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PADI - Open Water Cert

Scuba Diving – PADI Open Water Certification
Course: Open Water (PADI)
Date: 24,25 May 2014
Duration: 1 day of theory - 1 day of pool session – 2 days of diving (4 dives)
Location: San Carlos beach (Monterey Bay, CA – USA)
Dive sites: Breakwater, Pipe
Instructor/shop: Tropical Adventures Scuba & Travel (I haven't been elsewhere, but I've had the best learning experience, fun and have met great folks here!!)
Fun-factor: Amazing! 

*(c) All picture credits to Umesh ChaudhariKhushboo Goel
  

Pics: here

It’s been quite some time and hadn’t gotten around to writing it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to write this one down here since the PADI certification comes with a logbook, which is to be updated for every dive. This site however allows me to write freely without restrictions of space and unbound by the number of lines in a page.

Scuba diving – this was something that I really wanted to do for a very long time. Inspired by my cousin Sanjay and the countless videos online and thanks to Nileema for the push & support, I decided to enroll into the PADI open water diver course. We bought discounted course coupons online during the month of January 2014 and finally ended up signing up for the course in March 2014. I got into wind surfing last year so was kind-of comfortable in the open ocean (with a PFD :-D). I had learnt how to swim as part of Physical Education Training in school in 2012 which is not too long ago. I was able to swim 1 lap (50m) with difficulty but I was very interested in giving Scuba diving a shot. So this happened.

Before the first class we shopped around for the “personal gear” that was required for scuba – booty’s, snorkel, mask, gloves and fins. All excited, Nileema & I drove to Santa Cruz for our first day of class. John – the expert Scuba Diving instructor & “the” seasoned profession who had loads of stories and adventures during his dives greeted us. He introduced us to the concepts of buoyancy, the super cool toys that the divers use – BCD, regulators, weights, air tanks, suits, under water scooters etc. I was excited to be “suited up” :-P. Quizzes followed the theory session and there some fun competition too. We were asked to come directly to a pool nearby for pool training the next day.

The second class – pool training. I was both excited and scared. I was able to do just one lap the previous week in a swimming pool (50m) and hadn’t swam much for quite some time. John asked us to go ahead and jump into the pool and finish the qualifier pool test for open water certification, which is a continuous swim of 200m/yards followed by a float & treading water for 10 minutes. Ok so now from excitement, my internal meter turned to determination. Believe it or not, I was able to finish 4 laps. I was also able to tread water for 10 minutes :). After that, we did 5 dives with scuba gear. I will never forget that first time when I took a breath under water in the pool. The five dives were mostly various skills that a scuba diver must possess to dive safely – Mask clear underwater, CESA, buddy breathing, out of air situations, regulator recovery, aux. 2nd stage usage, regulator air leak and free breathing etc. It was a lot of skills. After accomplishing all of the skills and to my surprise with not too much of trouble, I was quite confident of diving from a boat (that’s what I thought we would be doing - not beach entry :D). Having finished the pool session and being completely exhausted by the end of it, I returned home. Open water diving was scheduled next week. To my luck, I was down with cold and had to postpone.

The weekends kept slipping away and slots were full too. Nileema finally found me a slot for the Memorial day, long weekend in May. I had started swimming atleast once a week sometimes even twice. I slowly increased my stamina and improved my technique. I went from 4 laps to 24 laps in 12 sessions :) with both open & closed turns without even water breaks. I was super excited about diving but also a little nervous about having done the skills long ago. I brushed up on hand signals and was sure I’d be able to do it well.

On Saturday 24th May, I drove to the shop, collect the gear and reached the beach by 7:15am. Dan & Katelyn were our instructors. It was the most exciting few hours, the first dive in an ocean with beach entry. Katelyn set up the buoy along with the guideline going to the bottom (22 feet). I went down first following Dan. It was strange and fun. I wasn’t able to say if I was diving down or just floating at the surface. I held on to the rope tightly and sank down slowly equalizing my ears. Visibility was crappy. It was just about 2-3 feet and the water was cold, 52 F at the bottom at 22 feet. I went to the far end of the rope and waited there for the others to come down. Dan swam to me and I started practicing/demonstrating the skills that we learnt during the pool session. After the skills, Dan tried to take us around but the visibility was so bad that we all just surfaced. We got out changed the tanks and grabbed our lunch.

2nd dive was fun. It was at the same place for some more skills. CESA which was kind of scary at first but I felt great after I had finished it. We did 3 dives during the 2nd dive and during the 3rd, we spent about 10 mins swimming around. Dan led the way showing us loads of fishes. The visibility got a little better – 6 feet or so. We were quite close to each other. We got to see a one legged crab, loads of starfishes, fishes and some spider like crab. We were going closer to the wall which also meant decrease in depth but before I could react to get air out of the BCD, I had surfaced! L Alas, my dive was over. This was the first time I thought to myself – why did I surface out – I should have stayed underwater longer :-D
  

The next dive on Sunday morning was navigation skills. We had some training over land and then sank to the bottom to do that as well as other skills like bcd disconnect, full mask removal. The cold water, 2 feet visibility added to the toughness of everything. This time we did not have a guide rope to go down. It was quite fun following the bubbles of other divers to them. The last dive was the best. We were on our own. In buddy teams we were supposed to sink to 18 feet or so till we went to almost the bottom and very close to the wall and were to swim to 38-40feet and then return when we were at 1500psi. This was a lot of fun. My dive buddy for the day Khushboo & I had some amazing fun. We spotted quite a lot of star fishes, crabs and school of fishes swimming around. Visibility at 40 feet wasn’t that great. It was again very less. We were pretty much super close to each other so that we did not loose each other. After about 40 mins, we surfaced and found ourselves quite far off. We swam back to the shore. Thanks to Khushboo’s husband for the pictures that are put up here on this blog.  :-)

It was so much fun. Thanks Dan & Katelyn for making it such a fun learning experience. I am now totally hooked into diving. Thanks Jai for so may inputs and knowledge tidbits on fb :-)  Looking forward to the next dive (which I hope is over the next weekend :D).