From instant panic to claustrophobia, comfort and finally a feeling of immense confidence and triumph, non-swimmer Suprita Mitter signed up for a scuba dive test drive, and recalls her underwater experience
My father is a Marine Engineer who sailed for over 17 years. Being a thoroughbred Mumbaikar, I love the sea. Now, this information is important because while I loved watching the sea I couldn’t imagine myself being in it. Splashing around, by the pool is more my scene.
Suprita Mitter (centre) tries her skills in scuba diving along with another non-swimmer (left); in a pool as instructor Anees Adenwala guides them. Pic Courtesy/Shamsher Singh Rajwar
Cut to the present. While checking out for different, fun summer activities being offered in the city, I chanced upon Orca Dive Club. I met with Anees Adenwala, partner-instructor, Orca Dive Club in his office and dive store to find out more about diving. This is when he pointed out to their company motto: Karo Toh Jano (You will know only if you try it).
Breathing through the regulator is most important while learning to scuba dive. Pics Courtesy/Shamsher Singh Rajwar
Bravado got the better; a week later, seated by the rim of a swimming pool, I waited for instructions and was secretly regretting my decision. Luckily, there was going to be one more student, who was also a non-swimmer. This was going to be our basic introduction to the actual process of becoming a certified scuba diver.
We began by learning about the kit that would have the essentials that we could carry to the pool. The kit included a Scuba tank filled with compressed air, a Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) and a Regulator.
The Orca Dive Store
Once we were shown how the kit is packed, we were given wetsuits, which we changed into. Seeing so much equipment makes you feel a tad worried and confused initially. Set to enter the pool, we tried on our eye masks to ensure it sits perfectly, covering the nose. A lose mask would allow water to enter, making it difficult for the diver to see. We also tried out our fins that had to match our shoe size, as we would need to wear them later. A weight belt was tied around our waist (1 kg) to create a balance and help us stay underwater.
In the water, (three feet deep), we were taught how to use our breathing device called the regulator. We were first guided on how to hold it between our teeth by clenching it tightly and then the most important part — that of breathing continuously from our mouth, as breathing from the nose is not an option.
The first time we put our head down in the water, panic struck; followed by a feeling of claustrophobia and the urge to pull our head right out of the water. The breathing from the mouth, we were told was something that needed getting used to.
The second time we ducked our head into the water, we were a lot more comfortable — as we breathed steadily through the device. We were asked to kneel in the water and this time, we stayed in the water for much longer, approximately 15 minutes or more, getting a host of instructions from Adenwala. We were taught how to locate and use our emergency breathing device (emergency regulator), which is used when a fellow diver is out of air and needs help.
It is bright yellow in colour, making it easy to spot. “Diving is a team/ buddy sport; it’s absolutely non-competitive,” reminds Adenwala. We also learnt techniques to clear our eye mask when water enters it. We were taught to remove our breathing device and then put it back in, underwater. There are two ways to do this — by using the breathing device to clear the water or to breathe out in a certain manner to achieve the same result. I gulped water, the first few times, I tried. However, soon enough, I got used to it.
We swam (from one side of the three-feet pool to the other, wearing our fins this time. We learnt the movement required to swim with fins, and were a little clumsy. We also learnt to use the buoyancy device in a way that every time we would touch the base of the pool we could use the device to rise up a little.
Next, we were told that we would have to swim to the deeper side of the pool, which was 10 feet deep. The idea of doing that for both of us (the non-swimmer students) was scary. Before we set out on our seemingly long journey, we were taught how to equalise our ears, which would experience some pain as we swam into deeper waters. The throat also tends to feel dry and parched because of the dry compressed air that we are breathing. That too takes a little getting used to, we were told.
When we reached the other side, feeling a little tired (we had been in the water for over an hour by then) Adenwala asked us to stop and look up. It was difficult to describe that moment in words. To think of it, this was just a swimming pool. The charm of the open waters would be another story. We practiced the techniques we had learnt in the shallow waters and emerged feeling like champions.
This is a must-try that makes for a safe, fulfilling experience. It brings peace to the mind, and is the first step to discovering the many wonders waiting to be explored in Free Willy’s World.
Log on to: orcadiveclub.in
Cost: Test session: Rs 3,000 (per person)
>> Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA): is a device, which is carried entirely by an underwater diver and provides the diver with breathing gas at the ambient pressure.
>> Best age to begin: 12 years
>> Most Tourist destinations have an authorised dive where one can choose to do a ‘Discover SCUBA’ dive (1 dive in the pool or a confined area + 1 dive in the open water up to a depth of 6-7 meters.) A few off beat locations where Orca dives: Raja Ampat in Indonesia, Chuuk Lagoon in Micronesia.
The full training module
The PADI Open Water Course is divided into three modules.
Module 1: PADI Registration (Price on request). This module consists of course materials (Introduction + six sections); contents include slides, videos and audio. This also consists of the final assessment (online exam with multiple choice questions).
Module 2: This module requires four confined water (pool) dives, which is done over a weekend, i.e. two dives on Saturdays and two dives on Sunday from 10 am - 4:30 pm.
Cost Rs 10,000 + tax (per person.)
Module 3: Four open Water Dives. This part consists of four open water dives, which would be your first foray into the ocean. It is important to note that you have to complete the open water dives as well to avail of your certification. This is done usually as part of a dive trip to a dive destination of your choice. (The cost is be based on the duration of the trip and the location one chooses.)