Last time I raved how fantastic the diving experience is and what my dive drives are. However, you need to start somewhere, which is the most difficult bit if you don’t know where. First time I heard about diving was from my bestie PRS, she is always an inspiration 🙂
We were in the Philippines and she wanted to do a diving certification there. I went with her to one of the dive shops and man, I have to say the diving instructor was a mix between Bear Grylls and Steve Irwin. Anyway, firstly diving didn’t appeal to me until Kleo, or as I like to call him – my Dive Guru showed me some cool underwater pictures. He also told me which reliable dive shop to choose if I wanted to get certified. Two days after the meeting with Kleo, I called him saying – guess what? I’m starting my diving course in three weeks 🙂
Look up on the internet if there is a dive centre in your city or close, read their web page and give them a call or pay them a visit to ask about more details. A dive centre will help you in finding a dive course date and get you signed up. You need to get a diving certification if you want to dive safely. The course consists of three parts:
In this part you will learn for example what a BCD or regulator is, how it’s built and how it works. Other important pieces of information you need to know before moving over to the practical part relate to safety. The instructor will explain what effects does nitrogen have on the body while diving, ear pressure equalisation, bottom time calculation, how long you can stay under water. Dos and don’ts before, during and after diving. This part is necessary to realise that scuba diving has safety rules that need to be followed if you want to have the same amount of surfacings as submersions. After all topics from the theory part are covered you need to pass a test. Passing the test is mandatory, otherwise you won’t be able to participate in the open water diving part and finish the whole course successfully. No worries if you pay attention, do some reading and understand the theory, passing the test is a walk in the park. The most difficult piece for me was the bottom time calculation. Now, after nine years of diving it would be a piece of cake 😉
2. Practice in a swimming pool
That’s a very important part of the course and is conducted simultaneously with the theory part. First you learn how stuff is done in theory then you adopt it in practice, plus you learn the basic diving techniques. One of the key abilities that you will learn during the swimming pool practice is how to assemble your dive gear. Come on, as a certified diver you need to know how to put your gear together. It might be confusing in the beginning but after some time you will know what is the difference between DIN and INT, where does the regulator go and how to connect the BCD with the tank. Also the instructor will teach you the main skills a diver should have, like how to keep buoyancy – crucial one! Other skills would involve – back roll into the water, put the gear on while being in water already or how does it feel like if you run out of air underwater, that’s basically for awareness in case it happens, hope never. My favourite skill however is, how to get rid of water from your mask underwater. Didn’t think that it’s possible but it is… basically you hold the top of your mask and exhale rapidly through the nose… presto mask is clean.
3. Diving on open waters
The last part where you combine theory and swimming pool learned skills. The whole diving on open waters part takes three days as far as I remember. Each time you dive with the instructor who is asking you to perform a series of exercises during each dive. Those would include: buoyancy management, dive gear assembling abilities, swimming without the regulator in your mouth, checking your surfacing technique and general behaviour underwater. After you perform all the required activities the first dive certification is yours 🙂
4. And after?
I did my certification with PADI – this is one of the diving organisations that is certifying fun divers but there are also others like CMAS or SSI. Does it make any difference which organisation issues your certification, ahhh not really. Divers argue that CMAS is better by miles than PADI and SSI is more flexible but in the end you get your diving license and practice will enhance your diving skills. The more you dive the better diver you become, same as with driving a car. The course teaches you how to do it and what to watch for, then you have to drive to get experience. However, the first diving licence which I’ve done is Open Water Diver (OWD) which permits diving till 18 meters deep, the next one was Advanced Open Water Diver (AOWD) which permits diving till 30 meters. To be frank it’s good to do your AOWD licence straight after the OWD one as the major difference is that in the AOWD course you learn skills relating to underwater navigation, deep diving and air consumption improvement. Truth is that the majority of fun dives are done on the depth between 15 to 25 meters, there is no sense going to 30 unless you are keen to see a special wreck. So what comes after you do your certification? Dive as much as you can. Dive like there is no tomorrow.
Basic safety rules
There is a book I read every now and then, it’s called Diving Accidents and is pretty eye opening. It describes real life examples of what divers did that led them to death underwater and is a good lecture for every driver to avoid making the same mistakes.
1. Never dive alone
Always dive with at least one more person or in a group and always keep your dive buddy within sight range. Reason being if you for example run out of air, your buddy will support you by sharing his air via the octopus. The air should be enough to do a safety stop and surface up. Other examples might include sudden ear pressure problems, leg cramps or you suddenly won’t feel well and will need help to get to the surface safely. In all of those cases having a buddy next to you is essential.
2. Remember to keep breathing
With the rising pressure your lungs underwater are getting smaller, as they are a bit like a balloon. They shrink the deeper you go, so don’t forget to keep breathing – in and out, in and out, slowly and regularly, not rapid. Holding your breath might bring harm to your lungs. Kleo told me to take a deep breath and count to ten while breathing out. This technique not only keeps you breathing but also improves your air consumption.
3. Don’t drink and dive
Don’t think a comment is necessary here, right? Just don’t be so stupid to jump into the water after you had even one beer. The brain works slowly anyway on 20-meter depth so imagine how slowly it will work on 20 meters after alcohol.
4. Never skip a safety stop
A safety stop is essential at the end of the dive so that nitrogen accumulated during the dive can evaporate and reduce the risk of decompression sickness. Image opening a bottle of Coke that just got shaken. The liquid spills everywhere. Now imagine that the same nitrogen that is in a Coke bottle is doing the very same thing to your blood, not nice huh? Hence never forget about a safety stop.
5. Better to be ill but alive at the surface than dead at the bottom
If worst comes to worst, things underwater go completely pear shaped and there is no other option left, surface up immediately – take a deep breath, remove the weight belt and start swimming to the surface while breathing out. Well, you will shoot up like a balloon, but it’s always better to be alive at the surface even with a decompression illness than dead at the bottom of the sea.
A general rule however is to apply common sense, know that this might be difficult at some times, for example I feel that something is wrong with my ears but I will dive anyway as this is a cool dive spot – NO! In situations where you don’t feel well enough, comfortable, something is off, don’t go underwater.
One of the characteristics of diving is the special sign language. As it’s obviously impossible to speak underwater, unless you have a special communicator set, but hey listening to your own breath that sounds like Darth Vader is much more entertaining. There are special signs which divers use to communicate underwater. The most popular is OK, bet you saw it many times on other occasions, it’s when you put your thumb and your pointer finger together into an O. There are also signs for animal names, which are used to identify animals or let everybody around know that a shark is coming. Found on the internet some common signs so you can get a sense of how it looks.
Only how does the whole communication thing work, like you can’t shout out – hey dive guide to get his attention. No, but there are other ways to get attention. There is silence underwater, so every odd sound gets noticed. That’s why when you bang something metal on your tank, the sound of ding ding ding, makes everybody alert. So a normal communication underwater if you spotted a cool fish or want to communicate something, looks more or less like this
The group of divers is swimming next a coral wall
DING DING DING ON THE TANK
Everybody starts looking around to spot who banged the tank… Dive guide showing the sign for shark
Everybody is excited, making signs of OK or raising their hands in victory sign
This is how it works, regardless if you spotted a fish which you want to show to others, if you want to ask how much air each of the divers has left or if you plan to finish the dive, easy 🙂
Pee in the wetsuit
Now, the piece of information everybody was waiting for… pissing in the wetsuit. It’s not a big secret that divers do it, well not all as some have a mental blockade of doing it but I can say that 99% divers do pee in the wetsuit. For me it was an abstract concept in the beginning as my diving adventure started in Egypt, where most of the boats are quite big with a diving deck and a sun deck, plus a toilet on board.
After every dive I simply went to the toilet. Things changed when I went to Borneo to dive in the famous Sipadan island. The dive boats we used to reach the dive sites were small but could accommodate the divers, crew and equipment, meaning there was no toilet. After the first dive I asked the dive guide – excuse me where is the toilet? He pointed at the sea and said – look around you here is the biggest toilet ever. Well, so I either could hold it till we reach the shore – impossible or get on with and pee in the water. I took off my wetsuit, in the bathing costume I jumped into the water and was holding onto a rope attached to the boat so that I don’t drift away. I tried, was focused and concentrated but nothing was coming out. Like my mind wouldn’t allow the idea to pee without sitting on a toilet bowl. I changed my strategy. I held on to the boat’s ladder to resemble a sitting on the toilet posture. That helped, geez what a relief, literally. Next day during one of the dives, when the pressure on the bladder got unbearable, I didn’t have a problem anymore peeing in the wetsuit. Will sound extremely odd but I do recommend that to everybody fantastic feeling 😛 Well, for some seconds you swim in the mix of seawater and your own pee but the current and your moves dilutes it. Actually I’m surprised that peeing in the wetsuit is not a learning point during the diving course, should be!
To try how diving feels like you can always do an intro dive. It can be booked at any dive shop in major holiday destinations. It will give you a sense of what diving is about and after you can decide if it’s something for you or not.
Just be careful, once you start with diving there is no stop or turning back, it’s a hobby that consumes you, in a very very good way. For that reason, in the next post you will get to read some cool stories that happened to me during my diving excursions.