In 1994, I traveled with several friends to Maui. Midway through the trip, we drove four hours to Hana on the backside of the island. We visited the Seven Sacred Pools, a series of ponds and waterfalls stretching from the mountain to the sea. At the lowest pool bordering the ocean, the pond was split in two by a reef.
As I walked atop the reef, I noticed a Hawaiian man diving into the pool, disappearing, then reappearing on the other side of the rocks.
“How’d you do that,” I asked.
“There’s an underwater tunnel beneath the rocks. You can swim from one side to the other.”
“How long is it,” I asked.
“About 25 feet.”
“Maybe six feet,” he said.
“You think I can do it?”
“Can you hold your breath for 30 seconds?”
“Then you can do it.”
I told my friends I was going to swim through an underwater tunnel to the other side of the rocks. One friend reminded me I was Jewish, not Hawaiian.
“Jews aren’t great swimmers,” he said.
“How about Mark Spitz,” I replied.
“Just be careful.”
I took a deep breath, dove beneath the water and looked for a tunnel. The water was murky and I couldn’t see anything. I came up for air and asked the Hawaiian diver where to find the tunnel opening.
“Feel the rocks with your hands. When you feel a large gap, that’s the tunnel. One you’re inside the tunnel, look for a dim light and swim towards it.”
I dove again, pressing my hands along the underside of the rocks. An opening appeared. I swam forward, my hands in front of me feeling the rocks. Suddenly, I panicked. I kicked hard propelling myself forward. My head slammed into the reef. I became disoriented. I tried turning around but the tunnel was too thin. I swallowed water.
I dove deeper and swam into a dark opening. The water became cold. I felt I was running out of air. My shoulders scraped against the rocks as if the opening was getting smaller. Filled with terror and thinking I was about to die, I swam into the darkness. A faint light appeared. I moved toward it, kicking and flailing.
The water grew warmer. I looked up and saw the sun shining through the surface. I kicked upwards and my head exited the water. I took a deep breath and coughed. I looked atop the reef and saw my friends staring down at me.
I learned I’d been underwater for nearly two minutes. I sought out the Hawaiian and screamed at him, “You asshole. You nearly killed me.” He shrugged and dove back into the water.