I cannot believe my Mexican Adventure #NOREGRETS Fulfillment Day Trip is less than 5 days away. I feel like all I’ve been doing the last 6 weeks has been to prepare for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Including preparations that required by me to become a PADI certified open water scuba diver.
I won this contest because of a twitter post. I pretty bluntly tweeted that I was terrified of the ocean and I would face my fear head-on. Basically, there was no way around becoming a PADI certified scuba diver without getting into the ocean.
I took my open-water certification course from a local dive shop called Seattle Scuba School. It’s located right off of Lake Union, just north of downtown Seattle. They divided the course into three components: a home program, a pool dive, and the open water dives.
The home program consists of reading, lots and lots of reading. The book is the PADI Open Water Diver manual, along with 5 quizzes regarding various aspects of diving: the science and underwater world (buoyancy, visibility, currents, etc), the gear (BCD, regulator, weight belt, etc), the buddy system and communication, dive planning and problem management, health and breathing, and the dive table/dive computer/compass. Sounds intense, huh? It is. There’s no sugar coating this one.
This book is just over 260 page and I read every single page. I’m going to be honest here, while reading certain parts of this book, I almost started crying. I was on the verge of giving myself a panic/anxiety attack because of the amount information I was trying to retain.
I’m terrified of the ocean. Reading about things that could go wrong, wasn’t the most comforting aspect of this journey. I had NO IDEA diving was so technical. There is so much science and math that goes into scuba diving. The reading was suppose to be the was the easy part of the program.
The pool dive was next on the course outline It begins with an introductory lesson about the gear, safety features and how enter/exit the water properly.
For the first hour or so, we stood in the dive center handling the tanks, the BCD (vest), the regulatory (breathing mouthpiece) and the weight belts for the first time. I think we put together and took apart the actual scuba gear a minimum of at least 5 times. Each of us in the course, had to prefect the gear before we could move on to the pool.
Once in the water, we learned how to breath underwater through the regulators. We learned how to readjust our gear if something goes wrong and practiced safely descending and surfacing a multitude of times. We worked together in the buddy system using underwater sign language, and how to safely exit and enter the water. My first experience breathing under water was strange and hard to explain. I quickly became comfortable with the feeling of breathing and being weightless underwater.
My Worst Fear Came True
After the pool dive comes four open-water ocean dives. And the time came quickly for this portion of my course. My fear was so intense in the days leading up to the dives, it was hard to concentrate. It became worse on my way to to the dive site.
One of minor challenges, I faced in the open water dives was the fact that these dives took place in the Puget Sound. It was February and the water temperature averages about 44 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, we had on full wetsuits (hoods, booties and gloves), but it didn’t matter.
The specific dive site was called Seacreast Beach Park Cove #1. According to my dive instructor, it is a well known dive site used frequently amongst divers.
My first official open-water dive will be one for the books. I was able to control my fear enough to put the gear on and get into the water. Within minutes of my first descent, I GOT LOST. Yup, my worst nightmare came true. I hardly moved 5 feet and I lost the entire group, instructors and all. Can you believe it?
I’m at the bottom of this cove only 15 feet off the shore and ~20 feet underwater, having a full blown panic attack . It didn’t help that the visibility was horrendous. Plus, we were all learning to control our buoyancy. My classmates kept stirring up the ocean bottom, making it impossible to see each other.
Thankfully, I pulled myself together and I ended up sticking it out for the remainder of the day, which included an additional dive and freezing fingers and toes. By the end of the day, I was starting to get the hang of things and began to open up to the experience. I even went back the next day to finish out the additional two dives to become an official PADI Open-Water Scuba Diver.
Officially Certified, Ready for Mexico
The main focus of these open water dives, is to put you in more real life situations. To provide you with more functional, hands on training and learning. There is a huge differences between an enclosed pool and the open water. I’m glad I went to both days of the open water dives. Mexico will be 1000x better than my class, and not just because the water will be warmer, but because of the adventure itself.
How many people get to say they got to dive ALONE with Celine Cousteau and her husband? I mean seriously this is a real-life Mapless Adventures. Stay tuned for more!
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