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Taking the road less traveled Spending a year in five continents to embrace my "inner turtle", to live simply, and to avoid being shark bait!

Dive course #1: Open Water Diver, part 2

THAILAND | Thursday, 23 February 2012 | Views [579]

The fourth and last day of the open water course were two dives in the morning.  We met at 7 AM, went through the whole routine of loading, boarding the boat, gearing up, and dived in by 8:30. The first site was Shark Island, which sadly has no sharks; was told it was named as such because the rock it was named after is shaped like a shark, couldn't tell. We went a a bit deeper this time to 17.8 m, almost to the 18 m max, and stayed for 32 minutes. The water temperature was normally a very warm 28 degrees Celsius at the surface and a few meters below; after a certain point though (not sure where but I guessed about 12 m), I could tell there was a significant change in temperature, maybe up to 3 or 4 degrees, enough for me to know that I was going deeper. You also use more air the deeper you dive. Our tanks were filled up to 200 bar of air; as a beginner, I used about 100 bar during a dive maybe up to 15 m and lasting about 30 minutes. With this dive, I already used 50 bar after just 15 minutes. We didn't stay long pass 15 m though; most dives were planned so you were at the deepest in the beginning, and ascend a few meters as time went on. This time we saw a lot of barracudas, groupers, butterfly fish, angel fish, and long fin banner (that's the fish with the scar in Finding Nemo). Buoyancy control issues?  Of course!  I bet if I graphed my movements, it would look like a heartbeat: up and down, up and down.

During the fourth dive (White Rock South, 16.2 m for 35 minutes), we also learned navigation with a compass. I admit I have never used a compass before (I know how it works, just never used one), and using it under water revealed just how easy it was to be lost. Everything looked the same (at least to me), the current may push you to one direction, and it was hard to change direction quickly while swimming. My buddy and I did a skill in which we swam a "square" using the compass to navigate (first north, then east, then south, then west), and would swim 20 kicks (one each of left and right leg) in each direction. He navigated while I counted. Luckily we ended up close enough to where we started (that would not be the case a few days later when I did it on my own, more later).

We also learned a new water entry; instead of a big stride, we would fall into the water backwards, aka the "dead Mexican" (I didn't make that name up!) This entry is more used when you're entering from a smaller boat (our dive boat was much larger), but it was good practice. 

One thing that was annoying during these two days of diving: I felt these "tingling" sensations like little pinches on my skin, anywhere that I wasn't covered by the wetsuit. I asked the others and they felt them too. Turned out they were from teeny, tiny jellyfish that we could not see with the naked eye, and they were stinging us! If there was a marine animal that I encourage people to eat more of, it's jellyfish, could use less of them in the ocean!

A videographer followed us on these two dives and recorded everything, it was a "graduation video" of sorts that she later edited (using Adobe Premiere) and showed us in the evening, which we could then buy as a souvenir. The videographer turned out to be the instructor's sister; she came to Koh Tao just within the last year to visit, learned to dive, loved it so much, she stayed and studied to be a scuba videographer (I would hear similar stories repeatedly from expats during my stay). I hate being taped, but most of the time I was too focused on the dives, I forgot she was around anyway. The four of us ended up buying the video (we collaborated on a good deal, let's just say we were not easy customer). It's 30 minutes long so I won't post the entire thing; if someone knows how to edit just a clip and save it, please teach me!  (There's no Adobe Premiere for Mac OS, maybe iDVD can do this?)  I watched part of it again just now; it's funny how graceful the instructor looks when she's moving through the water, while the four of us look like we were possessed by the devil, waving our arms and legs trying to catch up.

We finished the dives by noon and had the afternoon off. I showered, ate, and napped (three things I did A LOT while in Koh Tao), and met up with the group in the afternoon to watch the video, complete the paperwork, and be officially "inducted" as open water divers. I would end up watching about a dozen of these videos during my stay in Koh Tao (DJL had open water diver courses starting almost every other day), and I wondered if the videographers (there were several) ever got tired of their job. I would guess at some point, no matter how lovely the locale is and how not stressful the job is, the routine must get monotonous and boring. How many different songs could you insert into the video? And how much variation could there be of shots of the boat and the beach and the divers? Guess every job has its hazards.

I got home that night and my body was extremely tired. The muscles were not sore, just extreme fatigue, felt like I couldn't even lift an arm. My throat also started feeling scratchy and nose was a bit stuffed up. I was supposed to start the Advanced Open Water course the next day, but figured I'd see how I feel in the morning first.  I woke up and still felt like shit, so I decided to push back on starting the Advanced course and spent the day doing nothing but sleeping and eating.  Luckily the condition did not worsen and I started the Advanced course one day later. Last thing I wanted was to get sick!

Tags: adobe premiere, idvd, koh tao, open water diver, padi, thailand, underwater videographer

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