I just finished a weekend course for my PADI Open Water Certification. I still have my open water dives left. My husband and I took the course together. We signed up at the last minute and had to read the entire PADI book in about a day and a half, and watch the DVD that goes with the book.
The book was a little bit dry but we tromped through it. Then it came time to watch the DVD it was about 11 PM the night before class. We had already gotten the call that our class was two hours earlier than originally planned. I pull out the DVD and of course, it’s two discs, and the whole thing is four hours. Are you kidding me?
Saturday morning came and I finished the last part of the book I needed to read, then we packed the kids off their uncle’s and were off to 4 hours of classroom time. Luckily, we had a cool dive instructor who has done a lot of diving in a lot of different places around the world, and loves to dive shipwrecks. He had some really great real world stories, and some fun videos to break up the time a little.
Next, it was off to 3 hours of pool time. We helped haul in a million air cylinders and the other dive gear. We learned how to put all of our dive gear together. Then we learned how to take it apart. Then we put it together again, then we took it apart. Then we put it together.....and then we got to float our gear in the water and put on our wetsuits. Did I mention it was about a hundred degrees in the pool enclosure?
We finally got into the pool. We started running through the skills. Breathing through the regulator was pretty amazing. It felt really natural, not really any different than snorkeling. The first time I had to breathe without my mask on through the regulator, I definitely had to think hard about whether to breathe through my mouth or my nose the first few breaths. I did breathe a little through my nose. . But I was a lot better at breathing without my mask after the two days in the pool. I had kind of gotten down breathing in through the regulator and out through my nose.
Scuba is one of the few things I’ve encountered that actually seems harder when you read about what you have to do. Reading the book ahead of our actual class sessions caused me more than a little anxiety. When you read about having to switch to your dive buddy’s regulator in an out of air emergency, or just be able to put your mask back on and clear it for use again, while under water....you just think, yeah right. But, other than the initial tendency to panic when your mask comes off and you have to think whether to breathe through your nose or your mouth, it’s much easier than it sounds.
One part of the scuba training that is harder than it sounds is buoyancy, specifically, achieving neutral buoyancy. The book makes it sound simple. Do this simple test to make sure you have enough weight, then be careful of your breathing, and you’re golden. Of course, the instructors also make it look easy. However. I am naturally buoyant...I needed a lot of lead weight to get me to the bottom of the pool. So, when it came time to do things like, remove your weights and put them back on. I was a mess. I was following the directions our instructor gave us. I should probably mention, I already had problems staying in one place, especially doing something like trying to kneel on the bottom of the pool. So add, moving my weights from their normal places and putting them in a different place...then dropping one of my weights all together. I pretty much went hurtling toward the surface. But, that was preferable to the tilting forward onto my face on the pool floor while I wrestled with my weight pocket. I can only imagine what I must have looked like. When I fell forward again and knocked my mask off, the instructor finally inflated my BCD (buoyancy control device) and sent me to the surface. Then I had the fun of trying the whole mess again. But, it was easier the second time.
I am really looking forward to our trip to Hawaii in about a week and getting to try out the scuba stuff in real open water. I just hope I can equalize my ears so I can get down and see all of the cool stuff.
If you’ve ever wanted to try scuba diving, I highly recommend taking the class. Don’t be scared by the swimming you have to do, you have the option of doing the swim with fins and a snorkel, although you have to swim farther if you use them, but it’s a lot less tiring. Don’t let the book and video psych you out. Being able to breathe underwater is amazing, and I’m kind of kicking myself that I didn’t try this out sooner. Go out and find your local dive shop and jump in!
If you're in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa City area, check out Seatasea!
Check out the magazine for scuba training, Dive Training! We got a free issue in our class and I read it cover to cover and I think it had some really great info in it.
Also, check out Diver's Alert Network (DAN). They provide insurance, and information about the nearest re-compression chambers, and some really good scuba safety information.