Adventures in Scuba Diving Part 1

We’re lucky enough to be going back to the Maldives in May, and wanted to get our masks, snorkels and fins sorted so off we trotted to Robin Hood Watersports at Heckmondwike.

We’d done a try-dive with a local company here in Morley before our first trip to the Maldives back in 2001, but I got a terrible pain in my ear when descending which put the fear of god in me, so that brought my foray into the world of scuba diving to an abrupt end.  Since then I’d been very nervous of trying it again, happy with floating over the deep rather than being ‘in’ it.  Mike hadn’t had any problems with the trial, he really enjoyed it in fact, but we’re the type of couple that when we do things, we do them together, so Mike didn’t take it any further.

However, that all changed when we got chatting to Damian and his wife Sally.   Within less than half an hour, it became obvious Damian is PASSIONATE about diving – not just doing it,  but teaching it – and it’s infectious.

His certainty and conviction that he could safely take me through the try-dive, showing me how to avoid any pain in my ears by equalising properly and frequently, being there every step of the way to help me overcome my fears, made me comfortable enough to give it another go.   Damian wasn’t due to be the instructor on the next session, but he juggled his plans so he would be.  We booked in for a try-dive for February 1st.

On the day, it ended up that we were the only folks there.  This meant that not only did we go through the usual parts:

  • Learn what wearing scuba equipment feels like and how easy it is to move around underwater while wearing it
  • Find out what it’s like to breathe underwater and learn whether you can be comfortable there
  • Learn some basic skills and safety rules

we were also lucky enough to get the opportunity to try a few more things –  regulator removal & recovery, and in Mike’s case have a go at ‘sipping’ air from a free-flowing regulator.  We also did partial mask-filling and clearing which I struggled a little with, managing to swallow half the pool by taking the water in through my nose – doh!

Part way through, Mike and I took one look at each other and said “oh yeah…wanna do more of THIS!!!”

The hour absolutely FLEW and we came out of our session with our faces lit up with the biggest cheesy grins you’ve ever seen and we signed up for places on the next available PADI Open Water Course, which was due to be 18th & 19th of March.  We were so keen to start,  we asked to be put on standby in case of any cancellations, expecting at best, that the earliest would be 1st/2nd March.

In the meantime, we needed another ‘fix’ to tide us over, so we arranged to do the try-dive again – any chance to be breathing and swimming underwater was fine with us, and their special ‘two for the price of one’ offer was the icing on the cake!  The second time, we had Paul as our instructor, a lovely chap and equally patient which was great – however,  I found I still had a bit of a mental block around anything to do with letting water into my mask.  Even if I allowed a small amount of water in my mask, the shock of the feel of the water made me gasp – which is fine if I only breathed in through my mouth via the regulator… Unfortunately it became apparent that without thought, I breathe through my mouth AND my nose at the same time, and without the seal of the mask stopping me, I was able to  suck not  air but water in through my nose, effectively swallowing half the pool and needing me taking safely to the surface…   When i gave it some thought, I realised I’ve always been a bit strange about water on my face – if I splash water on my face I have to take a deep breath first and hold it as the sensation makes me gasp a little.  And you guessed it – deliberately letting water in my face mask makes me gasp – and swallow half the pool…  (I did however learn that you can cough through a regulator…!)

I was adamant I wasn’t going to let this beat me.   I wanted to be a scuba diver.  Off I went to search the depths of the internet courtesy of Google, and found a few tips about practicing breathing in through your mouth and NOT your nose with your face in the water.  Armed with my stubborness and a trick or two to try, we arranged an hour in RoHo’s pool for me to practice the next Saturday.

Imagine my shock, surprise, excitement (with a healthy dose of trepidation) when we got a call to say a couple of places were available on the confined part of the course due to start a couple of days later – ie before I could practice…  We really wanted to do the first part of the course as quickly as we could so we could try get on the second part a month earlier than first thought – end of March instead of late April.  I was still a little worried though – what if I really struggled with mask filling…?  What if I couldn’t do the bit where you have to take your mask off and just breathe through the regulator…?  Were these two days my only chance to pass those bits between then and Part 2 of the course – the real open water part of the course up at Capernwray?  So I did the sensible thing.  I gave Sally a ring.  Sally immediately put my mind at rest.  If I struggled with any part of the course, I could have another go with an instructor on a Tuesday evening when they have ‘open nights’, or on a Saturday morning.  They wouldn’t give up on me.  As they so eloquently put it on their website’s “Reasons to learn with Robin Hood Watersports” – the renowned patience of our full time Instructors and Dive Staff would get me through it!

So without a moment’s further hesitation we said “Yes please!  That would be great”.

One thing we had forgotten though was that there was pre-course work to be done… Let’s just say we managed to cram our study and completion of the general knowledge questionnaires it in to a couple of rather intensive evenings before the course.  Luckily we’d already watched the DVD’s…!

So, last weekend, off we went to Part 1 of our Open Water Course…

TO BE CONTINUED…

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