Saturday, September 11, 2010

Diving - Part II

‘What the fuck am I doing here?’ - my thoughts as the boat leaves the beach behind headed for our first dive site. What I haven’t alluded to yet is the ridiculous amount of information you need to absorb in a short space of time in order to develop some level of competency as a diver. There’s the equipment for starters which you must assemble yourself, ensuring that you’re careful with your precious cylinder of air and that you don’t puncture your buoyancy compensator, and then there’s the skills you need to learn and the theory surrounding the necessity for safety stops or holding your breath while ascending etc. So you're balancing the need to remember all of this vital information with the need to remember how to function in the water. To most people, this is probably straightforward, to me this is a problem.
There I stood then - still wondering to myself why the fuck I was doing this course - on the edge of the boat, full gear on, trying to look nonchalant while slipping into my fins, aluminium cylinder on my back and fucking weights around my waist - I didn‘t tell G that I felt the weights were unnecessary as one thing I‘d always been confident about in the water was my innate ability to sink to the bottom. This theory was the be completely disproved not 20 minutes later. Anyway, so I’m at the edge of the boat, trying to remember the instructions G has drilled into me once I’ve got the fins on - left hand on weight clip, right hand on regulator (through which I will breathe) and two fingers on my mask, look out to the horizon and jump separating my legs as I enter the water. Now, everything ready, all I need to do is jump. But I wait, anxiously peering into the abyss. Having a queue of folk impatiently awaiting entry to the water directly behind you is always a motivator so I inhaled deeper than was necessary as if it might be my last breath and jumped, emitting a little scream/groan which was audible to me but hopefully not to anyone else as I plunged into the depths. My first reaction after ‘I’m alive!’ was ‘Christ, this is warm!’ Each day I dived here, the water temperature rarely dipped below 30 degrees.
Our first lesson involved learning all of the basic skills which are essential to know but will hopefully never need to be used - recovery of regulator, use of secondary regulator, dealing with cramp etc etc. For the most part these were all fine and I surprised myself by completing them all. That said we were kneeling in a metre of water so panic wasn’t really a factor just yet. Once completed we began to move out to deeper water where we tried - not so successfully - some flotation exercises. I knew the theory behind it all - as you breathe in your lungs become more buoyant and so you float to the surface. As you exhale, your lungs contract and you should sink in the water. This is also where the weights come in, in order to stop you ascending too much too soon. The idea is to gain a happy medium between ascending and descending and so a regular breathing pattern is essential. Body position is also essential and this is where my problems began. Over the course of the 6 days I spent diving, I diagnosed myself with a hitherto unknown affliction - underwater dyspraxia. I might want my body to do something underwater but by and large it will refuse to do so. And we’re talking the most routine tasks here - bending my back to get from a vertical to horizontal position, turning upside down as I was diving. All tasks which it’s possible to complete with the minimum of fuss, but not for me.
We were in three metres of water and the plan was to flip over horizontally and swim to greater depths. Except I couldn’t do it, having no understanding of why I was rising to the surface, my legs flailing wildly beneath me. G was equipped with a pad and pencil which was clearly only broken out in case of emergency or an encounter with excessive limb-flailing Irishmen. Upon this he wrote (“STOP KICKING YOUR LEGS!”) which was a mild rebuke given the fact that he’d waited ten minutes for me to assume correct body position. What he really meant to write though was ‘Continue trashing those legs you ignorant Mick and I’ll bite the fucking things off at the hips.’ EVENTUALLY I figured things out and by the end of an extremely chastening day - for newbie diver and exhausted diving instructor - I returned home happy to be on terra firma once more but having developed a taste for the depths.

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