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Facilitators of Fascination

Originally appears in the Spring 2011 issue

Cool water rushes over our feet and laps at the deck as the boat rocks and the stern is momentarily submerged. Sparkles of gold dance on the green sea and the red escarpments of sand stone and black volcanic rock that formed the cove in which we are moored.

“Put your toes to the end of the platform.” I instruct my student, a teen from Wisconsin. She inches forward with trepidation, sliding her rubber fins across the raised grooves on the boat deck as we bobble in the Sea of Cortez in Baja California, Mexico. She is about to take a giant stride into the wild ocean for the first time.

“It’s ok for your fins to hang off of the edge,” I assure her, trying not to shout as I compensate for the loud chaos of chatting teens, screeching pelicans, and the clapping waves around us.

“Keep your snorkel in your mouth, hold on to your mask with one hand and your weight belt with the other. As you jump, don’t forget to look at the horizon,” I say, pointing toward the mountain range in the distance.

This student’s movements are slow and thought out. I can sense her brain thinking the steps through as she slowly moves her hands and feet. With that stiff, thick wetsuit, foggy mask, and salty snorkel she must feel like an astronaut stepping onto the moon, about to plunge into liquid space and the unknown.

Bouncing on the back of the boat, melting in the desert sun, I wait for her confidence to grow.  The air temperature is more than 100 degrees F (38C). The cool water is very inviting. Sea salt is drying to my skin.

“Are you ready?” My words sound positive and encouraging, in a no-pressure, we can stay here all day tone.  She nods her head and says a muffled “yes” which through her snorkel sounds like “tess” as it echoes through the barrel of her snorkel.

“One, two, three, jump!” I pause between numbers and exclaim with the word jump as I give her a gentle but firm push to ensure she clears the platform.

Like a mother bird, watching her fledgling take its first flight, I am there to witness her first interaction with the sea. She seems to hold mid-air in slow motion as her momentum brings her closer to the surface. For a moment, I wonder if she remembered to hold her breath. Her bright yellow fins stretch out like a dancer. She’s only a foot above the water but seems to hover in mid air for eternity until swallowed by the foamy froth with an imploding splash replaced by swirling whirlpools of brine. As quickly as she disappeared, she emerges like a playful sea lion pup smiling through bright alert eyes.

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Tara R. Short is the Founder and Director of Green Edventures, LLC (, a carbon-neutral marine science eco-adventure program for educational groups and women. She is also an avid traveler and environmental activist who lives in North Las Vegas, Nevada.  Follow her Tweets at @greenedventures.