First breath underwater…

July 2010


The PADI Growth Chart

PADI Open Water Diver Certification – Part 1

SCUBA, (for those who have not heard of it… Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) the world out there you see almost every other day on Nat Geo channel, what does it feel like to be the star of that show!…. that’s quite the feeling on taking your first breath underwater… thanks to a’ weight on your shoulders’!

After more than 2 years of being fascinated by the ‘waterwold’, I finally had the opportunity to ‘sink’ in it. I would not call the first steps a ‘walk in the park’, for me, at least, nearing 40’s and still could not swim a stroke before the year began. Well, after 5 months of soaking in the ‘chlorine’, I can claim to at least swim the 200 mts. requirement, though not non-stop, to take up scuba diving. For most of us in India, swimming is not a requisite like doing well in class, the reason why most of us hardly saw any water other than from a very safe distance all through our growing years. For people like us, anything more than 5 ft of water is very, very intimidating, and trying to float will seem a physical impossibility. But, as the saying goes, better late than never.

So, swimming classes began in earnest and went well, my winter mornings, 5 days a week, 7 to 8 am in a 10 ft tiny pool, for about 3 weeks. 6 months on, I was ready to don a rubber suit, wear a mask, and become a ‘man in tights’…

Masks, fins and tanks…

Scuba started with 4 ‘confined water’ (the tech term for swimming pool or pool-like locations) sessions. The first session was good, the feeling of breathing only through your mouth brought back memories of the deep panted breaths after sprinting, probably the reason why I used up air about twice as fast as everyone one else. But, going by the book, taking long deep breaths is the way to go. One of the reasons PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) courses makes safe scuba diving is the text book sessions, yes, a big book of 200 plus pages which is more of less like your science text book, but only here, you actually use every bit of information on the pages. There is nothing irrelevant here; someday your life may depend on what you read.

The second half of the pool sessions were a lot more nerve wracking, you are constantly reminded, there is no ground to rest your feet on, and there’s a 12 litre aluminium tank sitting on your shoulder, panic clutches you every time you feel yourself going a bit lower, you pedal frantically on an imaginary cycle, and in-between all that, you have to perform the ‘skills’, fancy that!

These include taking off and putting back your mask, the breathing hose called the regulator and the most difficult of all, taking off and putting back your ‘BCD’ – Buoyancy Control Device, the jacket sort of thing which is a combined life jacket which has a strap facility to hold your air tank . That, of course is your life support, so taking it off while afloat in loads of water is quite stressful, only the presence of the instructor around gives you the courage to try it. The fact that it was my first time in a pool that’s more than 8ft deep was painting a constant picture of me gasping for air amid drinking in the pool water. And of course, that fear showed up when performing some of the skills, due to which I had to repeat them a few times before my instructor ‘Dolphin’ Lee was satisfied. But those pool sessions had created a bit of fear inside me, if I was capable of doing this, or would I lose my nerve.

The dangers of Scuba mainly lies in losing your nerve, making you do something you should never do, and having a steady nerve and forcing yourself to think in an emergency is the basic purpose of the theory and pool sessions. Doing the back flip, that was another scary skill, sitting back faced with your scuba unit and going head first into the water, makes you wonder how you will surface head first after that… but you do, and is that a good feeling or what.

Waiting for the next couple of nights before going for the sea dives, I found myself googling for diving procedures, diving accidents, diving fears and just about everything related to diving, some sites were reassuring, some not. I would not say I was thrilled to bits about the forthcoming open sea dives… but I was going to ‘go with the flow’.