On the morning of May 9, 2012, my boyfriend, Jon Kieren, and I woke before sunrise to prep for our 350-foot dive. I didn’t realize more was in store besides the new push on depth for the two of us. Prior to this, our deepest dive was to 300 feet. Jon and I have a routine for technical dives. We put headphones on and turn the music up to zone out everyone and everything around us. Afterward, we find “our spot” on the bow of the boat to meditate and visualize the dive until it comes time to gear up.
As far as I knew, nothing was different this morning. We were getting close to the site, and with a simple look, we knew it was time to head back to get ready. I remember telling him we’re so lucky to share such a unique and special experience. We geared up and did a live drop. We dropped down, did our bubble checks and made our descent to 350 feet.
Once we hit depth, Jon and I regulator-kissed and cheered. While he turned around and fumbled with something, I took in the scene — a sheer ledge with massive pinnacles rising up from who knows how deep. Then Jon turned around and presented a slate. It read: “Lauren Fanning, will you marry me?” Plus my options: “Yes” and “No.”
I had to read it twice to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. When I realized what was happening, I jumped on top of him laughing (while breathing helium and sounding like a chipmunk, and laughing even harder), and all the while my mask completely flooded. He calmed me down and presented the slate again. I circled yes, again and again.
Soon it was time to ascend and start decompressing. I can’t imagine what decompressing for 70-plus minutes would have been like had I said no. But it went by very quickly, and we surfaced to an entire boatful of people yelling, “Congratulations!” We won’t be getting married underwater, though — it might be tough to tec train our mothers. And to find someone to marry us at — I don’t know — 400 feet.
Lauren and I met on St. Croix in June of 2010. Our first date was a dive off of Cane Bay, St. Croix while she was there extending her vacation to do her divemaster course. We have been together every day since. (She still hasn't been home.) Since that first dive together, I knew we would be great dive buddies. We just seemed to always know exactly where the other person was and exactly what was going on. I was already a technical diver, and Lauren showed interest in it right from the start. She had a bad habit of stealing my books and destroying them on the beach, but I let it slide because I was excited that she was so passionate about technical diving.
Timing was perfect as I was just getting ready to head to Utila, Honduras in April 2011 to begin my Trimix instructor training. I ended up being able to audit Lauren's PADI Tec 40 through Tec Trimix courses while completing my instructor rating in Utila. As soon as we got back, I was able to start a technical training program through the dive shop where we work, St. Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventures.
I had known since the first week I met Lauren that I would ask her to marry me, and I knew how I was going to do it. The idea of asking her underwater was by no means original—we'd seen it several times on the boats before. However, by adding to the facts that it was our deepest dive and in a place that nobody had seen before, I knew it would be hard for her not to say yes. And thank goodness she did, the hour plus of decompression would have been terribly awkward if she hadn't!
Planning the dive went pretty much the same as any of our other technical dives. However, when I suggested carrying extra bottom gas because “something exciting might happen down there,” I thought I had almost let the cat out of the bag. Only a few people actually knew what I was going to do, but I was still pretty surprised we were all able to keep it a secret.
On the boat ride out to the dive site, Lauren and I went about our normal routine. We sit on the bow of the boat with headphones on, clearing our heads and visualizing the dive. Pre-dive and bubble checks went as planned, and down we went.
When we passed 300 feet and I started to pull out my Wetnotes, the butterflies about the dive itself started to pass while the excitement of how my life was about to change took its place. We only had a few minutes at 350 feet, so I wanted to get the proposal done right when we got there so we could enjoy the view as the new us.
As soon as I saw 350 on my dive computer, I showed Lauren the note that read, "Lauren Fanning, will you marry me?" Screaming like a little girl, she jumped on top of me and gave me a huge regulator smooch. It took a few moments to get her to settle down so she could officially answer the question (I had made it multiple choice on the slate so it would be easy to answer, and I would have proof in writing.)
Leaving the bottom, I took one last look at the scene so I could remember exactly what it was like. The dramatic walls on either side of the canyon and giant pinnacles emerging from the bottom create an image I will never forget. We began our ascent and decompression as normal, and our first support divers met us at our 100' stop. It's always great to see your support divers, but even more so on this dive because we got to spread the news! We surfaced to a boat full of cheers and congratulations, and we began making the phone calls to friends and family.
I feel that the bond we have in our relationship makes us a closer, safer and more efficient dive team. At the same time, our diving adds something unique to our relationship that very few can understand.