The Return of the Magic – Assisting with Dive Classes
Tim and I greeted our students: Simon and Bronwyn from Oregon and Matthias from France. How incredible of a small world is it that we traveled all the way to Indonesia to meet people from Corvallis, Oregon – less than 3 hours from our home town?
We helped our students select gear. I had forgotten that it isn’t apparent how it fits together. As a newbie, it’s easy to accidentally put your wetsuit on backwards.
After selecting gear, Tim and I did a demonstration of how to set up your tank with BCD and regulator, and then we all wore our heavy jackets to the pool. We set up the gear so that it was easily accessible to the students on the side of the pool so all they had to do was get into the shallow end, and walk over to their tank, slip their arms in their BCD and put it on. I learned later that there is an even better way, but this was my first time assisting, and it worked.
Our three students were doing a Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) course. This is a quick class that teaches just enough information for someone to know how the gear works, how to recover their regulator and clear it, how to clear their mask if it floods, and the basics of buoyancy. And then, almost immediately, we walk out to the boats, load the gear and head to the dive site. The experience is a few hours at most – a little taster to help a person determine if they will enjoy scuba diving or not. The price of a DSD course is applicable to an Open Water Course if students decide to go forward and become certified to dive.
Working as an assistant with the DSD course, I remembered some important things that will make me a better teacher in the long run. For example – I saw again firsthand how overwhelming it can be to have all this information thrown at you, and then to suddenly be out in the open water rolling off the back of a boat and descending in the big blue ocean. It’s intense when you are new. So Tim and I worked hard to anticipate the needs of our students and to make them as comfortable as possible. This is an interesting task, as the needs are always changing. Someone may need to remember deep breaths so they do not panic, or they may need to let air out of their BCD so they do not rise to the surface when the rest of the group is on the bottom, or they may need to add air in because they are not aware that they are sinking deeper than the rest of the group. During a DSD, the instructor and assistants need to be right next to their students so they can be close enough to handle problems and keep the student divers safe.
Our students were wonderful – Simon, Bronwyn and Matthias. They all had a great attitude, even when it wasn’t easy. Matthias was a born natural, and the diving concepts came easy to him. Simon rolled off the back of the boat the first time and came up with an awesome grin from ear to ear. And Bronwyn’s ears gave her a tough time because they did not equalize easily beyond 2 meters. Every body is different, and some bodies don’t do well with the pressure of more than one atmosphere. Similar to Yoga – some people go into it like the human bendi-doll, able to flex and stretch to the floor. Others may practice for years and still not be able to touch their toes because their bone structure is different and physically keeps them from stretching as deep. These are the most determined of yogis – for they have farther to go just to touch the floor. I was proud of all of them, and especially Bronwyn because she had more to overcome than the others, and still completed all of the underwater skills and managed to have a good time. I was very impressed with her positive attitude, Simon’s intellect and passion and Matthias’ aptitude.
They enjoyed the DSD so much that they decided to go on and take the Open Water Class. It felt less like a class and more like introducing new friends to the world of diving. Our instructor was very busy conducting three classes at once, so I made myself available to do log books, answer questions and study with the students during our time above the water.
During our time under the water, I assisted the instructor as the students completed the skills, being directly behind them and within reach when they removed and replaced their mask – to remind them not to kick and rise up blindly. Behind them during the fin pivot, holding their fins to the sandy bottom so they didn’t drift in the surge or rise too high if they added too much air into their BCD. But the part I enjoyed most was being there for them – being a watchful knowledgeable buddy, a reassuring friend, and a link between the students and the instructor.
When the instructor was teaching other classes, I took our group out on a snorkeling expedition at Lekuan III. We saw lionfish, sweet lips, box fish, an eel, flute mouth fish, and even a blue and yellow spotted nudibranch. The rest of the group had headed back to the boat and Matthias and I were having such a good time we didn’t want to go in yet. (I couldn’t technically go in without him anyhow) We were turning around, and faced the blue for a moment and I noticed a squid watching us. Matthias popped his head up above water and asked, “What is this?”
“A squid.” I told him.
“Is it dangerous?”
“Not really.” I said, smiling.
What he did next surprised me, and our underwater friend. Matthias dove down to get a better look at the squid – face to face. Surprised, it inked a cloud and scooted away, disappearing in few seconds. He came up laughing. “I must make photo of this.”
Our Open Water Class restored the newness of the sport for me. It really is an incredible world under there! The fish I see daily and barely examine now are fascinating to the beginning diver.
I remember being so enthralled with diving on one of my first trips to Cozumel that I wanted to photograph everything. I wanted to tell everyone how beautiful it was beneath the surface in the Turquoise Room! I wanted to know the name of every fish that swam by, wanted to learn the species of corrals and memorize their patterns. Assisting with this Open Water class brought back some of that magic, and I have my three wonderful students to thank for that.
Thanks to Sara Bartlemay for the underwater photos.