Dive Training! Day One
I've been rambling about it, squeeing over it, and generally making a nuisance of myself with regards to it for about two months now. Well, it officially arrived today, so while I think it too much to hope that I will stop talking about it, at least I will hopefully direct my ramblings in a more productive direction with less hyperactive fangurlishness. (Can one fangurl SCUBA diving? I guess I just did....)
Today was the first day of training, and we are officially 25% of the way toward our open water SCUBA certification.
The lesson today started with some equipment fitting. SCUBA equipment is expensive (just mask, fins, snorkels, boots, and weight belts for two of us cost $700...and that was on sale!) so students rent or borrow equipment during their training and much of their early SCUBA careers. We had to be fitted for wetsuits and bouyancy control devices (BCDs) to start diving next week.
I've never worn a wetsuit before. Now I am a skinny girl but, dang...that was like stuffing a sausage. The instructor told me that I should feel like the Michelin man. I did. The suits loosen in the water a bit, though, and they have to be tight since the whole point of a wetsuit is that a thin layer of water is confined against the body, retaining the body heat. The BCD was much easier; much like putting on a vest.
Once we were done with equipment, we were given a tour of the store and told which gadgets are best to invest in next. Then it was into the classroom for filling out paperwork. The nature of SCUBA diving inspires much bureaucracy, but it was all fairly painless, just filling out a lot of forms. Once the formage was complete, we hopped in our cars for the swimming tests.
On Friday, Bobby and I went to the pool, and I did three sets of 100 meters to get a feeling for pacing. I had no doubt that I could pass the swim test; once I get my breathing and pacing underway, I can swim forever. The swim test requires swimming for 200 yards then treading water in the deep end for ten minutes. Poor Bobby sprained his ankle playing hockey this week--he went legs first into the boards at full steam--so I was most worried about him, but he said that he didn't even get a twinge. The swim was easy. I did the breaststroke for the whole thing and wasn't the first one finished (but I have a feeling that everyone didn't do their full eight laps either) and the water treading was relaxing since I naturally float with my head above water without moving at all.
So we both passed the tests with no trouble at all.
Then it was back to the classroom for the first two modules. PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) requires classroom instruction, confined water dives, and four open water dives for certification, as well as completing a textbook and DVD course. We did our textbook and DVD lessons at the end of the week and weekend for modules one and two, and the lesson today covered those two modules.
A lot of what was covered was buoyancy control issues. Obviously, this is really important to be able to control one's positioning in the water else one is always fighting buoyancy and getting tired (and not really enjoying the dive) or bumping into things, which on a coral reef, is death to many of the critters. It seems to be largely a matter of trial and error to fine-tune one's buoyancy control. I am a bit curious as to how it will work for me, seeing as I am unusually buoyant. Bobby teases me and says that I will have to carry a fifty-pound dumbell in each hand to stay under. The instructor (Bill) also said that there is a possibility of fitting an Expert Buoyancy Control course in while we're during our open water dives. That would be lovely, and I really, really hope that it works out.
Equalization is also a big deal in diving--that is, keeping the pressure in the ears, sinuses, and the space inside the mask equal to the pressure outside. It is possible to rupture the eardrums by forcing or failing to properly equalize while diving, but Bill made the suggestion of equalizing before even going under the water and equalizing every two breaths afterward. He also told us some horror stories about failing to equalize the mask properly and coming up with a mask full of bloody water. Didn't like that too much, being blood-phobic. Or if one is underwater and become congested, a reverse squeeze happens, and sometimes, the only way to clear it is to take a sniff of saltwater. Ick. I think I'll try not to dive with a cold.
The buddy system is another big deal, though I feel very fortunate: My buddy will be my husband, so we are not only studying together but can discuss and practice our signals and procedures already, even before starting a dive. Last night, we reviewed hand signals together. And since we have several signs that we already use to talk about people behind their backs (really; we're evol), then we'll be able to use these too. (Yes, they have practical applications: like "strugglin'," usually reserved for people who are, well, strugglin'. And "veto." I can see both being applicable in an underwater environment!)
Buddies are supposed to check each other's equipment before diving. PADI has some silly acronym to remember the five steps, but Bobby made up another one: Blind White Rabbit Ate Food.
B--buoyancy control device
We discussed a lot of practical matters that are based more on Bill's experience, like the different ways to get on and off a dive boat. He also talked about wreck-diving in North Carolina in a place where one can swim with hundreds of sand tiger sharks. I think that Bobby's and my eyes lit up like lanterns when he was talking about this! And I think he noticed because he looked at us the whole time. He said, "Now I know this isn't for everyone..." and Bobby and I just looked at each other and grinned.
Then it was more paperwork and signatures on all of the tests and activities we'd completed. Whew.
The class is small, which I like--less than ten people. Bill the instructor seems really cool, very down-to-earth.
We took tests for the first two modules and both got 100% on each. w00t!
Filling out our dive folders, there was a list of all of the PADI courses offered, and I think that Bobby and I would take any one of them. Hopefully, we'll get certified in Expert Buoyancy Control; that would be awesome. There's a number related to underwater ecology and conservation; there's an underwater photography class. Beyond that, there are those concerned with the more technical aspects of diving, like using special air blends or unusual equipment.
The next course I'd like to take is the PADI CPR and first aid course. I really think (and Bobby agrees) that with the kinds of activities we've taken to doing, we should know first aid and CPR anyway. In the middle of the woods or the middle of the sea, you never know what might happen, and it would really suck to be in such a situation and not be able to do anything because we hadn't bothered to take the course. Incidentally, a course starts tomorrow, which is a bit too early for us, but I'd like to enroll in the next course that they offer.
After that, it's going to be hard to decide where we'd like to focus next. We're both aiming to eventually have Divemaster and Instructor certifications, but these are projects that will take place over the years. And in our situation, we'll be doing a tremendous range of diving: probably several reef dives per year on vacation and a lot of quarry diving locally and wreck diving somewhat locally. (The east coast is a veritable trove of shipwrecks. We're already talking about doing some off of Cape May as soon as the weather warms up again!) Initially, we were to do our four open water dives in a quarry in northern Virginia, but we got the good news today that the dives have been moved to a quarry in Maryland, in Westminster, which is literally fifteen minutes away from us. As Bobby said, having a quarry so close means that we can dive every other weekend during the on-season, which is great.
This was an exciting day for us. It's the first step in what we hope will be a long and exciting adventure for us (not to mention how applicable it is to the education we are pursuing). Next week, we're going to start our confined water diving, so I'll officially be ecstatic next week too, breathing underwater for the first time.