Predive Final Safety Check = Bruce Willis Ruins All Films… BCD (check), weights (check), releases (check), air (check & check)… final OK. Next thing you know we’re side-hobbling down the steps into the Dive Park, and snorkeling out in chilly 61 degree water to the buoys.
But once I get there and stop kicking, I realized I’m not fulling inflated… my 26 extra pounds start dragging me down. I panic and start thrashing about. My left fin falls off my foot and sinks 2 feet before I realize I’ve even lost it. The tough post-#hellastorm winds are still in effect and the current is strong. By the time I catch my rouge fin and actually inflate myself up, it’s time to descend down and start the dive.
My mind is racing… what am I doing here?? This is nuts – humans weren’t designed to go underwater for a reason. My heart is racing and my breathing is sharp and panicked. I rely on yoga and try to focus on oujai breathing.. but through my mouth. Needless to say it, those entire 35 minutes underwater were a challenge.
That was certification dive #2 out of 4 during our weekend diving Casino Point on Catalina Island, and by far the toughest since I was mentally shaken up before we even went down. We ran through the same, though fewer, drills than during the pool session – full mask flood, regulator recovery, alternate air source, compass navigation, fin pivots, etc. The skills themselves were infinitely easier the second time around, but the conditions were definitely rough that Saturday – cold waters, choppy waves and rough winds.
But Sunday afternoon! That’s when the magic began.
The fourth & last certification dive is a group planned one – where we chart out our own dive and lead our instructor. We chose to go down to 45 feet and see the Jacques Cousteau plaque, and then swim over to this huge rock wall on the east end, filled with tropical fish and corals… it felt like a real dive.
After a 90min surface interval Mike, another student, and I decided to hop in again. This time we descended down to 55 feet and swam to the far west corner of the dive park, to a sunken swimming platform from the 1960’s -overgrown with kelp and inhabited by tiny little fishies.
Once you’re actually doing it.. once you’re down in the water, after that heavy tank is on your back & you have avoided tripping over your bulky fins, diving is such an incredible experience. You are weightless and floating in nature’s huge fishtank. You’re gliding next to the fish and amongst the corals. It’s surreal!!
The entire weekend on little Catalina (save for dive #2) was a fun time… making new friends and suffering through the same virgin dive challenges, staying in a tiny quaint hotel and raging (till 10pm lol) at the local joint, Luau Larry’s. But the best was realizing that you all had achieved your certification together – knowing that this opens up a plethora of new opportunities, new travel sites, in your life.
Much love to Mike & Paige – our instructors who spent their weekends with us in Catalina, and to all of PCH Scuba. This dive shop is so awesome, accommodating and welcome you into the PCH family right away.
I’ve already dove twice since getting certified (in Mexico! more to come later) and it’s only gotten better each time.