Day 6 – Self-contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

I have always loved water. From the time I was a kid, I loved going swimming, playing in puddles, splashing around in the irrigation ditch that ran in front of our house in Hyrum, Utah, going to the reservoir, being on a boat, walking along a lake.  There’s something about water that just speaks to my soul.

Despite my love of the water, one thing I’ve never done is SCUBA diving. So, in this, my year of doing new things, I decided it was time to embark upon an activity that I was 100% certain I was going to love. I was going to get SCUBA certified. Having done a bit of research, I learned that Thailand is one of the great, and most inexpensive, places in the world to get certified.

I booked my class six months in advance. (What can I say…I’m a project manager deep in my soul.) On my first full day in Phuket, I had breakfast at the buffet when it opened up at 6AM. Afterward, I walked to the dive shop, filled out my paperwork, and sat down with my instructor, a retired RCMP French Canadian who has been diving for 40 years. He had me watch the instructional videos by PADI and take some quizzes. Everything about it just clicked. I don’t know how else to explain it, but even my instructor seemed surprised at how quickly I was catching on.

Finally, after the videos and quizzes, I got me fitted out with my gear then took a taxi to a nearby pool that is regularly used for training divers.

I’ve learned that you don’t have to be a strong swimmer to dive, but in order to become certified, you do need to prove that you can tread water for 10 minutes and that you can swim for 200 meters without stopping. For someone who was a certified lifeguard and swam competitively-ish, this was an absurdly easy task for me. I hopped in the pool and started floating on my back. After about 3 minutes of barely moving, enjoying a nice, sunny day in a warm pool, he rolled his eyes and told me to start swimming laps. I swam four laps and he had me hop out so we could eat a quick lunch and talk.

After a light meal (because who wants heavy, diarrhea-inducing food right before putting on a wetsuit)he taught me how to set up and put on my gear. In the pool we went through the various exercises: clearing the mask, setting my neutral buoyancy, ascending and descending, removing the mask underwater, removing the regulator from your mouth underwater, using alternate air sources, communication via hand signals, etc. We sped through all the in-pool tasks and were done by 2PM. (If I had done the theoretical work at home instead of waiting until I got to Thailand, we would have been done by noon.)

To end the day, my instructors left me with a homework assignment to go through the first three chapters of the book and answer the question. “If you want,” he said, “you could go through all five chapters in the book, and that way we would be all done with the theoretical work for the course and can just focus on the dives.”

To anyone who has followed my near-obsessive hobby-chasing, it seems rather obvious what happened next. It’s not for no reason that my personal mantra has become, “Why just do something when you can overdo it?” So I went back to the hotel, took a quick nap, re-donned my swimsuit and a tank top and headed down to the pool again. There, under the shade of the bar’s canopy, I enjoyed the fruits of a buy-one-get-one-free happy hour consisting of strawberry daiquiris and gin fizzes whilst I did my homework. Four drinks in  (*cough*) I was in the fifth and final chapter of the book (*cough*) when I came across a warning in the book that divers should avoid drinking the night before diving because it can dehydrate them. D’oh.

Please note: Buzzed by a pool in sunny weather is pretty much the only way one should ever be forced to do homework. So let it be written.

I finished my quizzes, went up to my room, took another nap, and then headed down to the tailor shop for my first fitting in which they had me try on the shell of my suit jacket.

On the way back to the hotel, I decided to stop at an Argentinian steakhouse on the beach, where I enjoyed some live music, a mediocre steak, and a Diet Coke.  At last, I returned to my room and went to bed. On the way, I made several new little gecko friends. (Seriously. These freaking things were ev. ry. where.) Tomorrow was going to begin the whole reason I came to Thailand.

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