Diving in my open water course
Throughout my open water course, everyone kept asking me, “Why did you decide to become a diver?” Originally- that answer was pretty simple. See I work for Kids Sea Camp and when I first interviewed for this position, Margo asked me “Are you a diver”. “No”, I said, “I’ve never even snorkeled.” Then Margo quickly followed up with, “Well, do you want to learn how?” Always being the type to try new things, and to never shy away from a challege, I said sure and so started my career with Kids Sea Camp. That was back in September. My official training kind of got put on the back burner since I was right in the middle of planning my wedding. I married Andrew (my best friend and the best husband a girl could ask for) on March 27th, left for our honeymoon on March 28th and spent a week in St. Lucia. I went snorkeling while I was there, saw a ton of beautiful fish and had a blast. So, as soon as I got back from my honeymoon Margo signed me up to take my Open Water course right here in Columbia, SC.
Friday was the first night. I was so nervous all day and kept wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into. Margo called me with words of encouragement and told me to leave my perfectionist ways at the door and to just understand that everyone in the class was new to this. When I told Tom I was nervous, he said that was a good thing. He said that on the other side of nervousness and fear was excitement. My mom said she was proud of me for trying new things and Andrew said, ‘Everything will be fine. You’re gonna do great.” I did my best to listen them. I left work on Friday and immediately when for my first class section at Columbia Scuba. Friday night we reviewed Chapter 1 in the PADI Open Water Manual. This chapter focused on buoyancy and how important this skill is to a diver since bouyancy helps you control where you are in the water. We talked about equalizing- reverse blocks- and learned about all of the equipment that is used in diving. Then, we put together and took apart our gear. I did it 3 times. We also reviewed some of the signs used to communicate underwater and focused on the number one, most important rule in diving. NEVER, EVER HOLD YOUR BREATH WHILE SCUBA DIVING! We had a quiz that night and I aced my first quiz! I thought- wow- this isn’t so bad. What the heck was I so nervous about? I went home exhausted and prepped myself for the next class and for the pool work the following day.
On Saturday, we started out in the classroom discussed the buddy system and we also went through the proper way to ascend and descend. My instructors gave us some really fun ways to remember each of these skills.
For the Buddy Check- just remember
F– Final OK!
To descend just remember the word SORTED.
S– Signal your buddy
O– Orient yourself
To ascend – STARS
S– Swim & spin
Then, we went to the pool and started our pool work. After setting up our gear, we had to swim 10 laps which I thought would be difficult since the gym also got put on the back burner during all of the wedding planning, but I got through it just fine. Before we started our skills we used the buddy check system to make sure that our gear was properly assembled and that we were ready to go diving. After we gave the final okay we got started – mask clearing, regulator recovery, regulator clearing, making sure to equalize our ears and our masks. The pool work went by really fast and before I knew it- I was ready to go home. The most skill I was most worried about (regulator recovery) was super easy. No reason to worry at all.
Sunday morning started out in the pool and learned some more underwater skills- these a bit more challenging. We used our buddy’s alternate air source, learned the tired diver tow, how to breathe with a free-flowing regulator, and one of the most difficult was the CESA exercise. CESA stands for Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent. You would use this skill if you lose your air supply and your buddy is too far away to provide his or her alternate air source. You have to exhale all the way to the surface (remember: never ever hold your breath!) and still have enough air to inflate your BCD on the surface. At first you think that its impossible. I’ve never been able to exhale for that long, but it’s amazing how your body can do things that you never thought it could. I did this on the second try making sure that I saw bubbles coming out the whole time.
After a much-needed shower (the pool was really gross) and a quick bite to eat I headed to the final class session. We reviewed chapters 4 & 5 and then took our final exam. I only missed one question. I was so excited and began thinking about my open water dives. Soon, I would be a diver and I would get to really experience the underwater world.
It actually took several weeks before I was able to complete my open water dives because of some ear issues. But, after going to the doctor and making sure everything was okay, I was ready. I met Lucy (my instructor) at the lake on Friday evening. We were actually afraid that the dives wouldn’t happen since it was storming right across the lake, but we waited for 20 minutes and the skies cleared! I geared up and got ready to begin my very first open water dive. I had actually be dreading the whole lake diving thing. But, to my surprise the lake was actually really nice. We even saw a huge catfish on the first dive. I was a bit shaky and so nervous at first since it had been almost 6 weeks since I first learned to breathe underwater, but after a few minutes I calmed down and really started enjoying the experience. My buddy Erin and I did a few skills on Friday night and we dove to 20 feet. I was so relieved after the second dive on Friday. I was looking forward to do it again on Saturday morning.
Saturday morning we met at the lake again. Erin and I requested that we do as many skills as possible during the first dive so that we could swim around and look for fish on the second dive (which is why we love diving in the first place!) All of the skills went great. Erin even told me that I inspired her because I was so calm removing my mask and putting it back on again. It gave her confidence and she did a great job too. On the second dive we finished up the remaining skills and then we got the chance to swim around the rocks. We saw several brim and one even came all the way up to Lucy’s hand. We got out of the water and Lucy shook my hand. “Congrats” she said. “Welcome to the underwater world!”
It’s amazing. I had never really thought about diving until I started here. To be honest, I don’t know if I ever would have taken the “giant stride” into the world of diving if it hadn’t been for this job and for Kids Sea Camp. But, I am very grateful and very blessed to have had the opportunity to do this. I think that sometimes we all get caught up – in deadlines, dishes, laundry and the overall everyday chaos that we call life. And although there is something to be said about surviving all of that, I think that every now and then we all need to take a step back and really challenge ourselves. Try something new. Give 100% of yourself and really see what you are made of. That’s what I did. And even though I haven’t been diving since the lake, I know that I have something to look forward to. I know that I can do anything if I really set my mind to it. Heck, I got engaged, started a new job, planned a wedding, and learned to scuba dive all in 9 months! AND- if I can do it- so can you! Go out there and do the things that you always wanted to do. Don’t make excuses- just do it. Will it be scary? Yes. Will it be difficult? Maybe. Will it be worth it? Absolutely!