Europe, Photography, Story, Travel

SCUBA Diving Silfra or How to Flounder in a Dry Suit

“They call it Silfra – which means Silver in Icelandic – because all the bubbles make it look like silver rising to the top.”

I’m not sure I entirely believe that but I was captivated by our DIVE.IS guides nonetheless. I was about to participate in one of the biggest boasting notches in my belt – SCUBA diving in Iceland – and I. Was. Stoked. I was about to dive between the North American and Eurasian plate and is consistently listed as one of the top cold water dives to do in the world.

It was followed up with, “As this is melted glacial water, you’re looking at 500ft of clarity,” *DROOL* “…and 2C water.”


I knew it was going to be cold – obviously – but to be staring at it with such desire and be such a weenie with the cold, I had mixed feelings about how this was going to go over. I was also stubborn.

Stupidly STUPIDLY stubborn.

This was the second time I had gotten sick right before a dive (the first time being in Bocas del Toro) and seeing as I wasn’t about to return to Iceland any time soon, I was going for it anyway.

We all stripped down to our long johns/long janes and massive wool socks pulled to our knees and awkwardly stared around at the group of divers. There were 4 of us in our group (and about 20+ snorkelers), all just waiting for our turns to be fitted. Do you really understand how funny 20 people look walking around in the ultimate of fitting underwear? Silly. There is nothing less sexy than looking at skinny men in long underwear.

Before we got into our dry suits we also go another thermal layer that looked like we were part of the Apollo team. It made me feel a bit better about the water I was getting into. I didn’t want to feel like my nipples could cut glass the entire dive.

Then came the dry suit. This was our first time experiencing the bulkiness of such a monstrous scuba suit. This has to be waterproof so you have to pretend you are being birthed all over again while making horribly unattractive faces.

See below.

“Oh yeah, there is one thing you need to know divers.”

He put on his serious face.

“Iceland has 300+ earthquakes a year. There is a small chance that an earthquake will happen while you are down there and if it does, the tectonic plates may come crashing together. Divers, you will be killed instantly.” as he clapped his hands together. “My snorkeling group, we will be okay because the water will push us up and out of harms way. Just thought you should know.”

Like that would stop me. I would sooner grow a baboon on my a** than have that happen while we are there. And seriously, how awesome would THAT description be on my gravestone?! I just feel bad for the sucker who was recently drowned by swans. True story. He got the shaft.

As we put on our gloves I came to terms with the reality that I have freakishly small hands. I already failed at attempting to play the guitar during the angsty teen years but now I had to deal with the fact that I was stealing the only pair of extra small gloves.

Then you are fitted with your BCD (fancy scuba life vest) and they attach an extra hose to your suit and you have to haul all of the equipment about a quarter of a mile to the platform.

I felt like I was being asked to drag my house across the Sahara Desert. Dry suits are warm. Very very warm. They don’t breathe. And are warm. Then add 50lbs of tank, an underlayer, and your flippers in hand and pray you don’t drop anything. I could imagine shrieking, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” and feeling like an old lady as I flopped around helplessly.

Luckily it didn’t come to that.

We clumsily made it into our flippers and got in.

And this is the part when I found out that my gloves didn’t really fit over the dry suit and freezing water came flooding in. Thats okay. I don’t need my hands, right?

And then we went under. I already have a hard time getting negatively buoyant due to the massive attachments that have made themselves known on my chest. Add in a dry suit and some extra air and you have a very floundering Erica.

Add in air to suit. Add in air to BCD. Oh God I’m shooting to the top. Oh Lord I’m sinking to the bottom.

I felt as though this was my first dive and I was incredibly frustrated.

And then it happened.

What started as a small annoying feeling in my ear turned into one of the most painful moments of my life. I couldn’t equalize – which means I couldn’t go down very far – and the migraine took over my vision. Things went blinding white and all of a sudden I could feel how cold the water really was in the canal of my ear.

It was bad. I was stupid.

…and the rest of the dive turned into glorified snorkeling since I had to hang near the surface of the water. I was mad, frustrated, and hiding back tears from one of those experiences that was supposed to be life changing. Shaun got to go onto the second dive (which is supposed to be way better than the first!) and I had to sit at the top with my sunglasses on, cringing every time I moved my head too fast.

I was devastated.

So word to the wise, make sure you are in tip top condition or you will be making a pricey mistake. And while it is a bit more on the expensive side, I couldn’t have imagined spending my money any way else. Shaun was so ecstatic when he came up from his second dive – it was contagious. I was mourning my loss of an opportunity but I couldn’t help but do a little victory dance for him.

So Shaun has 1 more dive than me now.


Disclosure: We did receive a discount when working with DIVE.IS but all opinions are our own.

15 thoughts on “SCUBA Diving Silfra or How to Flounder in a Dry Suit”

  1. Argh, so sad!! I would have been very disappointed too.

    I haven’t thought about getting certified, although I enjoyed my intro-to-diving lesson at the Great Barrier Reef. If diving in Iceland isn’t enough of a reason, I don’t know what is.

      1. If you want to do it again, invest (or borrow) a face mask with slots around the nose so you can squeeze and gently blow into your nose and equalize your ears. The same thing happens when you descend from a high flight in a jet. Practice this so it won’t happen to you again. It’s so simple, but crucial.

  2. But Erica you were WARMER than him!


    Yeah that’s about the best positive spin I could get on that one. Dude that sucks butt sorry it happened to you.

    out of curiosity from a fellow diver, what was the exact cause?

  3. Aww no! I’m sorry the dive wasn’t as amazing as you’d hoped, Erica. 🙁

    But at least you can still say that you snorkeled/swam in between 2 tectonic plates, right??

  4. I tried to get my scuba certification a few years ago, but I couldn’t clear my ears in the pool due to chronically messed up sinuses, so I knew it was pointless to continue. Plus the more I learned during the classroom part, the more it all freaked me out. I’m ok with snorkeling. As for the crazy cold water stuff…NO WAY! But I hate that you weren’t able to do this dive, it sucks to feel like you’ve missed your one chance at doing something amazing. But I’m sure you’ll get another similar chance another time!

  5. That looks like an incredible dive spot … makes me super jealous (of the clarity, not so much the 2 degree temps). It sucks enormous donkey balls that you couldn’t equalize though … arrrgh! What a time for it to happen! 🙁

    1. The clarity was nothing like I had ever seen before. I’m glad I was able to go down a bit – I would have been mad if I couldn’t have done at least that!

  6. Shaun has 1 more dive than you. But, still you stole the limelight. The way you explained your experience is so awesome. Blending some sense of humour here and there in your article is truly great. You just simply brought smile on my face.

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