I survived both my first and second open water dive today. There were a few times when I almost thought that I wouldn’t. Diving in the ocean is a completely different thing than in a pool. My first few breaths under water in the pool were scary and hard, much harder than a normal breath above water, but still manageable once I got used to it. You would think that the breathing process is the same in the ocean with same gear. But it is completely different, like night and day. First of all, there are conditions in the ocean that don’t exist in the pool, like waves, currents, colder water, lower visibility.
I was excited at first, a bit tired, and a little scared, but I didn’t think it would be that much different from the pool. Stupid me. So once we got in the water with our diving buddies, I found it hard to breathe. The wetsuit was a very thick one, 7mm, and a two-piece. It didn’t fit much tighter than my surfsuit, but it was more material tightening around my chest, and with that heavy BCD (Buoyancy Control Device), and weights and tanks and all that, I got winded from just walking with it to the shore from the car. And then getting in the water, with mild surf, and putting on my mask/snorkel and fins, was pretty tough. My total extra weight was 24lbs and then the BCD+tank on top of that. I was carrying a lot. And with the tight wetsuit, a little heavy breathing felt way worse than it does at the gym. So imagine swimming on the water, against the waves, out towards the buoy. With the snorkel it was kinda fine, but I was honestly freaking out a little bit. And it just got worse when I tried putting the regulator in. That was so scary! It is a completely natural reaction to freak out when you feel like you can’t get enough air. And even if I knew that I got air, I didn’t feel like it was enough and I got really scared and almost wanted to end the dive and do this another time. During the first dive I wasn’t sure why I was freaking out. I thought it was because I was scared of being in the ocean and not in the confined pool water. I knew we were going deeper than the pool and I’m sure some of it was anxiety. So my buddy and I were the last to go down to the rope on the bottom. When I hear 15 feet, I automatically think in meters. 15 meters is a lot!! So I was a little scared going down the rope, but 15 feet: piece of cake and I was on the bottom in no time! Once I was on the bottom I was actually fine. The panic was gone, I could breathe, and second most importantly; I wasn’t cold in the 56 degree water.
We did some training on the bottom, it was just a couple of things before we went on a minidive on the bottom. On the first dive we did two things on the bottom, and that was filling our mask halfway and emptying it and then removing the regulator, throwing it away, finding it again, and putting it in. Diver’s rule #1 is to always let bubbles out of your mouth while under water and never ever hold your breath. So you have to be smart and only let out a very little amount of air. During that dive, but at the surface, we also practiced cramp removal, and tired diver tow.
The minidive was pretty much just a 10 minute swim on the bottom in an arrow formation with the instructor in the middle. Two instructors and five or four students going in two different directions. The visibility was really bad, 5-10feet according to the instructors. You had to stay really close to your buddy. We swam to some kelp, I didn’t look at anything, I tried to focus on my breathing and doing what I was supposed to do, like give my psi to the instructor whenever he asked for it and turned direction when he wanted to. I did however see some cool stuff. On the first dive I saw a dead squid the size of my hand. Super sad, but it was a squid. Some kelp was blue shimmering and was really pretty. And that was everything I saw during the first dive.
Swimming in was hard, the diving fins are so heavy and I find it very hard to swim with them. So swimming back in with the waves that got a little bigger while we were out there, definitely made me breathe heavily again. But not too bad, and getting out of the water wasn’t hard at all.
We put our stuff on some tarp so it wouldn’t get sandy. Walked up to the cars, had a little snack, changed our tanks and then went in again. I wasn’t as nervous and scared this time. But the waves were higher and it was very difficult to swim out to the buoy. And this time we were supposed to only do it with our compass. That wasn’t the hard part, but seriously, swimming on the surface with all that gear sucks!! It is so heavy and once again, my breathing got heavy and I found it hard to breathe in the regulator. But this time I knew it was from being winded so I just needed a minute by the buoy before descending.
During the second dive we did three exercises. First we filled our whole mask with water and emptied it. I couldn’t fill mine the whole way so I had to fill it up to like three quarters three times. My eyes hurt a little after that, stupid saltwater. But then I got it. The second thing we did was regulator exchange, so we signaled to our buddies that we were out of air and we got there secondary second stage to breathe in. Then we ascended, pretending that one of our BCD’s were empty and had to inflate it orally at the surface. Me and my buddy did really well on that one. We also had to show the instructors again at the bottom that we could remain neutrally buoyant in the water. That means just floating in the water. I did that very well too.
Then we did another minidive and this time I looked around more, swam through the kelp, almost got stuck one time, haha, saw a big starfish and once again, the shimmering kelp. That was a pretty cool dive too. And then came the horrible part. Getting out of the water. The waves were pretty big once we reached the surface, and swimming in that, while breathing in the regulator, well, I got the same feeling like before, that I didn’t get enough air. I was starting to panic again, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t wanna have the regulator in my mouth, but I’m pretty sure that’s what you are supposed to do, not the snorkel. It took forever to swim in, so I was exhausted when I got in there. And then I couldn’t get my fins off, I tried myself, and eventually I got help from one of the instructors. I was embarrassed honestly. I usually never panic like this, and I am almost all of the times, prepared when I am doing something new because I wanna do it right from the beginning. I couldn’t breathe, so as soon as I got up to the shore I got helped with the removal of my BCD, opened up my wetsuit, off with the hood, and I almost started crying. Not being able to breathe sucks! It is scary as hell! Once I could breathe normally again, I put on the BCD and walked up the beach to the cars. Ugh, that was horrible. But I survived, and the conditions today was not optimal for a dive, and for a first dive? I think overall I did pretty well. But I hope it will go better tomorrow. We are going to Morro Bay, so there shouldn’t be any waves, but there is gonna be a current (today there was none). So instead of being winded at the surface, where I can calm down before descending, I might be winded at the bottom. That would not be fun! Also I think that I most likely will get calf cramps too. But that’s not a big problem compared to the breathing part. I’m sure it will be fine!
My maximum depth today was 21 feet, and my total bottom time after today is 48 minutes. Cool!
After I got home I was so extremely tired and hungry. I probably burned 3000 calories today, so I had a bowl of mac n cheese, watched the season finale of Grimm, and took a nap. When I woke up I was hungry again, and somehow I managed to get a friend to pick up a pulled pork sandwich for me from Firestone. The sweetest thing ever! I saved half the sandwich so I have some yumminess for tomorrow. The fries though went fast. I really needed some salt. The rest of the evening I played Guild Wars 2. The food gave me more energy and eventually, at 10pm, I took the warm shower I probably should have taken right away. Well well. We are not meeting until 1pm tomorrow, so I get to sleep in. And I am pretty sure that I will fall asleep as soon as I put my head on my pillow. Wish me luck tomorrow everyone! If I do well tomorrow I have my PADI Open Water Certification at the end of the day, yay!