Where: Frank Whites Dive Store, Victoria, BC
My husband has been a diver for years but I have always been too scared to try. When he talks about diving at night in the pitch black doing tasks where he just has to feel his way around in the dark, I usually just shudder and thank the universe that I was not with him to experience that sheer terror. That’s imagined terror on my part of course, not his actual terror. My husband has always loved diving and once even considered becoming a full time diver. Me, not so much. I grew up with a pool in my backyard and maybe because of that have always been a little scared of hobnobbing with the creatures down in the sea.
But we humans are nothing if not adaptable, and I like to believe that I can change. In fact, I thrive on change in many parts of my life and thought it would be a good time, during this Year of New, to try something a little scary. I figured at the very least I would feel good that I made an attempt (which just might succeed) at overcoming a fear, and at the most I would discover a new sport I would really love – something that my husband and I could do together.
On that note, I took the plunge (groan) and signed up for a Discover Scuba course at a local dive shop. Discover Scuba is a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) course which is supposed to whet your whistle for diving. The idea is that it’s a “try diving on for size” kind of course, without having to go to the full lengths of getting certified. Doing a Discover Scuba course – just one night of instruction and diving action – sounded like a great first step to me so I signed up a few weeks ahead of time and waited for the night to arrive.
I’ll admit that I was quite nervous driving to the store for the course when the night came. As it turned out, I was the only person that was going to only be doing the Discover Scuba course that night (the others were in it for the full certification course) so I did feel a little silly. But, oh well. We signed paperwork and watched a 30 minute video about diving and what we’d experience throughout that first night, and then drove to the pool to get on with it all.
First off we took a swim test, giving me some of my confidence back. I can swim (we had to do eight lengths across the pool and back) and I can tread water (we had to do it for 10 minutes) so this was a good start for me. Actually, doing the swim test was something I didn’t have to do as “just” a Discover Scuba participant, but who wants to sit on the sidelines while others get to enjoy the water? I dove right in.
Back on the deck after our swim test, I struggled into my somewhat claustrophobic wetsuit with the other (mostly male) members of our group. Of course I was still a bit nervous, but I didn’t have time to think about that anymore. Now I really had to pay attention because going underwater with a regulator, BCD and tank to breathe with was imminent! The instructor took time to show us how to fasten all our equipment together, but I still needed extra help because I learn best by doing things myself, not from watching it done before me. We jumped in the water and put our gear on there once everything was hooked together.
After we were all suited up it was time to dive! Well, really it was time to just gently drop to our knees and go under the water, breathing through our regulator. We were only in about five feet of water, but there we were, breathing! The feeling was really neat, but I hardly had time to enjoy it at all. My brain was going into overdrive figuring out how to do each new task, because the instructors really kept things moving.
I must admit that when it came time to learn how to clear my mask of water while underwater, I looked (and felt) like a real spaz. It took me four tries to figure out how to do this seemingly-easy task! Thank goodness in the end I got it right … well, close enough! We went through several other underwater exercises doing things like telling the instructor how much air we had left in the tank, swimming to a deeper section of the pool, and “saying” (with hand motions) that we were out of air and practicing grabbing our buddy’s secondary air supply. I’m glad that we also got some “down” time underwater to just sit and look around, enjoying the moment while our fellow participants got evaluated doing their tasks that we had just completed.
Eventually our underwater tasks were finished (boy, time went fast!) and I actually got to leave a little early because I was a Discover Scuba participant while the others went on to do some tasks over again. Overall, it was a really great night but I did feel that I could have done some things better. (I like to be good at everything right away and it ticks me off sometimes when I can’t!) But in that short time I did learn that diving is actually not as scary as I thought it would be. I was pretty proud of what I was able to accomplish that night – if I do say so myself!
I got a tiny little taste why many people (my husband included) think diving is so wonderful and exhilarating. And I learned that our location right here in beautiful Victoria, BC is usually rated one of the top (one or two) best places to dive in the world. I think now I have the confidence to progress some day to the open water part of the course and actually get my certification. The fact that I am even talking that way makes me think trying this new thing was definitely the right thing to do!