I finally made it to the open water series of dives! I admit I was nervous and didn't know if SCUBA was really for me. In my last post I explained how I had issues with water leaking in my mask, with breathing, and staying relaxed. My next concern was jumping into the Puget Sound. The water's cold! During the dive it was around 51 degrees Fahrenheit which required the use of an exposure suit to stay warm and comfortable.
A few days before the class I called Craig asking if Dry Suits were permitted in the open water class and he highly recommended against it. His idea was that student's had issues with buoyancy and adding another buoyancy control device (the drysuit) to the mix would only make things more complicated. I agreed, sucked it up, and went with the wet suit.
Wet suits are an interesting beast. They are hard to don, need to fit snugly to keep you warm, when wet can be cold, and sometimes stink too. Once on they tend to heat up under the sun. Believe it or not Seattle has a few days of sunshine and when it's out it can reach 70 - 80 degrees F easily. For Seattleites that's hot! Now that we are suited up baking under the sun the next step is to strap on what feels like a thousand pounds of gear.
After all of the safety checks and final ok we head out to the water. Walking on lose rocks weighted down isn't as easy as it seems. One must take the proper caution to avoid falling down and potentially hurting themselves with the heavy equipment. With the tide out those same rocks can sometimes get slippery with algae, seaweed, and other plant matter. The best way to handle this is to take it slow and make sure you have a solid footing before each step. As I get closer to the freezing cold water I start to tense up thinking this is going to suck!
I put my left foot in, still dry. I take the next step and the cold water rushes into my boot and up my leg. It was cold but surprisingly not as bad as I had expected. Once wet the wetsuit does it's job and actually makes the whole experience rather pleasant and warm. I was worrying about nothing! We kept wading out until the BCD supported our weight and allowed us to float on top of the water. It was time to dive.
After a few more checks and some last words of wisdom Craig asked us to grab ahold of our inflator / deflator valve and start our descent to the floor. We did as told, settled to the bottom, and I was hooked! All of my worries and fears were forgotten and I was SCUBA diving! It's hard to explain the exhilarating experience, being in the ocean in an alien like environment. Everything looks, feels, and sounds different. In the water you feel weightlessness as if you were in space. It took that moment to finally understand the term innerspace sometimes used by divers. You're also breathing under water, something human's were not really built to do. For me the draw is the peacefulness that comes with it. The busy city life vanishes and you are alone, with your dive buddy, in complete zen.
The open water course continues with practicing the skills learned in the pool and building upon them. By the end of the fourth dive I'm finally starting to feel comfortable and excited for the possibilities with my newly learned skill. Learning to SCUBA dive has been one of the harder things I've done in terms of pushing my personal limits. I've never before attempted a task that made me question my own safety like SCUBA diving has and that includes flying. I realize now that with proper training, respect for the sport, and some common sense that I have a pretty good chance of making it to dive the next day. During the pool training, my first time being under water for any length of time, that little detail was something I doubted. By no means does the open water certification make me a pro, in reality it certifies me to begin my real world learning and training. Something I can't wait to do!
It's cliche to say, but ever since that moment, SCUBA is something I can't stop thinking about. I eat, breath, and sleep SCUBA counting down the days to my next dive. If you are looking for a life changing experience then I highly recommend this past time activity. Believe you me, you'll be glad that you did!