Lorcan Lovett blogs about the adventures and experiences of becoming a new diver.
In a deep swimming pool tucked away down a leafy lane of Saigon, I picked up my scuba gear for the first time and began a journey which would change the way I experience the world. I was taking a PADI Open Water Diver course with Rainbow Divers, that has centres scattered across the coasts and islands of Vietnam.
It was segmented into three stages: knowledge development, confined water training at the pool, and four open water dives over the beautiful corals off the coast of Nha Trang. I expected the first stage to be slightly boring; after all, how exciting could it be to watch several hours of people attaching masks to their faces?
But, to my relief, PADI’s instructional videos were much more absorbing than that. I learnt about the equipment: crucial stuff, like the first stage and second stage leading to the primary regulator, my emergency regulator – the octopus – and the pressure gauge, among other tools.
The slick presentation of the videos, shot in exotic locations, whetted my appetite to get into the water and completing questions throughout each section helped me become aware of what I was about to get myself in for.
Then came the water test. My instructor Jeremy Stein launched Rainbow Divers 20 years ago, and, thanks to his focus on safety and fun, it quickly became the most popular PADI certified centre in Vietnam. It’s fair to say I felt in safe hands. I started off with a 200 metre swim before treading water for five minutes to show I was a competent swimmer.
The first time I breathed underwater was incredible.
Then Jeremy taught me how to assemble, put on and adjust my scuba gear – a much repeated process over the next few days which would help me feel more comfortable with the equipment.
Our practises included a pre-dive safety check, buoyancy tests using my lungs and BCD, clearing my mask and swapping equipment underwater. The latter two can be daunting so this experience was invaluable in improving safety for the open water dives.
The first time I breathed underwater was incredible. It felt like I was defying the laws of human life when that familiar swimmer’s wish of ‘if only I could hold my breathe for longer’ became a reality. The bubbles trickled up past my face as I exhaled, while just past the bubbles I could appreciate tiny particles floating around me. All of this came with the sensation of being weightless, and all of my senses were tingling. Diving was most definitely for me.
So after about four hours of training, I felt excited to visit Nha Trang and decend into the next part of an amazing sport, hopefully without forgetting to equalise!