Your First Scuba Dive.
There you are. Standing chest-deep in the calm turquoise waters of Bonaire, buoyancy compensator inflated, a regulator in hand, mask on your face and you begin to wonder if trying out scuba diving was really such a great idea. When you signed up for your Discover Scuba Diving experience it seemed like a great but easy adventure, but now you're being asked to put your face in the water and breathe. Seriously?
When you first start scuba-diving, you might not have any idea what to expect, but your PADI instructor will paint a very clear picture of what safety steps you must master before you'll be allowed to venture into the depths of the Caribbean sea.
Trying Scuba Diving happens in 'Baby Steps'
Your first dive will be at a controlled dive in the shallow waters of the dive site ‘Something Special’. This dive site has a nice stretch of shallow water, shallow enough to stand up in. What's more, before ever entering the water, your PADI scuba instructor will explain to you how all the dive gear works and will familiarize you with safe-dive techniques even before you enter the shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea surrounding Bonaire.
Breathing through a Scuba Regulator
Breathing through a scuba regulator for the first time feels strange — you're drawing breaths while your face is beneath the water. This is not typical human behavior, so it's normal to be a little hesitant at first.
To familiarize you with breathing through a regulator your instructor will use a simple trick. He will ask you to put on your dive mask and practice breathing through the regulator above the water until you become comfortable with mouth-only breathing. Then, and only then, you lower your faces into the water while breathing through the regulator. Some first-time divers are comfortable right away after just a few breaths, while others take longer to gain confidence. Your instructor will take all the time you need.
The Noisy Underwater Environment
First time divers who have done their research into scuba diving have probably read about the silent, relaxing underwater world. This description is not completely accurate. Breathing underwater generates significant noise. After you become accustomed to breathing underwater, you start to tune out the bubbling sound of exhalation and the comforting whoosh of air as you inhale, but at the beginning, the sounds are surprisingly loud! Give it time. That is all it takes.
Something you also need to get used to is that water conducts sounds much more efficiently than air does because of its density. Sound waves travel more quickly in water and reach each of diver's ears almost simultaneously. Pinpointing the origin of a sound is difficult, as the physics of sound-wave transmission underwater make it seem that all sounds are coming from directly behind a diver's head. While these signals can be confusing at first, after a few dives you will adjust to this aspect of the underwater environment and will hardly notice it.
Scuba masks cut off a diver's peripheral vision. At first, this restriction may make some divers feel a bit claustrophobic. As with most aspects of scuba diving, however, new divers quickly acclimate to their limited field of vision. Your instructor will explain how to deal with these so-called blind spots. It is not that hard. All you really need to do is to turn your head instead of moving your eyes to look around you.
Light behaves differently in water. Objects appear about 33 percent closer than they actually are. The implication of this change is that your dive buddy, your instructor, and everything else seems nearer than they are. Most divers do not even notice the magnification because a diver's brain quickly learns to adjust to the difference. We just mention it so you are aware of it. While getting used to it, it may happen that you accidentally touch things under water and touching things is a big no-no on Bonaire.
Weightlessness and Freedom of Movement
One of the best parts of scuba diving is the feeling of weightlessness. Scuba divers can fly up, down, left and right. Divers can move easily in three dimensions. The trick is to relax into the weightless feeling of the water and let the water and your buoyancy compensator support you. Don't fight the water. At first, you may feel that you need to move to stay in position — you don't. Try to be as still as possible and enjoy the freedom from gravity. It's like being an astronaut!
The Density of Water Restricts Movements
Water is, of course, denser than air. A diver who tries to move quickly will feel resistance to his movements from the water and may quickly exhaust himself. Underwater movements, including swimming and arm motions, should be slow and controlled. The water density is also the cause of having trouble hearing where the sound comes from.
It Is Normal to Forget Skills, Hand Signals, and Other Instructions
The underwater environment exposes new divers to a new world. On your first dive, your brain is working hard to adjust to the feeling of weightlessness, the magnification of the water, underwater breathing and similar stimuli. This experience presents a huge amount of information to process, and sometimes instructions that seemed clear on the surface such as the use of hand signals and the steps of underwater skills get pushed to the back of a new diver's mind.
If your instructor has to bring you to the surface to explain something again, don't feel bad. Be patient with yourself and enjoy the new sensations. It is a new, delightful world down there!
Scuba Diving Takes a Little Getting Used To, but It's Worth the Effort!
Some divers take to scuba diving as if they were born part-fish. They put regulators in their mouths and off they swim! However, this "natural" diver is the exception rather than the rule. For most new divers, scuba diving feels a little strange at first. Be patient with yourself, don't rush through skills training, and take your time beneath the surface. Are you ready to try your first scuba dive?