Monday, April 18, 2011

Scuba Diving in Fairfax, VA

Just before Christmas Barb and I signed up to experience a taste of scuba diving. We had left it too long and needed to book a class quickly before the offer expired so we drove to Fairfax last Tuesday to see what it was all about. To be honest, I'd been in no hurry to take the class and was actually rather hoping we'd 'miss' our chance and lose our impetuously spent $20. I was nervous about trying this and knew it would be an issue because during my fire brigade training, I'd been very apprehensive about wearing breathing apparatus and this was underwater. 
We got to the shop early so pottered around studying the equipment.
I was taken with this iPhone holder. How cool to be able to play your iPod in the water. The other two in our class arrived and our instructor, Kevin, sat us down for an introduction and to go over the equipment.
We learned very quickly the basic set up of our buoyancy compensator, (BC), and how our regulators worked. And next it was into the equipment room to get fitted for our masks, flippers and BC's.
Barb trying out her flippers. I was very selective because obviously one wants everything to color co-ordinate. Once we had our gear it was back to the cars and a quick drive to the pool.
Kevin checking our BC's once again. We put these on in the water because they were bloody heavy. We'd also had to put weights in them along with the air already pumped in them. We could then dump or add air as required once we were underwater. The idea is to not float but also not to sink, it took some working out. Once in the water, we quickly donned masks and then were told to put our regulators in our mouths and hold our heads under the surface of the water. This was all happening a bit fast for me but not wanting to look a lemon, I complied. And didn't like it. Not one bit. No sirree. I was seriously considering the 'out' option. It totally goes against the grain to breathe while underwater even though your brain tells you it's safe. It's just not right. It took a lot of concentration to keep under but once I saw everyone else was doing it, I had no choice. With every exhalation, an explosion of bubbles thundered past my ears and I realized that I had to bite down on my regulator to keep it firm in my mouth. Each breath also had to be tugged from the cylinder so after every 3 or 4 breaths, I'd find myself desperately sucking in a huge lungful of air. I had to fight my desire to go up to the surface as it felt so weird to be breathing this heavy underwater.
After a while I learned to relax and started to find myself enjoying the sensation of a no gravity environment. I practiced with my flippers using them to build up a little speed and even had a little go at a 'Man from Atlantis' impression. There were a few other guys being recertified so I lay down on the bottom of the pool and watched them for a bit. But every so often I would need to go up just to have my head in the air again, even if I kept my regulator in. Kevin took us into the deep end of the pool which was about 12ft and we played at throwing a missile to each other so we'd have to lunge to catch it. It seemed that after a very short time we were all slowing down. Our class was coming to en end and I was shocked to discover we'd had nearly 2 hours in the water. We were exhausted and back on the side of the pool felt like we'd put on 100lbs.
Me and Barb using proper diving sign language to say, 'All's OK'. A 'thumbs up' means you want to go up to the surface. I can't believe I was smiling in this photo, like anyone can really tell with all that gear on.
Our little group at the end of the evening. I have to say The Dive Shop in Fairfax was absolutely awesome during this evening. The instruction was clear, easy to understand and we really got a thorough introduction into the sport. If I wasn't working and had plenty of spare cash, I might have pursued this further; it's definitely a sport that you have to acquaint yourself with intensely, like wearing a new skin, and although challenging, I could see that it would be a lot of fun and open doors to new worlds. But for now, this landlubber's gonna stick to the bike!

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