Embarassing First Open Water Certification Dive
by Emilyn Monroe
Hi, I thought I might share my first Open Water Dive experience with you. I find it highly hilarious (now) but back then I was mortified!
I took my Open Water Certification Dives (License) in Phuket, Thailand. The center I took it from had a rule where any student under 18 years old had to have a one on one tutor.
So on my first dive in the ocean, it was just me, my instructor and my buddy (who is also an instructor, but he wasn't the one instructing me. He was there purely for the function of being my buddy...)
As we got ready to descend, my buddy (Neil) and I ran through a buddy check. All his apparatus seemed fine.
Mine was a trainwreck even from the beginning.
As my buddy inflated my BCD, I felt one side of the vest being inflated, but not the other. I thought this was common, because it has happened before when I was training in the pool on my first day.
When we finally ran through the final okay, we took a giant leap into the sea: left hand holding the weight belt, right hand holding the regulator and mask. Check.
As I entered the sea, I switched to my snorkel and inflated my BCD. PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHH... my BCD retaliated.
I searched for my dive instructor and notified him. He swam towards my back and held me still, fixing the BCD. After a while, he says, "I need you to unbuckle your weight belt and hand it to Neil, as I'm trying to keep you buoyant here when you're BCD is deflated... not the easiest thing to do, mate."
Thank god we learned the whole removal and attachment of a weight belt underwater in the pool prior to this. So I did exactly that. (Little did I know when I did that, one of the weights slipped off the belt and descended 20m below...)
As we got the BCD cleared up, we descended. No major catastrophe happened throughout the dive, but as my SPG read 80 bars, I couldn't keep myself at depth. I signaled to my buddy to help me with my buoyancy.
He swam towards me like a pro (ahem, which is IS) handling me one of his weights and chucking it into my BCD pocket. After he did that, I still felt myself floating to the top. I pressed the deflate button as much as I could.
No use, I was still ascending. I panicked.
I couldn't ascend without them and since it was my first dive, I didn't have a dive computer to plan my safety stops. I frantically tried to signal them for help.
Finally, before I could get any higher, Neil caught my eye. He swam up and tugged my D rings down (ha, well, I apparently forgot the whole securing my BCD tightly rule) and he signaled me to pull the BCD hose upright.
Completely forgot about the whole upright low pressure hose rule, too. Instantly bubbles arose from the low pressure hose. Phew.
Soon, I managed to get myself right at the bottom again. We were about to ascend, when I decided to check my SPG. Big mistake.
I turned to Neil and showed him my fist. (No one told me that only if HE ASKS, then showing my fist would mean 50 bars left.) I completely forgot that a fist circled around my chest would also mean, "low on air" ...
He came to me and gave me his alternative from his octopus. I took it, because according to the textbook, 50 also means low on air.
Upon seeing the sharing of oxygen, my instructor panicked and rushed to us.
He grabbed my SPG and looked me in the eye and signaled "7" that means I had 70 bars left- plenty much. I looked at my SPG and squinted.
He was right.
The fog in my mask deluded me to think I had 50 bars left. Feeling stupid, I returned Neil's octopus and we ascended, successfully.
As we reached the surface, my instructor reminded me, "You had 70 bars left in your tank, lass, nothing to worry about." I explained to him that I thought I saw it was 50. "Well, even if it was 50, at the depth of 18m, to be frank with you even if you were left with 20 bars, you would be able to ascend comfortably with a safety stop."
I was red. As we boarded the boat, I took off my weight belt again. Noticing I had one weight missing, I notified Neil.
I knew this would be bad because we rented these weights from the boat, and it wasn't from the dive academy. That meant we would have to pay extra for any missing items. Neil looked at me. "I dunno, it might have fallen... Just... hang the weight belt back where it was" and winked. We just avoided that topic and never told my instructor...
At least that was the only thing that went right that day.
P.S: I managed to get really good marks on the theory and got through the other 3 dives without a single hassle, thankfully. Upon receiving my certification, my instructor claimed that I've been the best student he's gotten so far... HA, LIES.
- Emilyn Monroe, Malaysia.
Great story. I'm glad you got through the course successfully and didn't let a couple incidents deter you.
You are not alone in having a couple of "incidents" on your first certification dive. That first dive can be nervewracking - there is alot to remember plus it is your first time diving in openwater.
I'm glad you got through it and can appreciate the humor now.
Thanks for sharing your story - I enjoyed it and it will probably help some other new divers feel a bit more relaxed.