My Very First Scuba Dive EVER!!!!

What a whirlwind life has been since my return from 2 months in SE Asia. I’ll start with the last few days of my trip – where I went to Koh Tao Island to complete my PADI Open Water Diver Course.

The dive site

Dive computer

My biggest fears about scuba diving were slowly quashed as the course went on, and then as I dove into the ocean. My fears were:  freaking out once I hit the water and forgetting how to breath through my mouth, not being able to pop my ears, and seeing jellyfish… though, there are far bigger things in the ocean than jellyfish, I am legit more afraid of them than I am a shark. Flashbacks to snorkeling with my family back in the day and seeing the welts that my brother had from being stung by a jellyfish…..It was amazing how much I learned in 3 days.

Dive boats

I went from ZERO clue what all of the scuba equipment was called, zero clue how to use it all, and zero clue if I would REALLY be able to do this. After day one, I was able to put the buoyancy vest onto the oxygen tank, connect it to the regulator, and do a safety check to make sure it all worked. The thought of being in control of my OWN oxygen supply was a little unnerving, but we all had a buddy assigned to check our gear before we went anywhere near the water. They taught us how to breathe (this was a struggle at first… its weird how the brain panics when FORCED to breathe through the mouth), equalize our ears, put on our gear, how to operate the buoyancy compensator device, and what to do in an emergency all in the pool – where it was comforting to know if I started to freak out or if I did something wrong, all I had to do was swim a few meters and stand up. I think if they had started this part of the course in the ocean it would have wreaked havoc on my ability to remain calm. After 2 days of classroom learning, 5 hours learning the skills in the pool, the next day we were off the ocean to dive for real. I was so excited!!!! We packed our gear bags and headed to the boat. When we boarded the dive boat, we walked through an area that had oxygen tanks lined up on both sides of the boat and in the middle area. We were responsible to get our gear out of our bags and set up our tanks and equipment just like we had learned the day before.
Safety Buddy
 Surprisingly enough, I was NOT nervous at all. Hooking everything up seemed like second nature just 30 hours after I first learned what the stuff was. We did our buddy checks – the belts, the weight belt to counteract my body’s natural buoyancy, the hooks, the respirator, the vest, the tank strap, and making sure we both had flowing oxygen by breathing in each other’s rescue respirators. Once we completed the safety check, I walked to the edge of the boat, put my flippers on, pulled down my masks, put the regulator in my mouth, held it in place with my right hand while my left hand held the weight belt, reminded myself to NEVER hold my breathe and then… I scissor jumped into the deep blue ocean!! I was doing it!!!!!! And not freaking out!!  We all swam to the guide rope which we would use to descend under the water. I was thankful for this rope because the waves were big this day, but the current was even more forceful! The first thing I noticed was that my ears were NOT happy with me.. I practiced pressurizing them often, but not often enough. They didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable. Earlier in the day we also practiced hand signals – one of which was to pressurize, and one was to calm down. I received both signals from our amazing instructor. She turned her head and motioned to plug her nose and blow to pressurize the ears… it worked! I could see the little air bubbles float up and out of my ears and instantly felt better. We continued down where we were tested on some of the skills we learned in the last 30 hours including clearing our masks when water gets in, how to find your regulator if it falls out of your mouth while diving and how to clear the regulator of water so you can breathe again, and how to control the buoyancy in the vest to allow the most control. All the while we had dive watches on which gave us info such as how deep we were, how long we had been underwater, and a signal when we needed to do our 3 min safety stop to ensure we would not get the bends (from ascending too fast). I continuously checked the air in my tank – I started with 200 bar (I don’t remember what the PSI conversion is) and when it reached 70, I was to flag the instructor and the group would ascend (or whoever hit 70 first).  It was a struggle to focus when there was so much going on – from the current pulling us one way and then the other, the skills we were testing on underwater, remembering to breath, to check the O2 levels, to check the dive watch… and then all of the shiny, brightly colored fish swimming around us… it was completely fascinating!!! Before coming up from that dive I knew I was 100% hooked.  As we were bobbing around waiting to get back on the boat I felt a sharp sting on the back of my knee…. Low and behold a jellyfish found me. I didn’t realize it until after because thankfully I didn’t see it.. but it got me and it turns out it didn’t hurt as much as I expected it to. As we got back in the boat to go to another dive sight, we were tasked with changing out our O2 tanks and re-doing all the steps to get set up for a dive. The boat had vinegar for the jellyfish sting and I hardly thought twice about it… weird considering it was literally one of my top three fears!
A moment of calm on the ride to the second dive site!

 The second dive has less current which was nice. I felt like I had a little more control of my body! We again did skills testing and swam around looking at all the cool life underwater. The max depth we went to (and the max depth I am certified to) is 18 meters. It was SO COOL!!!!  After a long day of learning and diving, we made it back to land where we cleaned all of our gear and were dismissed for the day. I had wanted to go out and check out the nightlife on the island, but I was far to exhausted! I got some street food on the walk back to my hostel and lounged before heading to bed. It was going to be an early morning – 7:30am start to do two more dives!

Arrival back on land!