Thursday, July 24, 2008

My first dive in 6 years

[I have been meaning to post this for the longest time but I was just too busy doing some other things. It’s a shame to waste though so here it is, enjoy]

I have always wanted to go back to diving. My love-affair with the fishes and the corrals began when I was introduced to skin diving during my college years (note that's skin diving and not skinny dipping!). I took it up as one of my physical education subjects (the other was advanced swimming - I loved being in the water ever since I was a small kid in primary school) and even joined a student organization of skin divers. I was not able to become a full fledged member of that club though since I was not able to attend the final test which was an actual dive trip.

There was a group of my friends who were also of like mind about skin diving and we used to go on skin diving trips together. The 4 of us would go to a diving resort and hire a boat and be asked to be brought to areas suitable for skin diving. We went on several memorable dives and we made an agreement that we should all learn how to do SCUBA diving (one of us was a certified openwater SCUBA diver already).

I had the opportunity to learn SCUBA in 2002 when a class was being offered at 50% of the usual cost (fortunately it was subsidized by our sports club). My last dive was actually my check-out/certification dive.

Now, after 6 years of just occasional skin diving trips, I decided to accompany a couple of my friends on their check-out dive. I was a bit apprehensive at first since during my last skin diving in Palawan I had encountered problems in equalizing (but that was probably because I had a cold). By the end of that trip, not only was I having problems with my congested nose and slight discomfort on my ears but my nasal lining became so irritated that my friend pointed out that my nose was bleeding! At this point I could not help but hear the themesong from Jaws play in my head over and over.

My own checkout dive way back 6 years ago was not a very pleasant experience and I do not really have fond memories of it. I was seasick most of the time and on the 2nd day, I had a problem with my bouyancy control that caused an uncontrolled ascent to the surface (trust me that is not a good thing). On the way up, I experienced tunnel vision and the feeling that I am about to pass out but I was struggling to keep awake. Luckily before surfacing all the way, I just felt my instructor grab me and pull me down and held me steady until I felt better. We had an extra long safety stop at the end of that dive. This is probably the reason why I was holding out on going on more SCUBA diving trips after that. Until recently that is.

So inspite of my fears and apprehensions, I decided to accompany my friends. I was not decided that I will actually dive with them and the worse case scenario is that I will just tag along and just enjoy having a relaxing weekend at the beach and enjoy the food in the resort (buffet here I come!). Sounds like a good worse case scenario as any. What I like most about dive resorts is the usually nice buffet meals. I thought that I could just tag along and if I cannot dive then I would definitely enjoy myself. I could accompany them on the boat I suppose. I could amuse myself by chatting with the boat driver. But just to be on the safe side, I packed my complete diving gear anyway "just in case". I slept very late trying to pack just about everything in my room for an overnight trip (I found out during the trip itself to my horror that I forgot the sunblock of all things - in case you haven't notice it yet I get very upset if I don't remember bringing an essential item like that). That included a lot of extras of course. My mobile phone, my bluetooth stereo headset, my bluetooth keyboard, the PSP with GPS navigation software (so I can mark the resort as a POI or Point of Interest in my maps), my high capacity thumbdrive (so that I can quickly get the photos taken by other people of myself what else), a pair of good earphones (so I will enjoy playing PATAPON while on my don’t-bother-me-I’m-on-my-alone-time-mood), 2 pieces of tripods for my camera, my Canon EOS 350D DSLR, my complete set of filters for my lens, my emergency gadget charger, assorted power cables, 2 bags of potato chips, and what seems like my entire wardrobe, and lots and lots of ZIPLOCK! (everybody needs ZIPLOCk especially on trips - trust me on this one).

My friend's dive instructor asked if he could see my diving license and how long ago I actually went on a SCUBA diving trip. I answered honestly of course and he asked me if I would be interested in joining their dive and I agreed. He said that it's like riding a bicycle - you never forget. I did not have the courage to admit to him that I don't even know how to ride a bike and that statement did not reassure me one bit.

There were 2 dives scheduled for the first day. The first one was a fun tour of the area and the second were some excercises for the students. Since I wasn’t technically a student, I just hovered nearby trying not to kick too much sand at the bottom thus spoiling the visibility.

I had some problems with my weight belt. I think I underestimated how much bouyant I am with the full body wet suit and given my body type BMI is somewhere between fat and grossly fat (body mass index). I kept on floating in inappropriate moments, like when the instructor told us to kneel in one line. I kept floating everytime I put air in my lungs. Thankfully my other friend was not faring any better (he really had a hard time staying on the sandy bottom and would occassionally even drift away).

The dives on the 2nd day were more fun dives. They were very nice dive spot appropriate for beginners. Lots of giant clams and of course fishes. We think that the fishes in this area are too spoiled though. They are too used to divers feeding them. So they would crowd on you even just after you roll down into the water.

It was all in all a very nice experience. It wasn’t as traumatic as I initially thought it would be. Maybe I will join my diving friends the next time they plan a trip. It is nice to know that I can use my wetsuit other than that kinky stuff I have been using it for all these years. Just kidding. Hah! :p

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