The weekend I learnt to dive…

199073-wobbegong-shark

^^ A Wobbegong Shark – we saw one of these just chilling under a rock ^^

{Image taken from Google}
{I decided that learning to breathe under water was enough to focus on, and so I left the GoPro at home. Hopefully in the G.B.R we will have more time to snap some of our own photographs}

So a few weeks ago I signed up to complete the SSI Open Water Diving course with ProDive Manly. In the days leading up to the course when I had to complete the online theory, the reality of the weekend dawned on me a little. The online training was more technical than I expected it to be. Calculating pressure, remembering umpteen safety procedures and names of equipment, soon had me feeling quite nervous and apprehensive. Day 1 on the Friday evening I went straight from work to the shop and met the group and instructors. Immediately I got the vibe that this was a relaxed place, sweets and nibbles on the table, chilled bunch of guys running the place, and a really nice group of people taking the course with me. That night we ran through some more theory, refreshing us on what we had learnt online (good job as I had forgotten most of it), and finishing with a 50 question exam. My 40/50 was about average so I think I passed test 1.

Day 2 – Saturday morning: We met at the dive school and after a quick swimming/treading water skill to test our fitness we were each given a tub containing our BC (Buoyancy Control System), our weights to sink us, and our Regulator (breathing apparatus). After we were all kitted up, it was time to get into the pool. Sounds easier than it was trust me.  With an 11.4 litre aluminium tank, 9kg of weights and wearing a tight restrictive wetsuit, it was a feat to just make it to the pool. To then balance on the side and make a controlled step into the water, was even more difficult when my balance was none existent. Finally into the pool and the weight just goes which is such a pleasant relief. It was then on to the skills:

First it was just controlled sinking whilst equalising our ears. Thankfully in the 2.5 metre pool, I had no problem. Second skill was learning to empty our masks of water, underneath the surface. This was a little harder as the trick is press on the top of the mask and to blow hard with your nose to expel the water. It took a few attempts but I finally got the hang of it and we progressed to removing the weight belt and BC whilst under water. I failed miserably at this. I ended up having to be dragged back down by a slightly inpatient instructor as I had failed to keep the weights on me so was shooting up to the surface like a balloon. But finally we got there and re-weighted me back down.

Afternoon: Dive in the sea at Shelly Beach – So our first dive in the sea was interesting. I was quite nervous to begin with and the breathing apparatus still felt so odd. It is completely unnatural to breathe under water and so it took me a while to get used to the tank air and to just relax. It really is true what they say, the most important thing to remember is to just breathe. Once you forget about the equipment it becomes much more natural and easier. We didn’t do much on this dive as it took a while for everyone to equalise and it was more of a taster session ready for the real diving tomorrow.

Day 3 – Sunday:

We were told that overnight the ‘calm fairy’ and ‘excited fairy’ will come and take away our nerves and make us wake up feeling ready for the day ahead. Well those fairies did not visit me. I got ‘nervous fairy’ and ‘anxious fairy’ and so woke up feeling sick with nerves about the dives ahead. The idea of being at the bottom of the sea being tested and not being able to come up quickly and easily like we could do in the pool, scared me and really made me not want to carry on. But a little talking to from myself and some music on the way there calmed my nerves. As it turned out I wasn’t the only one feeling that way. Nearly everyone I spoke to said how nervous they felt, which put me at ease. We started straight back at Shelly Beach and after a quick recap we were in the water again for our second and third dive to practise more of the skills that we learnt in the pool. We started off with the goggle skill and I am so glad we did as this was what was what I was most worried about. Now I can’t lie and say it was perfect as I snorted a fair amount of water up my nose and had stinging watery eyes for the remainder of the dive, but I managed it and got an O.K from my instructor, and so I was relieved not to have to repeat it. The remainder of the tasks when smoothly, even the weight belt task where I thankfully managed to remain on the bottom of the sea this time!

Our fourth and final dive was purely a fun dive giving us the chance to explore and focus on seeing the fish. Unfortunately the conditions were pretty bad as it was quite murky in parts and so difficult to spot fish, however despite this it was really fun and nice to relax and just swim. We managed to spot a Wobbegong Shark (about 2 metres in length), a small Stingray, some Blue Groper fish, a Cuttlefish, and lots of other smaller fishes.

Now I’m home, showered and dry in my comfy lounge clothes, I can look back and really appreciate how fun this weekend has been. It was challenging in parts, but I think I need to challenge myself more and the outcome is worth it in the end. I am now a qualified SSI Open Water Diver which is a really cool thing to say I can do, and opens up lots of doors to more dives in the future and I think it has made me feel more comfortable in the sea, something that I wasn’t always so good at. I can’t wait for the next time I dive in a few weeks time, this time with Alice and in the Great Barrier Reef!

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