Scuba 101

by Sharon -- February 6, 2010

I never thought I’d say this, but Jason and I are officially PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Open Water scuba divers.  We took a three day training course on a rather large island in Thailand called Koh Chang and it was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced.

I’m just going to say this upfront: this is not going to be a post about some miraculous occurrence during our dive training.  In fact, in the scheme of scuba trainings it was probably a very average, non eventful course.  However, if you compare that to the fact that it was absolutely incredible for us, it says a lot about scuba diving in general.

To be perfectly honest I had never expected to become a certified diver in any sense, and neither had Jason.  It was just one of those things that we felt was necessary.  We were in Thailand, after all, and becoming certified back in the States is significantly more expensive (so we heard).  After a few days of deliberating whether it was foolish to spend that much money on something that we may never do again, we of course decided to do it.  Why not, right?

In a nutshell, on day one we found ourselves watching instructional videos, completing some tests, and then heading to a huge Olympic sized pool for our confined water training.  On day two we boarded the boat and completed two of our very first dives!  Day three we were back on the boat and completed two more dives to complete our total of four dives, then we took a final exam to pass the course.

The most startling moment of my experience was the very first breaths of air I took underwater.  Our instructor had told us that one of the most difficult things for first timers to get used to was simply breathing underwater since our bodies weren’t meant to do such a thing.  I took this very lightly since I didn’t understand how that could be possible with the security of a regulator (the piece of equipment that supplies the air into your mouth), but the second I descended into the wonderfully clean pool, I experienced a very strange freak out.  I understood EXACTLY what it meant to feel that feeling of ‘we weren’t meant to breathe underwater’.  I mildly panicked, held my breath, then mildly hyperventilated for a few breaths, then eventually started calming down.  The number one rule in scuba diving is to never ever hold your breath.  I would say that not holding your breath during your first scuba descent seems impossible to me since you have learned to hold your breath underwater since you were a child.  It only took about 30 seconds to get used to this alien feeling, but it was one of the most bizarre things I have ever felt in my life.

Our first dive in the ocean was a crazy mix of emotions; excitement, fear (the ocean scares the sh*t out of me), anxiety, happiness, tranquility, etc.  Once I got over my initial fear of being eaten by a shark on my first scuba dive, my biggest fear was the descent.  You know the feeling when your ears feel pressure as you swim into depths deeper than five feet?  That’s what happens when the outside water pressure squeezes the air spaces inside your body- in diving you must “equalize” to blow air into your air spaces as you descend.  Unfortunately, this freaked both of us out on our first descent.  Jason had to go back up to the surface after a small panic attack while descending, something that is common among first timers.  He experienced pain in his ears, causing a mild hyperventilation and then the panic set in.

For anyone out there thinking about scuba diving for the first time, my advice is to do it.  Whether you are planning on taking the full PADI Open Water course, or you just want to do what’s called a Discovery Dive where you just go out for one day, you will find that diving is even more amazing in person.  There are not that many things I have experienced that impressed me more than I anticipated; I tend to get overexcited about things only to be disappointed.  That is not the case with diving.  DO IT!

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One Response to “Scuba 101”

  1. I want to go diving. Sigh. But just scuba diving in Hanauma Bay gave me a slight panic attack for the first minute, so I don’t know how I’d do out in the open haha.

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