Finally the Christmas madness has died down, our visitors have all left and I literally jumped straight into the deep end to kick the year off. I went on a deep sea diving course and I am now officially an ‘open water diver’ certificated through PADI (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors).
It is a new year and with every new year I believe you should have a new challenge and a new experience. This one really got me out of my comfort zone though.
I arrived on Saturday morning with a mixture of nerves and excitement tumbling around in my gut. I didn’t know exactly what to expect or how my body and mind would handle it. As soon as the lecture started there was so much information and technicalities to absorb that I had to focus hard in trying to wrap my mind around all of it.
Then came the next step (and what proved to be the most difficult of the day) putting on the wetsuit. It was like trying to squeeze my whole body into a condom. I struggled for a while and finally got the suit halfway up my legs just to realize that I had it on the wrong way round. The whole process of sighing, grunting, pulling and groaning resumed and by the time I finally had it up to my midline, I was exhausted. Sweat was pouring off me in streams and it looked like I had already been in the water. I must admit that somewhere during this whole process I almost lost my cool completely. I mean… if I can’t even make it into the wetsuit, how on earth am I going to be able to dive?!
Finally, wetsuit on we started gearing up. This is quite a process your first time round. Locate the eye of the valve on the bottle, turn it so the eye faces away from you. Grab your BCD (that fancy-looking jacket that fills with air when needed) put it in front of the bottle and attach the bottle, then grab the thingie with all the pipes attached to it, screw it on the nozzle once you’ve figured out the right direction. Regulators on the right side and the other stuff on the left side. Attach one of the pipes to the jacket and after putting on the weight belt, get your buddy to help the whole contraption onto your back. (Note : try to not collapse under the weight!) Slip on the fins, shuffle shuffle backwards to find the right position and then step into the pool – after you’ve turned facing the pool of course.
Once in the pool the weight was no longer a problem and as soon as the initial shock of breathing under the water passes, things slowly improved. Then for the skills – taking your mask off and putting it back on under water, a feeling that really takes some getting used to. Your brain immediately screams that you are drowning and it took a try or two for me not to go into total panic and rush up to fresh air. Then its changing to your buddy’s alternate regulator under water and even better the buddy breathing. This takes all the restraint you can muster not to grab the regulator out of your buddy’s mouth and hogging it for yourself.
Nevertheless, we learned all the skills and by the end of the day we had a lot of laughs (laughing underwater doesn’t work so well by the way) and we were much the wiser.
Sunday I got up feeling a bit more confident but still a bit nervous, it is the big sea after all.
Putting on the wetsuit went much better the second time around and in no time we were all geared up and setting off down the beach. We walked down Santos Beach in Mossel Bay to a ridge stretching out from the beach. We did our sea dives and once you are underwater and get distracted by all the sealife passing right in front of your eyes, you no longer have time to think or worry about all the pipes, technical bits and the fact that you are actually breathing under water. You just watch and enjoy!
Later in the week there was still the matter of a small exam and once that was don… voila! I am now an open water diver!
I still find it hard to believe that I can actually swim underwater and enjoy the wonders of the sea. It was something I’ve always dreamt of doing and it has opened up a whole new world to me and one that I hope to still get lots of opportunity to explore!
I want to challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and try something new! Don’t wait with your bucket list until you are too old to enjoy it! Jump into the deep end and you might even surprise yourself!
P.s. I did my training with Sonja Terblanche-Otto of Trisport in Mossel Bay and can highly recommend her!