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Diving into Open Water

The PADI Open Water Course

For most people delving into the world of diving, doing the PADI Open Water course is the first step. For those with less time or more nerves there is also the Scuba Diver course, shorter and certifies to a shallower depth with more restrictions.

The Open Water course takes 3-4 days and will ultimately certify you to dive to 18m / 60ft with a buddy/fellow diver. It is a great course that introduces the students to all the basic skills in an easy succession to ensure the students comfort.

Playing Favorites

I must admit, so far I do have a couple of favorites and it just so happens they were 2 Open Water students. Shon and Mike are a pair of friends from completely different backgrounds and yet most likely brothers in a previous life. Shon, from Israel, met Mike, an engineer at a diamond mine in Arctic Canada, yup you heard right… while traveling in Japan and planned to meet up again in Thailand and do their dive course.

Shon contacted me through couchsurfing and asked many questions concerning class size, cost, where to stay etc.. he was considering Koh Tao as it was cheaper but ultimately liked the idea of having a small private class with me. So it was decided I would host and teach them, great fun would ensue. Shon arrived the day of the Full Moon party and was a hoot, ensuring he not only bought a couple of rolls of toilet paper (amazing how expensive that can get with couchsurfers) but also winning my heart with a reeses peanut butter cup! He headed off to the party and arrived back to pass out in the morning. Meanwhile Mike (who I had assumed was Japanese as all I knew was that they had met in Japan) was flying in from Arctic Canada, after numerous flights and a ferry to the island most people would be exhausted, Mike on the other hand walked from Tong Sala to Chaloklum!!! I repeat walked!!!! Probably a good hour or more with a number of hills. Shon met him and brought him over and let’s just say he wasn’t Japanese, too funny, what a pair.

Mike, Shon and me, please ignore laundry in background

Mike, Shon and me, please ignore laundry in background

Nerves

Probably the one thing that can ruin a course is when the student’s nerves get the better of them, when the “what ifs!!” emerge. While Mike was completely chilled (at least he appeared to be) and taking all the videos in stride with a few questions, Shon’s nerves began to show. Completely understandable considering he was learning in his second language and needed certain words translated. But the moment he said “I have one problem, I can’t breathe through my mouth”…. the headmistress in me came out, the only way to stop the nerves was to make it clear that he had nothing to fear and if he still had these fears after the pool session, then we could discuss them… especially since the whole premise of scuba is to breathe through your mouth. That calmed his nerves dramatically.

This is an important skill to learn as an instructor, some students will need hand holding and tender words, others need a good stern demeanor and an aura of confidence. You just have to know which one and how much to dial it up or down.

Pool Sessions

For the PADI Open Water course there is a required set of 5 sessions in the pool, these can be done all together or over two days. We started in the morning and ended up finishing 5 hours later, very prune like, but happy to have completed all of them.

Once I had them prepare their equipment enough times they could do it blindfolded, it was time to breathe underwater. I knew both of them were nervous so we first just breathed through the regulator above the water, then just the face in the water and finally down on our knees. For me being on my knees in the shallow end gave me a good 5 inches of water above, for them they had to bend over and hunch up… the joys of being tall. As soon as we went under I could see the light bulbs begin to glow and the excitement begin to grow. We whizzed through the skills and the boys were amazing!! A lot of laughs were had.

Wolverine??

Now while Shon was the charismatic, fun loving socialite, Mike was.. well from Arctic Canada with a certain Wolverine quality about him. During one session of diving Shon and I surfaced after completing a skill, to see Mike at the steps, chin on hand… I nearly passed both of them right there and then, they just looked like scuba divers!

At the pier

At the pier

Open Water

Finally completing copious videos and quizzes and finals, it came time to take them into the deep and so we headed off to Sail Rock. Once again they amazed me, even with their nerves they kept calm and completed all the skills with flying colors. All the time they called me Master Sensei, awesome guys to hang out with.

Ready to go!!

Ready to go!!

Dive 1 was the hardest, nerves and distracting fish proved hurdles they luckily got over.

Dive 2 was much better, they flowed through the skills and seemed more confident.

Dive buds!

Dive buds!

Dive 3 on the second day, proved a slight hitch with full mask removal, but once again they overcame their nerves and carried on, even with a bit of a current.

Dive 4 proved to be the one where the veil lifted, the nerves dropped away and much fun was had. Most of the other dive boats had left and it felt like it was just us at Sail Rock, the boys conserved their air well, we got down to 18m with no problems equalising like the first 3 dives. Truly spectacular.

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Neil of Scuba Futures with Shon, Mike and 2 other students

So Proud!!

I felt very proud to announce that they had successfully passed their course and were now PADI divers. I hope to meet up with them again in the future and just head out for a fun dive, no skills or tests required!!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0971.

Thanks boys for being such amazing students!

Great Students

Great Students

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Posted by on October 21, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

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Fearsome Foursome Reunion 0.5

Missing Parties

Well most visitors to the island come for the legendary and infamous Full Moon Parties, most of the locals prefer the more low key, chilled out day after party called The Backyard. I was really excited to go to this, mainly so I could stand with a drink in my hand and watch the Full Moon revelers attempting to walk upright off the beach… Unfortunately my mystery illness meant I would spend the day in my hammock, which in itself is never a bad thing, but the party had sounded fun. At least it comes around every month.

My couchsurfer, Stephanie (France), went with my neighbor, Cesar (Brazil), to meet up with my instructor Ricardo (Chile), it’s a regular old United Nations Party just with better music and more booze.

After a few hours napping and killing mozzies (mosquitoes) in the hammock I decided to attempt to save money and do my laundry by hand. I grabbed my bucket that is kept filled with water to flush the loo, and my little packet of Tide Wash Powder. I scrubbed and soaked and squeezed and sweated and finally got it all hung out. I stood back to appreciate my work and immediately decided paying the whopping $1.50 to $3 to have it done was well worth it. Not only did it come back extra clean on the same day, it was also folded and dry… this batch of laundry would end up taking 3 days to get almost dry, got to love living in a humid climate.

Reunions

For those of you who remember my adventures on Seaventures Dive Rig in Borneo you would remember the crazy Swiss member of our Fearsome Foursome group that all dove together. Urs, hearing I was training to be a divemaster on Koh Phangan, decided to make that spot his stop during a SE Asia trip.

So after exhausting myself with laundry, I decided to go find him, he had messaged me saying he was staying at Malibu Resort which was right round the corner, literally. After wandering around the property for a bit I found him at the restaurant overlooking a rather stunning and well raked beach. We caught up on each other’s adventures over the last year and had a drink. Since he had already eaten dinner I decided to pop over to a local place for their Pineapple Burger and fries, highly recommended by Ricardo. We planned to meet at the shop where I would get Urs all set to dive in the morning. Before I left he handed me over a bag… while still in Bangkok he had asked if he could bring me something and, due to the lack of any kind of semi decent chocolate, asked for a large bar. Inside the bag was heaven in it’s purest form!!!!

Heaven Does Exist in Paradise...and it's in my freezer!

Heaven Does Exist in Paradise…and it’s in my freezer!

A Rainstorm Be A Coming

At 2 Brother’s Restaurant I was the only customer as it was still quite early. I ordered my burger and fries and enjoyed my snickers and coconut milkshake while watching an insane looking cloud head my way.

Snickers and Coconut shake on the beach

Snickers and Coconut shake on the beach

Storm Rolling In

Storm Rolling In

As I watched this ominous gigantic apparition of a cloud roll over the mountain towards Chaloklum town, I opted to take my food to go and enjoy it in my hammock at home. Making it just in time, so I thought, I reclined in my hammock and began to dig in. Unfortunately I discovered as hungry as I was I just couldn’t eat this delicious looking meal in front of me. So with a cup of tea I sat and waited to watch my favorite nature show, the arrival of a storm… unfortunately it seems as if someone gave the wrong preview as it barely dribbled, but it was still intense watching the mammoth cloud move overhead.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Thailand, Travel

 

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Briefing, Leading and Discovering

Kathy Will Lead….

It’s been 3 days without any diving due to weather, and I am seriously starting to get itchy feet, both literally (due to all the rain and wet, but don’t worry got a cream for that) and figuratively. I woke up to a glorious sunrise over the coconut palms right outside my window and knew it would be a diving day. 

Ricardo and I had a couple from Turkey and they were great folks. Very chatty and talkative about diving and all the places they had been. Right as we settled down for the briefing Ricardo informed that I would be explaining the dive and …. leading it. Well that was news to me! 

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I think I did ok for leading my first dive. The main problem was that my dive briefing was too brief and my guiding was too fast. It felt like I was going really slowly and showing them small things like nudibranchs and such. Ricardo had told me to look for the frogfish and so was trying to remember was crevice he hid in. Eventually we found the right one but the frogfish wasn’t there, possibly moved away because of all the paparazzi. Ricardo then felt I was too concerned about it and missed the area where the bull sharks hang out. Usually we get to that spot and hang out for a few minutes to see if any of them surface above the 18m murky layer, all rather intimidating. The real reason I missed it was because I didn’t even know I was in the spot of the rock, I thought I was on the other side… got to dive it a lot more to memorize where all the critters hang out. 

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Frogfish – courtesy of Ricardo Gonzalez, Padi Instructor

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Nudibranch – Courtesy of Michael Devlin, Padi Divemaster

All in all the couple were thrilled with the dive,  and that is the most important thing. So I think I “done a good job” for my first time leading, but I do need to slow down.

Discovering Scuba

When we returned to the shop we were introduced to Michael who was waiting to do the pool session of the Discover Scuba program. This is for people who have never done scuba diving before and want to give it a try before committing to a full course. We do a 4 basic skills in the pool, or at the dive site, and then take them on 2 dives. I have never seen anyone so excited to get in the pool. It made the session great fun for us to as Michael was eager to learn. 

Diving with him the next day at Sail Rock was brilliant, a really good student. He was in heaven and we had a really good group on the boat. With the full moon party just around the corner it also meant the boat was quite full. We say the island breathes at Full Moon, as the population expands and the contracts the next day. 

Floating Around

One of the skills needed for the divemaster course is a 15minute float with the last 3minutes having your hands out of the water. It was a blisteringly hot day, and you could almost feel yourself cooking, but we managed to make it through. At one point the very slight current pushed us towards the toilets’ exit point and we got permission to push off and float to the back of the boat. The guys on the boat behind us were making fishing motions, and each guy was deciding which one of us they wanted to catch, seriously can they not see us looking at them… boys! Raising our hands out of the water was surprisingly difficult, who would have thunk….

Ear Issues 

When we returned to the shop one of the customers, a girl from Spain, was having severe ear pain. She didn’t get much assistance from her dive guide and so I stepped in with Ricardo to calm her down as she was verging on hysterical. I soaked a cloth in hot water and had her hold it to her ear, which seemed to help the pain a bit. Ricardo suspected it was inflammation in the ear canal from trying to equalize too hard, and recommended she go home take an ibuprofen and get some sleep. It is true she was a bit of a high maintenance gal but sometimes you just got to go the extra step, especially when telling them to stop whining doesn’t seem to help. We had mentioned that Ricardo’s band would be playing in Haad Salad at the Sunset Bar and they said they may try to come. 

Heat Exhaustion and Music

Carol, the other divemaster trainee, and her boyfriend Pom, were going to come with me to watch the band. But when they showed Carol looked terrible. She was cold and clammy and nautious and had a terrible headache. I recognized heat exhaustion immediately, even though she argued with me saying she was a nurse… I ignored her and made her drink rehydration salts and go under a cold shower. She insisted Pom take me to watch the band and said she would be fine. He was super sweet and drove me all the way there and then walked me right to the bar, insisting I call him if I needed a ride back. I was getting better on the motorcycle but driving that road at night was a no go for me. 

The concert was excellent and very relaxing. Michael our Discover Scuba and the couple with the ear issue showed up and we all chilled out, chatted and drank mojitos. A good end to the day. Michael gave me a ride home, he spent a lot of time in Paris and grew up riding motorbikes, so he had no issues with the road. 

All in all a fantastic couple of days… I think I could definitely enjoy this life!

 

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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