Sea Goblins and Broken Bones

September 17, 2015, In: Life, Oki

Taking a break in my regularly scheduled Africa posts, I thought I would share the quick story of how I ended up in a bright orange cast. We were diving. I misstepped. I broke my foot. It’s football season. Go Gators! (My husband thinks it means Go Tigers! shhhhhh.)

If that is all you care to read, that’s really all you need to know. If you want a few more details and some pretty scuba pics, here you go:

When we first moved to the island (almost a whole year ago) one of the first things we did was get scuba certified. We were finished with our certs before we even moved out of TLF (Temporary Lodging Facility), but by October the waters had chilled and I didn’t strap on an oxygen tank again until we were in Pemba, Africa this June.

Africa reinvigorated me, so at the beginning of this summer we decided to get our advanced certification. We’d had such a good experience learning to dive from the The King, that naturally we wanted to get our next certs with him as well. In the year since he taught us to dive, he and his wife have become friends of ours and I’m always grateful to have him (and his camera) along for a dive. All of the photos included in this post are his, but from dives we went on with him. You can check out more of his work on the website I designed for him:

Diving Okinawa | Walking Through Wonderland

Typhoon season has been particularly bad for us this year so it took almost two months to finally get (almost) done with our Advanced Cert. We took two dives at Maeda point last Saturday night. A deep dive to 105 feet, and a night dive that was absolutely magical! A lot of people are nervous about night diving, and I expected to be, but the nerves never set in. I was comfortable getting in the water and absolutely enchanted by the time we were under. Night diving might be my favorite type of diving so far! Dane discovered a sea turtle and we swam with him for a little while. We also found a giant eel. The biggest I have ever seen.

Diving Okinawa | Walking Through Wonderland Diving Okinawa | Walking Through Wonderland

Sunday morning everyone came over and parked at our house so that we could finish up our next three dives: navigation, buoyancy and nitrox. We walked across the street and straight down the Kadena Steps (our front yard). Although it was a navigation dive, so we weren’t really sight seeing, in these Oki waters, you can’t help but discover cool things. While we were completing our compass square I saw at least a dozen lion fish, which are my favorite front yard creatures.

Diving Okinawa | Walking Through Wonderland

I also discovered a white stone fish… which looks so much like a fish fossil that- for a brief moment- I considered grabbing him to decorate our bookshelf. (Luckily for me, I refrained.)

Diving Okinawa | Walking Through Wonderland

^^ My Stone Fish Diving Okinawa | Walking Through Wonderland ^^ decorator crabs cover themselves with bits of sponges and coral to help them camouflage right into their decorated surroundings.

Diving Okinawa | Walking Through Wonderland ^^ Nemo!

Again, just like the turtle from the night before, Dane made the coolest discovery of the dive. While we were hanging out on knees, waiting for two of our classmates to finish their compass drill, Dane noticed a strange shape in the sand.

Diving Okinawa | Walking Through Wonderland

He got the King’s attention and pointed it out. Suddenly Kevin (King) was writing furiously on his tablet:

“Sea Goblin! RARE!!!”

For about 10 minutes we all circled the sea goblin watching it move. Rather than swimming, these guys walk on crab-like legs. Every time he would bury into the sand, Kevin would move one finger near him so that he would expand his wing-like fins again. On one such move, a second sea goblin emerged from beneath him. We had discovered mating sea goblins… and NO ONE had a camera.

Diving Okinawa | Walking Through Wonderland Diving Okinawa | Walking Through Wonderland Diving Okinawa | Walking Through Wonderland Diving Okinawa | Walking Through Wonderland Diving Okinawa | Walking Through Wonderland

As soon as we surfaced after the dive, Kevin told us that in all of his very many years of diving, this was only the third time he has ever seen a sea goblin. We had to get it on film. Kevin got his camera rig, the rest of us grabbed our go-pros, and after an appropriate surface interval, we began making our way back down the steps, determined to re-discover the sea goblins.

I’m not great on my feet. I’ve never been particularly graceful or coordinated. When diving, the most frustrating part for me is that I am always the last one in the water, and my entrance is never notably smooth. (Another reason I prefer boat dives to shore dives.) I’d twisted an ankle at Maeda just the day before.

Diving Okinawa | Walking Through Wonderland

Well not this time, I thought to myself. I was geared up, well balanced, and ready to find those goblins. I made my way down the stairs feeling sure-footed. My mask was on, and the guy in front of me was still adjusting his. Awesome. I was not going to be the last in the water this time! I took a step around him, already in ankle deep water, with just one step to go. As I began lowering my right foot, I looked down and… $#%& %@#*&*% &%$#@!

I saw the hole, a full second before my right foot hit bottom, but it was too late, I’d already shifted all of my weight and every pound of me and my equipment came crashing down into that hole. There are giant square holes on the bottom rows of the Kadena steps. On higher levels they are covered by grates, but by the time you get to the water, they are left open. Stupid, stupid plan, Japan.

We all know about these holes. We LIVE across the street from these steps. I walk my dog down them every SINGLE day. Everyone who dives this spot knows about them. Yet Kevin still warns us every time we go down the steps to be careful of the holes. Some are about 6 inches deep, some are more like two feet deep. The depth changes daily depending on the shells and rocks that have washed in. I fell into one of the deeper ones.

I heard my tank slam into the steps as the surf rolled me and my foot back and forth. “I’m done,” I remember saying out loud, before putting my regulator in my mouth and just rolling while the waves crashing over me. I lay there horizontally while the guys swam to my rescue. Kevin, Dane and a third dive master helped me out of my gear, as they dragged my body out of the surf. I was mortified. Here I was diving with a bunch of dudes, and naturally, I’m the one who falls in the hole. But at least, for the first time, I wasn’t the last one in the water. Damn.

I couldn’t cry. There were too many people watching me and I was just too embarrassed to show pain. I fully expected that when we pulled my bootie off (a very painful process) I’d have bones sticking out of my foot, but it actually looked okay. Mortified time ten. Shocked that the foot looked normal and therefore trying to play it off, I said, “I’m cool, I can still dive.” But the King knew better. “I’d like to see you put some weight on that foot,” he instructed. I tried, but melted under the pain. Still I did not cry.

“Okay, I’m probably not going to make it today,” I announced, as if there had been any doubt. “Just go on without me… I’ll be fine!” Everything was said through an unnaturally high voice and forced smile, trying to convince them to just go away so that I could melt into tears. But, no, they all just continued to bob 15 feet in front of me, watching me through their masks. “Go find those goblins!” I said, waving my hands at them. Gosh what a ridiculous sentence to utter.

Dane opted out of the dive to be a good husband, and carried me the 40 feet home, thrown over his shoulder. He made me stick my foot in a cooler of ice. Another reason it’s lucky we have 100 coolers. We waited 24 hours, hoping it would magically heal. Dane was “99% sure nothing was broken,” so I tried to be brave.

Turns out, they did find the sea goblins again, and Kevin got some great photos. Thank goodness– because this post just wouldn’t be the same without them.

The next morning when I could still hardly bear to put weight on it, (even with the super cool golf club cane he’d fashioned for me), he gave in and took me to the doctor, still sure nothing was wrong. “It’s probably soft tissue damage,” he assured me.

False. It was broken. Two dives short of completing our Advanced Open Water Certification. And that’s the whole story.


*Thank you Kevin King for allowing me to use your always phenomenal photos to illustrate the story.

For all of you readers wanting to go get your feet wet (and stay away from the holes), Kevin King with Dive The Blues Scuba is not only a phenomenal dive instructor, but an added benefit of diving with him are all of the amazing photos he takes. As much as I love the grey toned pics our go pro gets, it’s nice to see images that actually capture things as beautifully as I remember seeing them!



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  5. Reply

    Aww I’m so sorry that your foot broke, you didn’t get to see the goblin again and that you couldn’t finish your dive cert thing. Will you go back to finish it once your foot is healed?

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