Scuba diving was not something I always dreamed of doing. In fact, it was something I would have been content to avoid for all the rest of my days, had I not ended up on Koh Tao. I’ve seen Jaws. I’ve seen Open Water. In fact, open water has long been my greatest fear. Which makes it so ironic that I ended up willingly handing over my hard earned money for a course known as Open Water Diver, the certification by dive center PADI that will allow me to dive down to 30 meters anywhere in the world.
The open water course consists of a combination of classroom learning, four confined water dives, and four open water dives. The emphasis is really on safety and learning by repetition so I spent a fair amount of time tapping my foot, wanting to get out and swim around with the fish. As far as classrooms go, however, you can’t get much more idyllic. I took my course at a small dive school on the far side of the island in Hin Wong Bay, a beautiful place where we did our classroom learning on open air pavilions over the cliffs and our confined water dives in the shallow bay. Throughout the required skills, which included practicing emergency ascents and removing the breathing regulator, I really only had trouble with removing my mask. I must be more reliant on my sight than I expected, because as soon as I pulled my mask back to let it fill with water, I completely panicked and felt like I couldn’t breathe, and water was going in my nose, and I was in general dying. I tried to calm myself down before I attempted to put it back on and clear it, but still when I finally reopened my eyes my instructor, Neil, was looking at me with grave concern. I had a little pity party and underwater pout for myself while my two fellow water babies had their go at it, and later on after I calmed down I was able to redo the whole thing with ease.
As we took the longtail out for the first open water boat dive, I was a little seasick so they put me in the water first. When I say that, I literally mean they “put me” in the water… held onto my air tank over the edge of the boat and dropped me in backwards. In that moment right before I dropped backwards into the abyss, I had the same sensation I always do at the top of a roller coaster before it drops… “What in the world have I gotten myself into?!”
To be continued…