PADI pool day
The second day of our PADI Open Water course began quite similarly to the first day: with more theory, and more boring educational diving videos. We revised yesterday's material, and went over our "homework", before finishing off the 5-part video series. The theory is a total joke — the instructors don't take it seriously, the material is largely common-sense stuff, and it's all done simply "for the record" — but at least we're now through most of it. Then, in the afternoon, our practical tuition began: for the first time, we got fitted up with scuba gear, and we jumped in the swimming pool at Ban's for our introductory "simulation dive".
Before we could get to the pool, we first had to try out and collect all our equipment. This was the first time that most of us had used or even seen proper scuba gear, so our instructors had a fair bit of explaining to do, and we had a fair bit of trying-out to do. We got fitted out with everything we'll be needing for our proper dives: masks; fins; BCDs; weight belts; wetsuits; regulators; and air tanks.
One of the requirements of the Open Water certificate is that you have "a basic level of swimming ability". So in order to tick this box for all of us, the instructors asked us to jump in the pool (just with our wetsuits, not with all the other gear), to complete 10 laps, and then to tread water for 5 minutes. This was no problem for any of us: after all, if you can't even manage that amount of swimming, then what the hell are you doing in a dive course? It's been a while since I've been asked to do any swimming exercises — dark memories of high-school life-saving classes came back to haunt me — but my Aussie training is with me for life.
Having thus proved our basic competency in the water, we then proceeded to don all of our gear, and to jump in fully-loaded. We began with the most basic and the most important diving skill of all: breathing through your regulator, and becoming comfortable with breathing underwater. It's a little weird at first, but it's not as awkward or as uncomfortable as I'd anticipated — after the first 5 minutes, we were all well-accustomed to it. Flav then proceeded to run us through a series of introductory scuba exercises, such as: buoyancy control; clearing your mask; and kicking with fins. This was followed with several more advanced exercises, namely: mask flooding; expelling and retrieving your regulator; and simulating a free-flowing (i.e. malfunctioning) regulator.
I'm fortunate to have Flav as my instructor, as he's extremely patient and thorough, and as I believe he's one of the most experienced divers around. So far, I'm feeling surprisingly comfortable with everything that we've covered: although we didn't go very deep during today's pool dive, we were underwater for about an hour (and we got very wrinkly — reminds me of being 5 years old and of spending hours in the bathtub :P). I have confidence that everything will go smoothly during my first real dive, which is coming up bright 'n' early tomorrow morning.