Change of plan – I’m getting used to these. As I helped sort out the gear for the Singaporean group I was due to dive with, another bus arrived crammed to the gills with Americans on a Discover SCUBA course. Eight completely amateur divers and two staff wasn’t the perfect ratio so I was switched from Tulamben to Nusa Penida.
Actually, I was fine with it. A larger group is usually more fun and it also meant I’d not be away from “home” for the night. OK, the fact that seven of the eight Americans were very attractive women may have had a slight bearing on my feelings, too. Also, I’ve not supervised a “Discover” class before and it sounded like a new challenge.
I have to say it ended up being one of the best days I’ve spent here so far. The group were great – chatty, friendly, full of questions and keen to learn. Harold, the only guy in the group, was a great person to talk to for the boat trip over. Coming from Iowa and living in Khazakstan, he’s obviously got some stories of his own. The girls all (as far as I could gather) live in China, doing various things.
The purpose of the day was to give these people – barring one with an aging Open Water certificate – their first ever experience of SCUBA diving. This is why we needed three diving staff as well as a boat handler. Anyone who’s learned to dive must remember their first time.
There really is a lot to deal with all at once. Controlling the BCD; breathing underwater; equalising ear and mask pressure; all those hand signals; and the biggest problem – maintaining buoyancy. It takes a good few dives to work out how much weight you need, how to dive level and so forth. First attempts usually end up with beginners doing good impressions of a cork in boiling water – up, down, up, down. Oh, a cork with waggly arms. And randomly kicking legs.
Some people get the knack sooner than others, and the task at hand was to guide those who’ve not quite grasped it. The best way to learn is to be under there, and this is also a discovery course – not a lesson. The group were here to experience the diving, not to learn the skills as such. So we kept tight-knit groups, and those who could just about manage the buoyancy thing swam nearby while those with trouble were escorted with a secure hand on the BCD.
I ended up escorting one of the girls who was struggling a bit. I remember all the same things from when I was doing my Open Water. Relying too much on the BCD for changing my buoyancy rather than using my breathing. By halfway through the second dive, I think she got it. It’s quite a challenge maintaining your own buoyancy while controlling someone else’s using just their BCD and a bit of pushing, pulling and so on.
As the dive progressed, she became more level and her positioning improved. She stopped using her arms to swim and used her legs less as she learned to go with the current. Towards the end of the dive, I was swimming near and around her and only rarely nudging her in the right direction. As with so many things, the best way to learn is to do.
I’m really glad to say that the whole group left with big smiles. Harold even said he reckons it’s possibly the most amazing thing he’s ever done – and at 48 with five children I’m sure he’s seen some pretty amazing things!
The waters were clear, the swells stayed down and the sun was hidden by cloud just enough to help stave off sunburn.
A great day, marred only by my smacking my head on the rear van door as I was packing the equipment away. These things are built for Indonesian height requirements and I have the bleeding head to prove it. Ow. Still, no stitches required and I don’t feel concussed…
As I walked back to my hotel, I dodged the usual cries of “transport?”, “sunglasses? Cheap shirt?” and “massage”? I was almost curious at one point as I was offered “sexy massage? Banana massage?” I really, don’t think I want to know what a banana massage is, but I’m keeping that term for use at a later date.
Tomorrow I have yet another early start to join the group I was due to be with today up at Amed. Putu reckons this is his favourite dive site so I’m really looking forward to it.