Today is the day I MAN UP and learn how to dive! Its such a crazy and foreign thing for me to do, especially since I'm not a good swimmer and am afraid of drowning. With these two things in mind, you would assume it would deter me from attempting to dive -- but, I guess I'm not an ordinary person, or I'm just an adventurous person who wants to test my own limits (if i die, i guess i died trying, right? ha ha). I'm not sure how I'll face up to this challenge, but obviously since I am writing about this now, I lived to tell the tale after my first day.
So what did I do today? It was all about tests and practical application of what I learned from books and video instruction. Btw, I had no idea learning how to dive would take so much time. You generally hear it takes about 3-4 days to become open water certified, but what I didn't realize is that its essentially an all day thing. You get a PADI instruction manual that you will have to comb through, or alternatively, you can pay close attention to the videos you are required to watch. After going through each chapter (5 chapters, and they are long), you are then asked to take a quiz at the end of the book, which is later followed up with another test conducted by your dive instructor. That's only the written tests! There are also 4 instructional dives in the water, where you will be testing your book knowledge in a practical setting.
So, today I completed my knowledge 1 & 2 tests (essentially, learning what positive/negative/neutral buoyancy is... equalizing pressure inside your body ... learning how to use the equipment and how it will keep you alive under water ... yes, breathe through the regulator! ... hand signals ... among many other things). I passed the knowledge 1 & 2 quizzes (seriously, its almost like i'm back in school - you have to review a 30 minute video for each chapter, then at night you read the chapters (um, you're supposed to) and answer the questions at the end. After all of that is done you then meet with the instructor to get quizzed again). I passed this phase and then it was onto the "fun" part - the confined water dive.
If you've snorkled before, you have some sense of how it is to swim with fins and also how it is to get water through your air hole (not pleasant). So think about that and now add on the "comfort" of swimming with an oxygen tank on your back, 5-10 pound weights and other gear ... its a lot more difficult. It takes some time to get used to all the equipment and even after a day, I'm still not that comfortable with it. Every thing was a new step and every step got harder as I continued on! The first was being able to try to stand erect in the water with all the gear and then being able to descend into the water and kneel. Oh yeah, lets just say I had to go up a few times before getting used to kneeling down on the ocean floor (all of this is a semi-confined water environment -- out here in the Red Sea -- its just a shallow part of the sea vs. in a swimming pool). I would say the most difficult thing I had to do today was alternating air sources through the snorkel and through the regulator while underwater. You have to BLOW out water from the snorkel and if you make the mistake of breathing in while water is in the snorkel -- you will instantly choke and feel that burning sensation from the salt water in your throat! ugh, extremely unpleasant and this can easily make you want to quit! After a few attempts I made it through this part -- but it made the following skill tests more difficult to pass since my mind was getting a bit "nervous" and "scared" which -- we all know -- prevents ourselves from advancing to the next level... And what I can gather from day one is this entire course is all about how confident you feel in your abilities (that makes sense since life is like this). I will admit I was a bit shaken with this part of the test... and as I moved on to the next challenge (5 step descent) ... I was a bit nervous underwater again and my next challenge was to take off my face mask and have it off for a minute. Needless to say, I had so many things in my mind that I couldn't accomplish this next task - my chest felt tight; my lunch felt like it was about to come up (mental note: do not eat too much before diving, but that all depends on how you are when you exercise -- i don't really eat); my mouth was extremely dry from all the dry air I was inhaling through the regulator and it tasted like salt; and to top it all off -- i had to pee (and regardless of what anyone says, its not that easy peeing in the open water even though its probably quite easy in the pool! ha ha) So, with all of that, I was just drained and had to call it a day. So I finished water confinement 1 and half of 2 -- which, I will complete the rest of 2 tomorrow.
So my friends, this diving experience will be a true experiment and a test of whether I can get over my fear of drowning and at the same time trying to do something fun and new! Its a WHOLE NEW WORLD down there... tomorrow is a new day (and ugh, still have loads to read for tonight!)