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My Open Water Certification

The other day one of my dive buddies made the comment that he is surprised I kept diving after my open water certification experience. Considering now that I am an instructor and try to plan most if not all my vacations around diving, this comment took me off guard for a minute or two. Then it started coming back to me. My open water experience is something that is best looked back on. In writing this story I do not want to place any blame on anyone or scare anyone. I just want to share this experience to say maybe if you are struggling, nervous, or discouraged, take heart, it could get better, just give it a chance. I also want to make sure something like this does not happen to any of my students.

Diving is a great activity. It is exciting, relaxing, and different all in one. Now with these things said --- on with the story.

While I was attending the University of Utah two of my friends registered for a scuba diving class. They invited me to take the class with them, however my work schedule wouldn't allow it. A few years later a coworker suggested I take my open water class the same time he was taking his advanced. I was in the process of a divorce, was separated, staying at one of my brothers and sleeping on an air mattress in my nephews play room, and thought it would be a good diversion. Not knowing anything about how scuba classes are organized, I found out later that my coworker and I were not going to be in the same class together and even the open water dives were scheduled at different times.

At this time my head wasn't exactly on straight. My divorce was causing some stress. My water skills were okay, but could have been improved upon. (One of my aunts told me she was surprised I took up diving because when her daughter and I were young we took swimming lessons together and we were the only two kids in the class that wouldn't put our heads under the water.) There was a group of scouts that acted like fish. No fear or no thought of reality. The scouts seemed to think they were invincible. After the first pool session I purchased my snorkeling gear and an open water book and studied very conscientiously. The diving class was fun, although I felt a little rushed trying to get everything passed off in the pool. In doing the buddy breathing exercise I inhaled, exhaled, inhaled, exhaled, and then handed the regulator to my buddy. I shouldn't have exhaled before giving up the regulator. I had to pop to the surface for a breath of air. Passing off the skills in the pool wasn't the most fun I had ever had in my life. My favorite part of the class was the free time we had in the pool.

The class was nearing the end. The open water dives were to be done on Friday and Saturday, April 28-29, 1989. Just before the open water dives I came down with a pretty bad head cold, flu, gamboo, or whatever. My part of this should have been to realize I shouldn't be diving, however being the dedicated person that I am, I decided to keep with the plan and finish the class.

The first day of the open water dives was a cold, windy day. When first getting into the water one of my fins came off. It was only in three feet of water, but the bottom was so stirred up the visibility was nonexistent. The scouts thought it was great to have something to dive for and one of them found my fin. The little rascals turned out to be good for something after all. My head was so stuffed up it took me forever to get down the line to the platform, only twenty feet down. My head hurt, I could hardly breath, and my mind was not totally there. There was also a lady in the class I had considered asking out. I wanted to wait until the divorce was final to actually go out, however I was going to have to get her number for future reference before the class was completed.

When I would come to the surface there was blood in my mask after my dives. This worried me, even though this happens sometimes to new divers and those who are congested, and isn't a big deal, I wasn't sure what to think. It was just a sinus squeeze and not in the least a serious problem. I did get through the first day without croaking, much to my surprise and relief.

That night a few of us met at my motel room to take the final test. I had one of the best scores because of my diligent studying. The scouts met in another room, they missed tons of questions and needed extra help to pass the written test.

The next morning I set my gear bag with part of my diving gear on the sidewalk in front of my car, loaded up my tank and the rest in the back of the hatchback, all the while thinking of my sore head, stuffed up sinuses and ears, the lady I wanted to ask for her number, the problems at home, and most of all wondering if I was going to live through the day. I mentioned to one of the instructors that my head was still really stuffed up. He commented that he was a pharmaceutical rep and could give something that would clear me right up. Not really thinking about a non-doctor prescribing prescription drugs to me, I took whatever it was and swallowed the pill down, thinking only of the hopeful relief to my sick body.

The drive to the lake was about a half-hour. I jumped out of my car, opened up the back and found that my gear bag was not in the car! I had left it on the sidewalk in front of the motel. I told one of the instructors and flew back to the motel, only to find my bag gone! No one from the motel knew anything about it. The bag had not been turned in by an honest person, it had been stolen.

I went back out to the lake. Some gear was borrowed from another person and I finished my dives for the second day. My head never did clear up. I still had blood in my mask and took forever getting down to the platform. Not only did I not feel very well, I didn't ask the lady for her number, I owed the shop $600 for the stolen gear, and afterwards I got an inner ear infection that required antibiotics from my doctor to clear up.

After paying $600 for the stolen dive gear, the owner of the dive shop told me he would give me free rentals on dive gear. This helped out some and was nice of him to want to help. As it turned out my home owners insurance covered all but $100 of the stolen gear. I wasn't out as much as I had expected. This turned out to be an experience that is best looked back on.

Even though my open water certification wasn't the best experience in the whole world, I still learned some things. Diving since my open water experience has been very fun. I like to dive in lakes, the ocean, and in cold or warm water. Teaching diving classes is fun for me, too. Being able to see someone progress from hardly being able to put their face in the water and breath out of a regulator to finishing their open water dives and then going on to more diving is rewarding to me. One of my open water students even got engaged while diving. Her boyfriend gave her an engagement ring underwater.

This account is not typical of open water dives. Please, again do not think it happens often. Part of it was miscommunication between myself and the instructor. Give diving a chance, communicate how you feel to your instructor and HAVE FUN.

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