I've recently mentioned snorkeling in Baja. This is not as easy for me as it might be for other folks. See, when I was very young and first learning to swim in a tiny neighborhood pool, older kids would play this game where 3 of them would pile on top of a younger kid and hold them under water for a time. I was the younger kid. In West Texas in the 60s, this was considered Big Fun - at least by the 3 kids on the surface. It left me able to swim in pools and open water -- but not near groups of people, and not if I had anything confining on my face that restricted my breathing, like a mask or snorkel*. So when GB proposed that we each buy - and use - wetsuits & snorkeling gear, I was very hesitant. As in, Snorkeling: Do Not Want.
GB persisted - gently (thank you, Gary). He had both snorkeling and scuba experience and knew I'd enjoy looking at critters underwater. So some years ago we took a vacation to Maui with some good friends and because the water was warm enough to swim in I tried snorkeling with GB's and our friends' encouragement. I wouldn't say it ended badly - I got in the water and saw a bunch of fishies and even a sea turtle, which was very cool, but at the expense of labored breathing and a rapid heart rate and only a few minutes in the water here and there. It helped not at all that my snorkel was clogged with beach sand (thanks for paying attention to where you tossed it, GARY), so the snorkel would randomly cut off my air supply. Much panic and thrashing ensued. So on a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate my first snorkeling experience at a suboptimal 4.
I didn't try snorkeling again until the latest leg of our cruise in the Sea of Cortez. By then we had bought the gear (GB loves to shop and was sort of a freight train on the matter), and my thrifty nature to not waste an expensive purchase won out over my fear. It took many short sessions - by which I mean, I hung on to the Fox's stern swim step with my face in the water, with GB refraining from any remarks - to get to the point where I could let go of the boat. Long story short, I can now snorkel for about an hour at a time, the distance and time limited only by weather and water conditions (like, even with a 3mm wetsuit with hood, Baja water is very chilly). Except I really feel better with a flotation device nearby - I drag a $5 boogie-board around with me, like a kid walking in the park with a helium balloon on a string. I'm considering ditching the boogie-board crutch as soon as I find a snorkeling site that's calm enough. No, really. Hey, man - it's my phobia and I'm dealin' with it My Way.
Upside: I've improved my ability to be in the water every time I'm snorkeling, and I've seen some way-cool fish: king angelfish, bullseye puffers, Panamic sergeant majors,even a Pacific snake eel. And much, much more. It's becoming more fun. Downside: The first minute in the water is the worst for me: the cold water penetrates the wetsuit and the gear on my face makes me hyperventilate. I don't think I'll ever be completely comfortable snorkeling, and I still feel as if I can panic easily. But I'm managing it, and GB stays close and watches me**. So it's all good.
* or hands.
** to the extent he can pay attention to anything.