Wednesday, January 27, 2010

scuba diving - part 1

Unfinished post from 31st of March 2008. I will have to add part two to it soon.

As you might have noticed I was not posting much during the month of March. The main reason for that was that I was taking a scuba diving course. The course that I took was organized by SF Dive Academy, which is affiliated with UCSF. I can not say a single bad word about this scuba diving school and I can recommend it to you whole-heartedly. I thought that all instructors were really great - they were very good and patient teachers, and at the same time passionate scuba divers themselves. Throughout the course I could see that they had our best interest at heart and that they wanted us to become confident and independent divers.

The "beginner" course took four weeks and consisted of seven 3.5 hour sessions, each including both lecture and pool practice time, followed by a weekend trip to Monterey/Pacific Groove where "real" ocean dives took place.

To get a "beginner" Scuba Diver License one has to complete six ocean dives during which several different underwater tasks have to be performed, like: removing water from your mask; removing your mask completely, putting it back on and removing water from it; removing the regulator from your mouth and retrieving it; emergency ascent on one breath; removing your weight belt or BC and putting it back on.

Initially, I was not very good at removing water from my mask as apparently it is really difficult for me to breath out air through my nose while my mouth is still open. But luckily one of my instructors (and coincidentally my lab mate) thought me a trick that helped me with that.

Still I was a bit anxious before my first ocean dive as I was not completely sure if this trick would work and also because I did not feel fully comfortable in the open water. On top of that the weather/ocean conditions were not that great during that particular weekend, which was not helping me to become more relaxed.

I got already very exhausted during my first attempt to dive as my body refused to submerge in the water... How it works is that everybody has to wear a weight belt to compensate for the buoyancy of their wet suit (and their bodies). Basically, the taller and the fatter you are, the bigger wet suit you wear, and therefore, the more extra weight you need to be able to dive. This is how it works for the majority of people. But not for me, of course.

The guy at the scuba rental place estimated (by looking at me and checking my wet suite size) that I would need only 26lbs (12.5kg) of extra weight. My scuba diving instructors thought that I would need 30-32lbs (as they already knew from our swimming pool lessons that I need much more weight than anybody would expect from me - even there with short wet suit I still needed 16-18lbs, whereas everybody else was fine with 6-12lbs).

During my first attempt to dive I had 30 extra lbs on me and I was still unable to go down even when Mark (one of the instructors) was puling my legs down... It might sound funny right now, but it was very frustrating when it was actually happening - you go through this long course, you get to Monterey, and your body says - I'm not diving! Only after I got another 4lbs from other people and with Mark pulling my legs down I finally managed to go under water. 4lbs more (totaling 38lbs - 18kg) I was able to go down by myself. (For the record - it is extremely difficult to walk in scuba gear wearing extra 18kg of weights plus the weight of scuba tanks... So you do not want to have more weight on you than necessary...)

I still don't know what it is about my body that makes me so buoyant. I start to suspect that I must have air in my bones or something (I know that I also have very large lung capacity, but that alone can not explain so much extra weight!).

Here are some photos from my first dives. They are all very bad as they were taken with disposable underwater camera.

Preparations for a dive:

Mark - one of my instructors and my lab mate:

Monika can dive!

Metridium Fields:

Stayed tuned! Part two will appear here soon!