Open water – If I can do it so can you!

by Kirsty on May 2, 2012

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Poi completed his open water course in January this year, It was something we had always planned to do together but I was pretty pleased when he went off with a friend and did it without me. Over the course of the year we had been travelling I had lost all interest in diving, I was even becoming a bit scared of the whole idea.

However, while we were in the Philippines Poi had already gone off diving twice in Donsol and Boracay, leaving me bored and alone on dry land.

Over the course of that week he slowly convinced me that I should give scuba diving a go, after all he planned on diving a lot and I’d already spent enough time by myself.

Well, what’s the worst that could happen?

Well… a lot with me, I’m fecking accident prone! I went skiing in my second year at uni, went down one piste and injured myself just enough to ruin the whole week! On this trip I regularly fall down, even on smooth roads and the story Poi loves to tell everyone – I nearly fell off the Great Wall of China during our first week away.

So yeah, for me there usually is some worse case scenario!

Despite my concerns within 30 minutes of being on Malapascua Island I had signed up for my Open water course, I think Poi wanted to make sure I didn’t back out and had me sign up right away.

Luckily for me this dive shop doesn’t have hundreds of students passing through every week so I would be learning 1 to 1 with my instructor, Jo.

And so my scuba diving journey began

After some quite lengthy and pretty boring theory (I know, they have to do it & I should know it) I was to start my confined water dives. This is done in about a metre or two of water, if you feel uncomfortable you simply have to stand up.

Malapascua Island Dive Shop

First time underwater… very strange feeling!

Fear 1 – Breathing Underwater

My only main hiccup was with the first skill I was required to do underwater.  Jo asked me to take my regulator out, you know, the thing that allows you to breathe underwater.  There was terror in my eyes and I point blank refused… WHY would you take the one thing out that is allowing you to breathe underwater?? IT’S MADNESS!

Jo was really calm and just demonstrated it again and on the second try I thought ‘what the hell’… I took it, blew out a steady stream of air like she had demonstrated and I was fine.  The regulator was back in my mouth within seconds and hey presto, I had completed my first skill!

I actually got to the point where I didn’t mind taking “the only thing that lets me breathe” out whilst swimming around on dives later in the course.

Fear 2 – Removing My Mask

Getting over the breathing under water was my main thing but I was also worried about taking my mask off.  I couldn’t work out how water wouldn’t rush into my nose and being generally against having any water around my face didn’t make it any easier.

Jo again demonstrated the skill first and explained that I could keep my eyes closed throughout, she would then tap me to let me know once all the water had been cleared from my mask once it was back on.  The first time I took the mask off underwater was strange, laws of physics means that no water comes into your nose (something about the pressure inside being greater than the pressure outside or something like that). As much as it was horrible to have salt water in my eyes it really wasn’t that bad, not that I would want to repeat it.

I did this once again on my 4th and final dive of the course at a depth of about 10m and didn’t even think twice about it.

Thresher Shark Divers

It seems that is is harder to take your mask off at the surface than underwater – this was the biggest drama of the day!

Fear 3 – Ear Pressure

During the theory part of the open water course I kept being told how important it is to clear your ears (equalising the pressure of the air pockets within them) as it can get really painful or worse pop your eardrum during a dive.  I was pretty worried about this as I sometimes have problems with my ears on flights etc. What if I can’t pop them, then I’ve done all this theory for…. Nothing.

Once in the water I did have a little bit of trouble at first, it’s a really weird sensation but there are plenty of ways to equalise your ears, the instructor will go through them all with you. So if one doesn’t work the next one is likely to. As you do more and more dives you’ll find the one that works best for you.

For something I was so worried about it became second nature very quickly.

Fear 4 – What Happens if I Run Out of Air?

Ok this is a natural fear, but by the end of my 1st open water dive I realised that it is highly, highly unlikely. During the confined water session we went through different scenarios of running out of air and what you can do, including sharing someone else’s supply, going to the surface etc. BUT as long as you check your air regularly you shouldn’t ever need to do these. (I probably check my air too much because of this!)

Liberty DIve Centre Bali

Just me fighting a nemo! Supposedly Clown fish are territorial and so swim out to chase you away!

So what did I, as a scared of everything person, make of the open water course?

I was amazed at how easy the whole thing was, all the skills are designed to build your confidence slowly and by the end of the confined water dive I was actually looking forward to getting in the water the next day.

All four open water dives were amazing, each time I was fully briefed on what to expect and both Jo and my dive-master Graham looked after me throughout the dives.  I truly felt comfortable in the water – something I never thought I would say.

I never thought I would like scuba diving as much as I do, which pleases Poi as now he gets to do a hell of a lot more diving!

If you’re interested in getting your open water certification in the Philippines I highly recommend Thresher Shark Divers – I enjoyed both learning and diving with them.  The cost of the course was 19,500 Philippine Pesos.

Have you got any fears about diving I can help you with? Or maybe you’ve recently taken up diving as well?

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures May 2, 2012 at 8:53 pm

How exciting!!!!! Congrats!

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Kirsty May 5, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Thanks Andi

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Caroline Eubanks May 2, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I had the same fears when I took my class at the Great Barrier Reef but it was so worth it!

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Kirsty May 5, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Exactly 🙂 I love it now!

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) May 2, 2012 at 9:50 pm

I am going to make sure my husband reads this, because he is definitely the land lubber in our relationship. I am really gungho to try scuba when we go to Asia, but he has been more reluctant. I think some of his fears are similar to your own (though he also is one of those people who doesn’t float and therefore has a hard time swimming in general, so I think that also scares him), so hopefully this post will boost his confidence! I’m really glad to hear that your introduction to scuba went so smoothly!

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Kirsty May 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm

floating is really easy – I’m wasn’t too sure if I could float but basically the equipment you use takes care of it all…. as long as you have it all set up correctly he’ll be fine. In fact I’ve had more of a problem of floating to the surface than sinking! Good luck and let me know if you get him in the water!

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Jeremy Branham May 3, 2012 at 3:23 am

The ocean is huge and I definitely understand your fears. I’ve never done scuba diving but I have done snorkeling. I would try it but it’s not one of those things that appeals to me. However, the real lesson in this is learning to conquer your fears right? 🙂

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Kirsty May 5, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Snorkelling is cool, although in hindsight I actually feel more comfortable under the surface than on it – I used to always hate getting water in my snorkel! I doubt I would have tried it if it is wasn’t for Poi already being certified – but I am so glad I did face my fears and do it!

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Audrey | That Backpacker May 4, 2012 at 9:18 am

Yay! I have some of those same fears, but I definitely want to give scuba diving a try. I’ve tried snorkeling before and was amazed by all the sea life lurking underwater! I can only imagine what it’s like the deeper you go. 😀

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Kirsty May 5, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Seriously go 10 metres down and it’s good go 20 metres and it is amazing. I’ve been diving 14 times and seen 2 different types of sharks, turtles, weird parrot fish and pretty cool fish! I say DO IT! 🙂

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Sophie McKenna May 9, 2012 at 9:36 am

Hi Poi and Kirsty, congratulations on all your amazing travels and well done for documenting it through this blog. Your blog is very user friendly and the content is really good work. Good luck with the rest of your journeys and I can’t wait to read up on all the fun things you get up to!

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Kirsty June 12, 2012 at 1:34 am

Thanks Sophie, glad you enjoying our blog 🙂

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Ian [EagerExistence] May 26, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Nothing quite like it right? Once you get past the initial fears of being submerged (and drowning) for up to an hour at a time. I did my open water and advanced earlier this year (so I could do wreck dives), and LOVED it!

Congrats on the SCUBA cert.

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Kirsty June 12, 2012 at 1:35 am

Exactly – I really honestly thought I would hate it! With 20 dives under my belt now I feel totally confident in the water and love it! Can’t wait to get back in the water! 🙂

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Vi May 30, 2012 at 9:44 pm

But underwater it is hard fell down, so you should be fine 🙂

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Kirsty June 12, 2012 at 1:38 am

It was a wonderful experience, thanks for commenting 🙂

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Jeremy @ Our Trip To June 8, 2012 at 9:50 am

Like you I have always thought I wouldn’t like it – still haven’t but really thinking about giving it a go. My brother absolutely raves about it. I love the snorkelling but on my next water bound trip, might just need to try it.

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Kirsty June 12, 2012 at 1:37 am

DO IT – I promise it won’t be half as bad as you think it will be! You can always do a try dive (they take you very shallow) before you take the plunge to full open water 🙂

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Aubrey Vail September 10, 2012 at 1:54 am

I know right- Just DO IT! I did my first scuba at Apo Island, Philippines. The hardest part was learning the “JUST IN-CASE WATER GOES INSIDE YOUR MASK.” Opening the mask willingly to let water in and let water out was nerve racking.
For me the hardest part of Scuba diving is putting on the dry suite and equalizing (that’s when you blow your nose to let the air out from your ear). The trick with the dry suite, put water inside suite and it will slide easily and with equalizing, blow your nose gently and NEVER go scuba diving when you have cold or sinus- I learn my lesson the hard way.

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Ally November 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I also have problems with my ears on flights, to the point where sometimes its so painful I want to cry :S I am super keen to start diving on my trip though, I really hope I wont have any problems. Did you need a doctors certificate to get your open water, here in Australia we to get one before doing the course and its just annoying

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John "Ox" January 24, 2013 at 3:15 am

That was a great, down to earth, post.

I’m doing my confined water dives in two sessions tomorrow and Friday night. I am on a couple of online scuba groups that are full of dive masters, dive instructors and professional / commercial divers. They all offer advice on what to expect and what will be done but hearing it from someone, who sounds frightened by the idea and has managed to overcome it, has been of far more value.

I have no fear of the ocean, of water, of drowning etc but I was concerned that I would make mistakes and not pass on the first try. (I’m leaving for Montego Bay (Jamaica) on Monday and I want to finish my open water dives there.)

Thank you for posting this! It sounds like it should be easy enough to conquer on my first try after after reading your experience. 🙂

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Emma March 15, 2014 at 8:00 am

I’ve just come across this post but reading it has made me feel so much better in that it wasn’t just me having these fears when completeing my open water course! My boyfriend and I are currently into our 7th month travelling Asia and we completed our padi course a couple of months ago on Phu Quoc island Vietnam. I was so nervous at first and seriously struggled with the mask off thing but I think it’s just a case of relaxing and gaining confidence with diving. We’ve just hit Thailand so will be making the most of clear waters around the islands! Good to see you’ve taken to it and enjoy diving now, hopefully I’ll soon feel the same 🙂

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Ria June 9, 2016 at 3:58 am

Great post! I just made my first scuba diving ever in Bali. It wasn’t open water course just introduction like I have a fear to drown, so scuba diving was really one of the biggest my challenges 🙂 I experienced almost everything like you 🙂
Ria´s last blog post ..Facing my fears – first scuba diving in Bali

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Poi June 14, 2016 at 1:15 pm

Congratulations Ria, well done for giving it a go!

Has it convinced you to do it again or maybe try the open water course?

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Jason August 3, 2016 at 11:25 pm

Well just found your post on here and Ibe just paid for the full course to be took in Gozo Malta I was doing ok until I hit the mask off and on bit and I failed it miserably if im honest I can’t for the life of me last the minuite with the mask off then get it back on without swallowing water and buggering the whole thing up! That’s not even mentioning the swim without the mask and then put it in and clear it!! So peed off with myself as 3 different instructors ttied it out giving me advice, I get what I’ve got to do on paper it’s easy but when I try to do it under water somthing happens and 4 times I had to surface and try again. My wife and daughter however passed the whole course no problem. Messed the whole holiday up for me if I’m honest.

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