appreciate the way it has shaped who I have become. This once in a lifetime change will stay with me always, and I sincerely thank all those who have made this adventure possible.