Oh, this was a toughie. Putu and one of the other dive staff picked me up at 9:00 for a drive to Nusa Dua. This was the nearest swimming pool we could use SCUBA equipment in, and also where Putu had worked before joining ProDive.
We had a lot of exercises to get through today, and I was going to hate most of them… but they’re necessary for passing the course.
I’ll begin by saying I’m hopelessly out of shape. The last time I went to the gym was when I was still working in the UK. The last time I took jogging remotely seriously was when I was staying at Mr Hoa’s in Vietnam two years ago. I eat well, moderately healthily, but I don’t exercise like I should. Hence I was dreading today.
The first exercise was one of the reasons – a 400m swim. I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I swam 400m. In fact I don’t think I ever have. When I was maybe 10 years old I got my 100m swimming badge. I’ve never increased on that. In honesty, I don’t enjoy swimming – I’d rather run. But here I was and I had to do it, so I did – 16 lengths. Argh.
After a rest (I felt like going to sleep and not waking up) was the second of the more evil tests. Treading water for fifteen minutes. The last two minutes with my arms out of the water so I couldn’t use them. Now, I could tread water for thirty minutes if I could use my arms, but you try it without. It’s a hell of a lot harder. I just made it. And I mean just. Another 5 seconds and I’d have been breathing water.
I suppose that I’ve passed those two does help as I reckon they’re the hardest tests I’ll have to undertake. However, they’ve also doubled up in purpose in showing me how out of condition I am. If it was new year I’d be making resolutions involving gyms and jogging.
After a quick snack of sweet potato and boiled banana (which tastes slightly of rhubarb), we engaged in the longest section of the day. Twenty basic skills are taught at Open Water level, and I had to be able to demonstrate all of them. As a Divemaster, one of the common jobs is to help an Instructor teach Open Water students, helping demonstrate the skills.
I passed 18 with full marks and two with one mark off on each. A trick for removing and replacing your BCD while underwater: do it when your tank’s full and heavier otherwise it floats off and makes it much harder…
Right after this, myself and Putu’s assistant were given a scenario. We had to buddy-breathe (one tank with no air, sharing the main regulator for breathing purposes) underwater to one side of the pool. There we had to exchange mask, BCD and fins, then swim back. All without surfacing. Or drowning. Drowning’s an automatic fail.
It wasn’t easy, partly due to the aforementioned floating airtank. When we first exchanged masks, we realised we’d given each other our own masks back so hadn’t actually exchanged them at all!
One of the main purposes of the assessment is to prove you won’t freak out while underwater. I’ll admit at one point I was getting close, but we settled, paused, concentrated on getting our breathing back in sync then continued. It’s difficult at times to concentrate on each bit of kit while also regularly passing the regulator to the other diver every two breaths.
My partner was great, though. I don’t think he’s that experienced a diver, but he was certainly calm and helpful as if we were both being examined. Well, I didn’t fail and we didn’t drown. All good.
Early afternoon and another class arrived for their first Open Water pool session. A group of early 20’s kids from various countries going by the accents. All the guys were hunky and the girls were hot beyond all belief. How come I wasn’t in that class? I have to admit, it was great watching them (not just for eye candy reasons) as it brought back memories of my classes in Cairns, my first use of the SCUBA gear and so on.
We worked around them as I demonstrated the “prone diver in the water” skills from my Rescue Diver course. There were a few more points I had to include which I wasn’t familiar with, mainly as the tuition on this course is a precursor to the Instructor Development Course which is much stricter. Here, I could repeat a reasonable number of times. On the IDC it’s one shot and either pass/fail. Fail and you fail the module which fails the course which costs a few hundred bucks. Ow.
I was on run number three when my left calf cramped and I had to call a halt. We broke for lunch and trudged round the corner to a warung selling the usual spicy nasi, this time wrapped in banana leaves. This lends a taste to the rice and makes it moister. But how do people find these things out?
Lunched up, we rested for a while to let it settle and then walked back to the poolside. On my fourth attempt I nailed it. I guess I just needed the break.
After another quick relax, I was ready for the last exercise – an 800m snorkel swim. This sounded easier than the original 400m swim as I could use snorkel and fins, but have you ever tried to swim with fins on at the surface? It actually uses a lot of thigh power! 32 lengths and not even a book to read while I was doing it. At least I had the trainee divers to look at. Again, actually, it was fun to watch them doing all the exercises I’d practised that morning and done for the first time almost two years ago.
Despite the lack of waterproof mp3 player I made it to the end and staggered on shaky legs to the area we were sitting for a debriefing. I didn’t have too many questions and Putu didn’t have a lot of feeback other than to repeat some of the information and highlight the reasons for some of the skills and attention to detail.
As we waited for the car park to empty (one of the cruise boats had just landed), we got changed and loaded the van up. There were no dives planned for the next day and Putu had plans, so my tasy would be to read up on dive theory and be ready for the nine (NINE!) exams on Thursday.
I got home expecting to be hungry. Instead, I was just plain pooped and had a nap. By the time I woke up it was too late to get dinner! I just munched some cookies, drank a load of water, watched Dead Zone and conked out of the night.
It’s nice here – past around 11pm the nights are mild. No need for a noisy fan or aircon.