After a crappy night’s sleep I walked the hundred meters to Manta Diving. I was a little nervous. My first lesson would be with Rachelle, a cute, short blond as the instructor and two tall German guys who are students like me. We’re going to be doing some exercises in a pool a hundred yards away at a nice motel. Rachelle shows me how to hook up my air tank to my vest, check to see if it’s properly hooked up by slowly releasing air, check my straps, inflate the vest, test both regulators (the thing that goes in your mouth), check your pressure gauge to make sure you have enough air and then undo it all then do it all again five times.
When I finish, and we put on our gear and are ready to head out the door, one of the other instructors comes over and tells me my straps and weights aren’t tight enough and cinches me good and tight. I feel like Houdini wrapped in chains now.
We walk up to the pool and I don’t feel so good. How are these no-muscle, skinny guys and this little girl carrying all this equipment and they look fine but I’m exhausted? I gently flop into the pool with all the grace of a fat man falling down a flight of steps. Rachelle starts instructing us on what we’re going to do. We swim out, hold our faces in the water and get used to breathing through the regulator.
Next step is to go to the bottom of the pool for some training about what to do in case your mask falls off or your regulator comes out of your mouth, a rabid penguin attacks, things like that.
Here’s a funny thing I learned in my online course. It is recommended that you have a dive knife. They are used to rap on your tank to get your dive buddies attention, or to free you if you get entangled in seaweed, old fishing lines, etc. I am instructed, you do NOT use it as a weapon.
I am here to tell you that I will break this rule the first time it becomes a necessity. If a shark decides to take my left arm in his jaws, I will be using my right arm and dive knife to stab him in the eye. If Russian or Nazi spies (ala James Bond) and I get into a fight underwater, I will not be using my knife to rap on my tank I will be using it to cut air hoses and go all stabby on people. I’m sorry PADI but those are the facts.
Anyway, we are at the bottom of the pool and I still can’t catch a full breath of air. I keep choking on water and I’m starting to panic.
Am I going to have to give this up? Having loved snorkeling so much in the Galapagos, Wendy and I have come to The Canary Isle, Lanzarote, so I can become a certified diver. Wendy, of course, is already an advanced certified diver, (as well as lawyer, spy, writer, UFC lightweight champion, and nuclear physicist) allowed to go to a depth of 40 meters (100-120 feet, I think, is her limit.) I’m going for my open water which allows 18 meters. I’ve done the long ass course online, we’ve booked this trip and now I’m not going to be able to do it?
I surface and pull the regulator out and gasp.
“Jamie, what’s wrong?”
“I can’t get a full breath of air.”
Rachelle swims over to me and loosens up some straps on my vest.
And now I can breathe again. Holy blessed relief!
I recover for a bit, refill my lungs with oxygen and the rest of the day is easy peasy. The two German guys are taking a lower level course than me so they get done before I do. This is both good and bad. Good because she has them take care of all the equipment and get boxes to put it all in, but bad because I have to stay in the water another half an hour and I am freezing.
Here’s a little known fact about scuba diving. The deeper you are, the more air you use. In six feet of water (the pool) I can stay under for two and a half hours. When we move to the open ocean, and descend to a depth of 14 meters, that same amount of air will last less than an hour.
Have you ever seen the movie “The Abyss?”
At the depth they were diving, a full tank of air would last less than TWO MINUTES. (They were supposedly at 2000 meters, which is a thousand meters deeper than the deepest recorded dive. It's still an awesome movie though. One of my favorites.)
Anyway, as I said, I am freezing. My lips are blue from being underwater for two hours and I still have more time in the water. But, we finish up and head back to the dive shop where we are informed the wind has picked up and we cannot do open water training this afternoon, so go get some food and we’ll see you tomorrow morning.
As you can see from the pictures below (if you read the first entry) the waves have become too treacherous for diving. I love love love big waves and can stare at them for hours. We shower and I get my body temperature back up to a normal level and then we bundle up and head to Bar Playa for some lunch and wave watching.
As usual, it is a bustle of activity. This is our first experience with “The Adventure Divers!” I say that with sarcasm and derision but in fact I envy them a little. They’re brave, but weird. They don’t walk down the steps into the water, they jump off the platform from ten feet high and plunge into the water. We also never see them out of their wetsuits. Over the next few days we’ll be at a restaurant/terrace and see them walking by in their unzipped wetsuits. Like, in the tourist section. Like, where people eat and watch the sea and dance and shop! It’s just bizarre.
We head down to Bar Playa and happen to see Rachelle and Ben down there on the strip before the bar. We chat with them for a bit and then notice one of the adventure divers has just jumped into the raging sea off the platform. In his wet suit of course, but without any scuba gear. He swims towards the steps to get out but the waves keep pulling him further and further out to sea. This goes on for too many minutes. It seriously looks like he is going to lose this fight with the current.
Then a big gust comes up and smashes him against the concrete steps, dazing him, then sweeps him back out to sea again.
At this point, we’re getting worried. Where can I get a rope? Why is no one throwing him a rope? Rachelle and Ben are preparing to go in the water to rescue him, but he recovers his senses and is able to grab onto the railing as he is smashed against the steps again.
He climbs out and sits down with his friends and takes a sip of beer like nothing has happened.
“Those guys are a bunch of assholes” Rachelle says.
Wendy asks "Would you have gone in after him if he couldn't make it out?"
"Yeah; and that's what makes them assholes."