After much anticipation the day finally arrived on Sunday, the first day of dive training. After visiting the Caribbean, and doing quite a bit of soul searching, our feet have finally regained a path that grants us a sense of peace, serenity, and purpose. But for this journey we needed some hiking boots, and this is exactly what dive training will provide for us.
When we walked past the threshold of the dive shop, it felt a bit like coming home. Even though we have only been there a few times, the familiar faces, smells, and sights provided a bit of intrigue before the class began. For it was at this time, that in my mind, it finally clicked, we were on our way to becoming fully certified scuba divers.
With excitement and anticipation we started trying on gear. First the wet suit. At first I put on what I thought was an XL, but after consultation with our instructor, the reason it felt so comfortable was because it was to big, it was an XXL. For those not in the know, wetsuits are supposed to be extremely, and I emphasize extremely, tight fitting because their whole purpose is to prevent cold water from funneling past the body, which causes ambient heat loss. So, I picked up an XL and, after much work, put it on and zipped it up. It was very warm, and restricting, but in the water, the suit will expand and become less warm, but not much less.
Next was the BCD (buoyancy compensating device), or buoyancy compensator for short, the instructor fit me in an XL and all of my gear was a done deal after consulting with the instructor about the amount of weights I needed in my weight belt.
We then went into the classroom, filled out some paperwork required by PADI, and started to get to know our dive master. Bill, is quite a funny guy who reminds me a lot of a good friend of our family, he is a good guy, really laid back, interesting, and very competent on all things scuba. We share many of the same philosophies on diving, and life in general. He like to dive with sharks, thinks deep diving is a waste if there is no outward purpose in it (such as seeing a wreck), and he appreciates the intricacies of marine life. I couldn’t agree with him more on all of these points. I feel incredibly comfortable learning with him, and for this I am grateful.
We then went to the pool to complete our watermanship assessment. PADI requires a 200-yard swim and 10-minute water tread for certification. This is normally no problem for me. I am very competent in the water, I have been for my entire life, and I can normally pound out laps. However, I had a bit of trepidation about the test because of the nasty injury to my ankle that I sustained the previous Wednesday as I went crashing into the boards, feet first, during an ice hockey game. The fear was compounded by the fact that Dawn and I did a practice swim on Friday night, and after a successful first attempt, I got an incredibly painful stabbing sensation in my ankle on the second try.
On Sunday, I got into the pool last, took a deep breath, and was off. I used a sort of modified breaststroke that wouldn’t work my ankle too badly. The laps started counting off, I had no problems, and the swim was over in no time without any ankle pain! We did our ten-minute survival float, and I was ecstatic. Ever since the injury to my ankle, I was stressing over the swim test, but I set a mental goal, and smashed through it. Even with a bad ankle, I was still lapping several other swimmers, and I was by far nowhere near the last person to finish the test. Awesome stuff.
We then headed back to the classroom and finished modules one and two of the learning material. PADI structures its learning by providing reading, tests, videos, and classroom instruction, all designed to beat concepts into your head (which is very important because some of the concepts really are life and death type matters. We completed review tests for each section and I scored perfectly on both of them.
After class, it dawned on me that we were now ¼ of the way toward getting our C-cards (and I am that much closer to getting my hammerhead shark and dive flag tattoo on my shoulder)! I can’t wait for next week as the rubber hits the road, and for the first time, we breath underwater.