The final morning arrived with me awake at 5.54am, this was becoming a trend, found coffee and worked on my classroom presentation while I waited for the lads to arise. My presentation was from Project Aware and focused on the main forms of ocean pollution. I was super excited when I saw this, as my degree was Environmental Education and this was right up my alley.
Finally the troops arose and we headed off for the center. I decided to go first and get it over with, realised I was shaking when I attempted to write on the board… This could be an interesting presentation. However, I got through it, thoroughly enjoyed it, and so did everyone else in the class, all the boys said it was great and we even had an awesome discussion on pollution and clean-ups and changing habits with Examiner Colin putting his 2 cents in. I asked him about becoming involved in Project Aware and he gave an email stating that they would be lucky to have me!! Well that’s a great compliment!
Then scoring time…. 4.7 out of 5. Colin actually stated that I deserved more, that the presentation was excellent but still gave me 4.7, oh well sounds good to me!
All the boys did great presentations from Wreck Diving, to RDP work. But the best statement out of all of us was by Drey who was doing a presentation on Peak Performance Buoyancy. Coming from the Bronx he has a certain way about him, and his personality shined through with this:
Dudes! PPB is like Jedi mind tricks man! You just THINK NEUTRAL…. and you areeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!
He had the course, the equipment, everything sold to all of us even if we had it already, even the examiner wanted to sign up. Brilliant job mate!!!
Two Skills Down…. 1 to Go!
All too soon the final test arrived, we geared up and headed to the boat, leaving our Course Director on the dock waving nervously at us. We got all sorted with our kit and then chatted among ourselves about the skills we had to perform. Each of us had 2 skills and then we had to complete Rescue skill number 7 (rescue of an unconscious non-breathing diver at the surface).
My skills were CESA (my nemesis returns) and Bowline. Not too bad in the long run but still not my favorites.
Once the group was together and Examiner Colin had arrived we went through our briefings, as I got into mine the boat started moving and I did a bit of a samba as I finished off. As the others went through theirs I accidentally happened to catch a glance of the marking slate, big mistake, even if they hold it in front of your face don’t look, because I convinced myself that I had screwed up somehow and the pent up stress started reaching a boiling point. I held it together and kitted up preparing for the GIANT stride off the boat which was about 3 times my height. I think if my nerves had been calmer I might not have been able to jump because I would have realised just how high it was, only after I surfaced and motioned “O.K.” did I see the true height of the jump.
We hung out in the water waiting for Examiner Colin to finish his other groups briefings and to get his gear on. Finally it was on like Donkey Kong… or something like that. Drey was first and got through no prob, then Jet, again no prob. Then it was my turn…
My vision narrowed, possibly even caused my eyes to cross, I began concentrating on breathing, all I had was 3 skills to get through and I would pass… Why did it seem like I was climbing Mt. Everest. In the briefing I had stated that we would start the CESA from the surface but since the others had gone first we were already underwater, so I wrote on the slate that we would begin from there.
As I mentioned before in the skill circuit section of the confined water, a CESA is a Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent. As an instructor I have to make sure I am within contact of the diver, make sure they don’t hold the line, that they emit a continuous “ahhhhhhh” sound and don’t take breaths, otherwise they need to repeat it. Due to my statue Neil and I had decided the best position was for me to be in front with my left hand holding the line and the bcd and my right gently touching the regulator to feel for vibrations. This was perfect except for the fact that I had limited range of vision vs being able to see from fingertips to fin-tips.
I got the first “student” to the surface and didn’t see any problems the examiner might have given him, but as we got back to the bottom I began doubting myself. The second “student” actively pulled on the line, so I caught him holding it, and had him repeat the skill. But right as I was about to start the second one, a cloud passed my vision, my weights I was wearing on my calves to help keep my feet down loosened and I motioned to the examiner that there was an issue. When he wrote on his slate “What is Wrong”… I managed to take a breath, clear my vision and write back “all good”, F*&k it I was just going to get through it.
My next skill was the bowline. Since it was a skill that would be in the Advanced course it is encouraged to have 2 or more students tie it at the same time. Of course trying to focus on 2 at the same time when your nerves are on edge is not very easy. When the second student had an issue I had him wait and focused on the first who had just finished tying the knot. The way he pulled it made it look strange but still correct, however, the examiner came and looked at it, which made me look at it again and convinced myself it was wrong. So I motioned to everyone else if they were ok and had him do it again. He really struggled this time, after 3 tries I took the rope and showed him, then he did it perfectly. I then moved on, continuously checking on everyone and caught all mistakes that were made.
Moving to the end of the line, I kind of felt like I wanted to throw up, I was pretty darn certain I had screwed up and would have to return to repeat this section in 3weeks on the next exam date. Of course I happened to be the first in line so all the other kept having me do the skills, liftbag, hover, alternate air, while the rest of them just relaxed at the end of the line… I was wrecked by the time we surfaced.
Rescue Exercise 7
The final test was here, although I was still convinced I had failed the underwater section. We waited as 2 of us paired up at a time rescuer and victim, then the victim would become the rescuer. When it was my turn to be the victim my rescuer almost drowned me, pushing me down and letting water in the mask, I think I may have started trying to make a little fountain through the top of the mask. He was also so focused on keeping my airway open that he almost broke my neck… but at least I would have bee saved!
Then it was my turn to rescue! Our Examiner this time was another course director from Koh Tao named Bob and the very amusing Rescue 7 went something like this:
Kathy: Diver diver are you ok
tap on shoulder and flip him over…
Bob: just push him under
Kathy: His buoyancy, my buoyancy, his weight belt, my weight belt, his mask, my mask..
Bob: oh look what a cute little white mask
Jet: it bends too
Bob: oh how cute it is squishy a little squishy mask….
(this was the background conversation for the rest of the rescue)
At least it helped me relax a little.
And the Results Are???????
Back on the boat we had to wait for Examiner Colin to finish with his other group, I pretty much was at a constant point of needing to through up or cry or both. Then as the boat headed back to dock we did our debriefings, then we had to wait for the second group to do theirs.
Finally our group started getting results. Neil was on the boat and looked anxiously at me, I made the “I don’t know, maybe problem” signal and just looked really worried. Then it was my turn, I felt like I was about to receive a death sentence or be told I was not worthy…
Colin: alright Kathy let’s start with skill 2, the bowline
(Oh shite that’s not good, means I failed skill 1, why does he want to start with skill 2…)
Colin: you did a good job and managed the group, maybe move on to another diver if one takes to long and return to him but overall good job.
Colin: Now skill 1, the CESA, did you notice anything with the first diver.
Kathy: No but he told me later he held the line
Colin: Yes he did, could you see him from fin tip to fingertip.
Kathy: No not really with my height I tried to make sure I had hold of him and to check the regulator.
Colin: OK next time I think it is better if you hold the line behind you with the left and the bcd with the right and just watch the bubbles, if he takes a breath the bubbles stop. He was just using the line as a guide so we will say missed problem. Now you were trying to tell me something underwater, what was going on.
Kathy: Yes sorry got nervous because I had a feeling the first student had done something wrong and then my calf weight came loose, but I sorted it out and could continue.
Colin: ok good, well then the scores are for the CESA 4.0 and the Bowline 4.4, any questions?
Kathy: ummmm am I an instructor then???
Colin: well I have to do some paperwork and such first…. but yes!!
At that point I realised I must have been holding my breath the whole time, I just wanted to hug him, I stood up and almost fell down, I started crying like a baby. Neil who had started filming was wondering if this was bad news and if he should stop filming, no one including myself, was sure if I was crying or laughing or both. When Neil asked how I felt I just said “I want to through up!”
I have never felt so much emotion rush through me at one time, and the single thought through my mind was “I am finally cool!!!”
Enjoy the following video showing my journey:
A huge thanks goes to:
*Ron and the team at Eugene Skin Divers who got me hooked on diving in the first place
*Ricardo who encouraged me to do my Divemaster here on Koh Phangan
*Monique Richards for first suggesting this crazy idea.
*Neil Richards of Scuba Futures for training me and putting up with so much, you are truly the finest instructor I have ever met and hope I can live up to your legend!
*To http://haadyaodivers.com/en/index.php for being so great to work with before and now after the IDC
*Jet and Drey for being great friends and Course Director Dave for all his help.
*Lulu, Thomas, Marius, Davey and everyone else at the shop who helped out
*The great group of guys who made up our group during the IE from Easy Divers, Koh Tao
And especially to my parents who supported me completely as I pursued another crazy idea and fulfilled a lifelong dream… now let’s teach those Guppies to Dive!!!