Underwater Transformation

It’s probably one of those things Instructors get used to, as the number of students they work with increases the smaller details may tend to lose their sharpness. So it is with a Divemaster at the start of an internship, and commencing a professional career these details can be most apparent.

PADI Discover Scuba Diving is a gateway for accessing scuba diving in the shortest possible time while remaining safe. It’s a straightforward ½ day course which can include an open water dive, if the student is capable and up for it.

Today I’m assisting a DSD course, which means I get to meet the guests, ensure all the paperwork is together, sort out their equipment and keep everything running smoothly for my instructor Joa.

The key thing to remember is that typical DSD students have never taken a breathe underwater before, they may well be a proficient skin diver but the idea of strapping a tank to their back and diving for longer than 30 seconds has only just become a desire for them. For me I originally got into diving because I wanted to see things closer up, and experience the freedom I often observed in Scuba divers while I was trapped at the surface snorkelling.

Today’s student Leo is no exception, I sense his excitement the minute we meet, he tells me he loves snorkelling, but he’s never taken the next step into Scuba, but today is the day. There is a determination I recall from my open water course, even before my confined sessions, knowing the equipment would be on my back and I’d be breathing underwater without having to rush back up to the surface for another breathe.

Joa takes us through the briefing, a few pointers on process and what the in water experience will be like and Leo is head down for his multiple choice quiz. I’m impressed the key safety standards are still maintained, even in this slimmed down course. There is no official accreditation at the end, but the DSD booklet includes a mini log book, a certificate of completion and everything a budding diver needs to know about this course and the potential future courses available.

Finally we are getting on the boat and setting up the kit, the boot is finally on the other foot, I’m setting up a guests’ equipment for them. Leo is ready, we are in the shallow water in-front of the dive shop and ready to get under the water with a regulator for the first time. I’m sure every student is different, but I’m sure they all take that first breathe with the same amazement we all once did. Eyes widen, second breathe, okay brain time to tune in, we’ve just turned into a fish.

The skills requirements and practicing are just the essential safety requirements, we are in the water to do as much as possible for them when we make it onto the dive so it’s a case of clearing mask, recovering regulator and BCD inflation, deflation. Along with the presentation, Leo now has all the elements he needs for the dive. The mask clearance is always difficult, you’ve just worked out you can breathe underwater, now you’ve got to tell your brain to breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose. I can see the frustration in the mask clearance, you can never be sure if the skills will be too much and the student will run out of the water. Leo is sticking with it, tells himself to stop breathing in through his nose, sea water doesn’t taste so good. Then we spot a little baby puffer fish. Joa points to it, Leo looks, points himself and before he’s realised his breathing is calm, he looks at home. We’ve cracked it.

We check with Leo he’s feeling okay, take a short break to all get ready and jump in the flat boat for the short ride to house reef. A brief look over the side and Leo is checking the depth with Joa. 6m, I’ve put a decent line over the side of the boat and Joa and Leo will go down bit by bit with me following along. Plenty of equalisation, we arrive at the bottom, Leo is absolutely loving it and we’ve only done the decent, “Just wait till we start moving” I thought to myself.

The house reef has plenty to see, though experienced divers definitely forget how little it takes to raise the breathing rate of new divers and DSD students. As we swam around, I had a firm grip on Leo’s tank valve to help him keep balance and buoyancy level, frankly we are both experiencing something new. I’m working with my first DSD student, assisting Joa, with real customers. The sense of responsibility is massive, I know Joa has everything under control and if anything was wrong he’d be ontop of it before I even realised. But I’m still there with Leo, experiencing his first ever dive.

25 minutes in, Leo signals that his ears are no longer enjoying the experience, we aim back to the decent line and do a safety stop. Everything remains calm, and before we know it, we are on the surface, relieving Leo of his equipment and getting him back on board.

It’s now, this very moment that brings it all home to me, why diving? Why Dive master? Why IDC and teaching? Just look at Leo, he’s the happiest diver in the world, a matter of hours ago; he was a snorkeler, dreaming of escaping the surface to dive underwater and experience the freedom. He’s transformed and he’s not the only one.

We do a de-brief back in resort, his smile is even wider now, he can’t wait to get back in the water again, the experience has opened his eyes to so many possibilities and the sights underwater, I doubt it will be long before his PADI open water course is booked and he is back in the water again home. We’ve cracked it.

For me, it’s just the start of my Dive master course, I’m seeing these actual transformations for myself 1 hand and I want more too. You read about it, in the PADI books, we are in transformation industry, just words, but when you witness it first hand, it truly is emotional.