19 May 2008

The Hippo Goes Diving

Everybody knows that I can't swim... Seriously, I can't swim...

But when I was at Redang last weekend, I decided to attend the Open Water Diving course. There were two friends who were already attending the course, so I decided to join them. In my mind, if I panic or get scared of the Diving course, I would just bail out... naturally... as my GF would call me a Chicken!

So why am I a Hippo? Well, because Hippos likes to soak in a pool, relax and not really swim... sounds like me... :)

Well, before we headed for the waters, there lots of safety and equipment briefing. After a couple of hours... finally... we suit up and headed for the waters... the swimming pool actually, as the sea were too rough.

When in the water, we practised a few simple stuff like how to clear water from your diving mask or how to locate your regulator in the event it drops out of your mouth. We also learnt how to use the Buoyancy Device Control (BCD), it is actually like a life jacket, that controls your buoyancy while you are under water.

The trip to the pool was fun. Constantly we are reminded to breath and never hold your breath. We were just practising finning (swimming) around the pool.

Before we finished for the afternoon, we had another task. He requested that we practised removing and replacing the mask under water. Yes it to practise the event our mask is accidently knocked off under water. Boy, was it hard. More than anything, it was the fear of removing the mask underwater, let alone that we had to pass the mask to a friend for like a few minutes... after a few tries, I gave up. I couldn't not overcome the fear...

Early the next morning we had another session. After some technical briefing and safety talk, we head to the pool again, as the sea was a little rough. Today we practised more finning. New techniques that we practised was to remove and replace our BCD while in the water, as well as remove and replace our weight belt.

Remove and replace the BCD while above the water was a little harder than expected. Not to mention, literally, I was trying to grab and wear my life jacket!! It was a little difficult, as the Air Tank which weighs about 15kg wasn't easy to just put on...

We also practised how to control our BCD and how to control our breathing. By having more air in your lungs, you'll float, while by emptying your lungs, you'll sink more. It seems easy... breath in... float... empty your lungs... sink.... How hard can it be??

Before we ended for morning, we were required to practise remove and replace the mask!!! What? serious?? Must we???

OK OK... relax Eric... relax... after a few attempts and NOT panicking, I manage to remove and replace the mask. I think, I spent almost a full minute underwater, hoping that the instructor Ah Shir would return my mask... It was scary... specially when you are not able to see anything, or do anything...

So after lunch, we were allowed to go for our first dive in the ocean. Boy was I excited... and scared at the same time. Each of us were also provided with Dive computer to know the vital stats while diving.

It was a little harder than anticipated. The sea was very different, specially with the waves constantly coming at you, not to mention, I CANT SWIM!!! No more corner of the swimming pool to hold on, or no more 6 feet depth where I can just stand up and put my head above waters. This is the real deal... no turning back... no easy way out...

After getting under water we headed for deeper waters. We were practising our breathing as well as our BCD control. We also had to practise remove and replace our BCD under water, as well as the weight belt. When we were practising this, we were at the seabed, about 5 metres underwater. Removing the BCD was a little scary, specially when you are so deep under water. But it wasn't a difficult task. Removing the weight belt, it wasn't scary but boy was it a hard task. From the moment the belt was removed, I almost immediately floated up. The belt that I had was at least 4kgs (4 weights) and it like sank right to the bottom. I had to like lift the belt, while trying not to float away!!

We had to practise more BCD control. Practise how it would be like, when we enter the waters from a boat. Practise practise practise...

I didn't not manage to complete my diving course. I didn't stay the full 4 days required to complete the course. I never planned to even attend the course, let alone complete 2 days of it. I must say that our dive instructor Jan Shir is one of the most patient person around. He was always calm and cool, always in control of the situation. If anybody wants to take their diving course, I would recommend to take 4 days off, and to complete the course at Redang with Jan Shir.

In my opinion, as a NON swimmer, diving is kinda of cool. While underwater, you feel weightless. You hear nothing except your own breathing. It is like you are in a completely new dimension. For those who have not tried diving, I would recommend going for the discovery course. It is about an hour plus, and it gives you a full on experience of diving.

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