From Fear to Security: Getting Certified
When we were at Magnetic Island, in Australia, we spent five days getting certified as Scuba Divers. My parents were already certified, but wanted to get trained as rescue divers. Stella, Cleo, and I just got the open water SSI certification. Before getting certified, I felt utterly terrified. I was so scared of getting hurt underwater, where I couldn’t have the oxygen I needed. But after, I was so happy I did it. Because if you don’t face the dangers underwater, you won’t see the beauty either.
We started by doing the necessary, but a little boring, internet reading work. Lots of slides, videos, and frightening diseases that totally scared me out of my wits. Fun stuff! The SSI program was great for someone who could go for hours without getting side tracked. Not exactly me. But I stuck with it and learned a lot about pressure and volume, ear squeeze, and what a regulator is. There were a lot of sections with things like pounds per square inch that were of a different universe to me. Adult World! The scuba diving certification is for an adult, and there are precious few who are allowed to be scuba divers, like me. But, I got through the SSI Diving Certification and came out with more information than I had started with. I like reading and internet work, but mostly I’m a hands on person. And the next phase of becoming a Scuba Diver was definitely going to be a hands on activity.
When our instructor, Amanda, got to our boat, we started familiarizing ourselves using slideshows, the equipment, and the dangerous No, Nos. That was just for one day and after that we started the actual diving. Our first two dives were on the same day and I remember being petrified before the dive, and after, being glad I did it. When you’re Scuba diving, you have to do a lot to get ready for your dive. You have to have a schedule, or dive plan, and get your equipment ready. First, put your tank (or oxygen cylinder) in your BCD (or Buoyancy Control Device). Next, you put your regulator on your tank. Then, you test your regulator to see if you can breath through it. You shouldn’t be able to. After that, you have to turn on your air. Do that by turning the knob all the way back, then a half turn forward. Lastly, you put on your wetsuit and get your fins, goggles, and snorkel ready. Finally you put on your BCD, fins, goggles, and snorkel.
Now you’re ready to get in the water. You can do that by taking off your BCD, tying it to the boat, then throwing it in, getting in after it, and putting it on in the water. You can also Giant Stride in. That’s when you stand up with your BCD on and walk straight into the water. If you’re going in a dive dinghy, you have to get your BCD on, step into the dinghy, and sit down. Then, when you get to your dive site, you bend backwards and topple off the side. It’s really fun! You have to do it at the same time as all the other people in the dinghy or else the dinghy will flip over one way or the other. That part is not really fun.
When you’re in the water, you make sure everything you have on is not loose or broken. Sometimes I have to retighten some of my straps because my wetsuit shrinks when I get in the water. I also have to check that my air is not leaking out of my regulator or octopus. Then, you check your air gauge to see if you’re at 2000, or close to it. When you’re all checked up, you make the Ok sign to your buddy, and get ready to descend.
To descend, you have to be up right in the water. You deflate your BC, letting air out through a little valve that connects to your BC. You start to go down, and as you do, “pop” your ears, like you would do on a plane. Hold your nose and blow gently. Do that all the way down and you won’t get ear squeeze. Once you get to the bottom, you can stop popping your ears. Now, inflate a little air into you BC, so that you rise a little off the ground. After that, you want to aim to get neutral buoyancy.
Neutral buoyancy is when you breath in, rise a little, breath out, and descend a little. Positive buoyancy would be going up completely. Negative buoyancy would be going down completely. You want to aim for going up a little, then down a little, because you can never be completely still in the water. After you get neutral buoyancy, lie horizontally in the water and start to swim to or around your dive site. Stay with your buddy and enjoy life under the surface. Because this is the time you can think about the reason you dive. For me, that reason is to see things underwater that most people don’t get to see. As you swim along, you will see things like coral, fish, turtles and starfish. Among these categories, you will see different kinds of coral and fish you didn’t know existed. Most people living in the city don’t see these things, so be grateful for the unknown kingdom of the sea that you have stepped into.
On the ascent, you will make the signal to your buddy for ascending, and get ready to ascend. Take the valve you used on your descent, and put air into your BC. You will feel yourself going up and this time, don’t pop your ears. When you get to the surface, you will be weighed down by your equipment, so inflate your BC all the way. Now you’re just a bobbing little blob and you can make your way back to your boat or dinghy. Keep your mask on, but take your regulator out because you don’t want to waste air. Instead, put your snorkel in. Make your way back to your boat or dinghy. If your getting on a dive boat, take your BC and fins off before you climb up the ladder. If your getting in a dinghy, take your BC and fins off for someone in the dinghy to take. Then get in yourself.
To take off all of your equipment, start by hosing everything off. Next, turn off your air and detach your BC from your tank. You can put your tank back in your tank holders. Hold your BCD upside down and blow into the little valve that you can use if the button isn’t working. Now, deflate your BCD. As you do that, you’ll find that water is coming out of your deflation valve. That is what is suppose to happen, so don’t think it is bad. Once the water is all out, you can fill your BCD with fresh water from the hose. Shake it around and get all the salt out. Next, deflate all the water out once more. Now you can lie it out to dry. Then, take off your wetsuit, fins, mask and snorkel. Rinse all of these off and hang them up to dry. The reason for being so careful about rinsing and drying is because if you don’t rinse your equipment, the salt will accumulate, and eventually, break your equipment. That is what salt does. So now you know to never, ever leave your equipment salty. It could cost you hundreds of dollars.
Scuba diving can be scary at first, but actually being down there cannot be put into words. It’s beautiful and magical, and everything you could ever dream of. I am glad I got certified because at first, all I could think about was the dangers of getting sick. But as we started to dive more, I felt that fear ebbing away, replaced by a new and fun activity. Scuba Diving!