((Check with your physician, doctor or specialist before attempting
any open water dive course. I am not responsible
for your health or safety but just have posted this
in good faith.))
Hear the sea singing and the lyrics will sweep you away.
Why do you want to scuba dive?
To see the aquatic wildlife?
Because all your friends have gone?
Because you want to be the first of your friends to dive?
To overcome your fear of being in the water?
To travel to exotic locations and see the beautiful coral, gorgeous
fish and to discover new sites?
Or to be able to do underwater photography, like me?
As a professional photographer, I want to expand my vision and incorporate underwater scenes and models into my repertoire. Sure I don't necessarily need to get PADI certified to take underwater pool photographs, but, going up for air, holding my breath, going down to take the photograph can be tedious, time-consuming and heck if you can do it with a cylinder of air on your back to make it easier, then why on earth not. Then why on water not? heheee
I've been going to Sport Chalet in Marina del Rey, California for over 10 years. While shopping for sports gear, I would often go to the back of the store and look at the diving equipment that was on display. They would have brochures with the times and dates of upcoming dive lessons. I got re-inspired to take a class when I saw my friend Sarah, from Poland, post on Facebook that she got PADI certified. I've been meaning to do this for the last 2 years but never committed. It was always just a "wish," for me, but I never went "all in."
I met Colleen and she told me what I needed, when the next available date was, and boom.....I signed right on up.
No hesitation, just going for it. Sports Chalet offers many classes which is so awesome because I don't have to wait a month or two months until the next available class. If I had to wait over 2 weeks for the next session, I might have gotten cold feet and not signed up.
This box contained the material that is needed for the course: It includes the text book, a safety whistle, a log book, a skill practice water resistant board and more.)
It's very similar to the link below:
PADI Adventures in Diving AOW Crewpack, Safety Tube, Whistle
Do you see the hand signals that the two models on the box are making with their finger and thumb?
It's the universal "Okay," sign.
However, in Japan, it is the "money" sign.
Sure does. Hence, it also denotes "money" in Japan. )
I also purchased a snorkel, diving gloves and a dive mask (equipped with a GoPro holder baby!!!
GoPro Hero4 and Hero3+ Dive Mask for Scuba and Snorkeling - Black
(Above: Octomask diving mask with a GoPro Mount baby!!!!)
(Above: Aqua Lung SideDraft Snorkel)
Aqua Lung SideDraft Flex Snorkel (Black)
(Above: The tip of the snorkel has vents so that water spray doesn't get into it!! Smart!!!)
Incidentally, two years ago I went to a highly recommended dive store way out near Universal Studios called Hollywood Diver. I knew they sold underwater housing for DSLR cameras, so I decided to drive there and check them out. I often take photographs near the buoy by Tower 26 located approximately a mile from the Santa Monica Pier and thought that if I had some flippers it might propel me faster to the buoy, or at least help me as I take photographs of the swimmers and triathletes rounding the buoy.
The salesperson (can't remember his name but who was outstanding) at Hollywood Diver, recommended some fins that were "old school." And it's "old school," in a good way, because they are reliable and were worn by Marines, Navy divers and Navy Seals dating back to WWII. I purchased a pair of ScubaPro Jet Fins Scubapro Jet Fins with Installed Spring Strap (LG) as well as some Fourth Element Footwear performance diving boot, Amphibian Boot
1 Orientation session
I missed the initial orientation and Colleen so kindly
gave me the run down on what I needed, what was expected and what I had to do before the 1st class.
Since I was at Sport Chalet, I decided to rent the gear that I didn't have and that included:
The BCD (buoyancy control device)
The BCD is made up of the inflatable bladder, cylinder band and harness/jacket. The LPI (low pressure inflator) mechanism, the overpressure/quick exhaust valves and weight system.
How much weight should I have for the dive?
There's a formula:
I'm about 170 pounds.
So, 10 percent of 170 pounds is 17.
17 + 5 = 22 pounds of lead weight
The regulators include:
(1) The first stage (hub),
(2) the second stage (you breathe from,)
(3) the alternate air source (or octopus, is an
extra 2nd stage you use for sharing air with a buddy should the need arise,)
(4) the low pressure inflator hose (that supplies air to your BCD inflator)
(5) the SPG/computer (submersible pressure gauge.)
1st Classroom Session (7-9:30pm)
Prior to our first classroom session we were instructed by Colleen to read the first three chapters of the book.
During class we watched a video that corresponded to the first three chapters and we also took quizes on chapter 1-3.
Colleen showed us how to place the BCD onto the cylinder and after she demonstrated the correct placement, we did the same.
A helpful tip to remember how to place the first stage correctly onto the air cylinder:
"Air by the hair."
Air flows one way out of the cylinder. The air is to the back of you and that is (if you have it) is where you hair is. "Air by the hair."
Class went relatively quickly. Three students including me, and Colleen the instructor.
Next up: The pool!!
My first pool session was held from 7-11pm at
Hawthorne High School.
We brought our gear from our cars and put it down on an elevated concrete section near the pool. Before we were allowed to go into the water, we had to demonstrate three times, the correct way to assemble and disassemble the BCD and cylinder.
Then we changed from our street clothes into our swim suits and we had to prove our swimming competency by swimming continuously for 300 yards.
After that we had to float/tread water for 10 minutes without touching the plastic lane dividers or touching the sides of the pool. Failure to do so would mean automatic ejection from the class.
(I mean it is a diving program, so it is understood that you can swim before you can dive, and crawl before you can walk......heheee!! Hey, common sense isn't common practice and many people wanna dive, but, can't swim, because in their heads they equate diving to floating in weightlessness, like astronauts do in space!!! Fo realz!!!)
After successfully completing the swim portion, we jumped out of the pool at around 7:45, and yes, an outdoor pool without any walls to keep the wind from blasting past it, meant that we got kinda very cold. We then suited up into our wetsuits and scuba gear and got into the shallow end of the pool via a set of steps.
Basically until 11pm, yes, 11pm, we followed Colleen's instructions. Partially and then fully flooding water into our masks and clearing it. Taking out and throwing to the side our breathing regulator and recovering it!!! Establishing buoyancy and floating using breathing techniques and a combination of negative and positive buoyancy maneuvers!! Removing our masks while underwater for a whole minute!! Wow, that is long. I have great eyesight, but I'm telling you, everything looks blurry in the water, even at 2-3 feet I couldn't see our instructor!!! We learned a Disney Leg move (heheee!!!)
I had a BAD cramp and Tim, a dive-master who came to help Colleen, showed me how to relieve the cramp by reaching for the tip of my fin and pulling it towards me.
We also did a "I'm outta air," technique and had to use our buddy's "alternate air source," to simulate what we would do in an actual emergency.
We did some other stuff, but, I've been up since 5am, so my brain is workin' a lil' slo right meow!!!
What if the waves are too big?
What if there is a riptide?
What if I fall and loose my fins?
What if I panic?
What if I run out of oxygen?
What if I get a cramp like I did in the pool and there are no plastic lane dividers to grab onto?
And of course, last night, I read the news online and found out that a 54 year old CHP officer went diving and drowned!!! A sign? NO!!! Everything went according to Colleen's plan and it was an awesome day for a dive. Thank you Colleen!!
We practiced the skills that we learned in the pool. Simple.
Easy peasy!! Plus we saw some incredible marine life to boot.
Tons of whole and intact silver dollars. A sting ray. Tons of little crabs and one BIG, and yes, I mean BIG slug with a shell on it. A giant snail??? Colleen's first time seeing it, so that impressed me too!!!
Visibility was 8-10 feet. Lots of algae floating around.....and people's trash, plastic, etc!! STOP LITTERING PEOPLE!!! Vent, vent, vent!!
Seriously, everything was absolutely smooth. The waves were almost non-existent at around 1 feet! Water temp was around 55 degrees. A tad cold on the fingers. We dove and came back for another tank and went out again!! Total dive time around 43 minutes!!! We could have gone longer, but we since it was only us two, we completed the tasks quickly because we didn't have to wait for others to do their tasks. Yay for private lessons!!! heheee!!
Second pool session:
We had to remove our mask and follow the black lane marker at the bottom of the pool. We did this by "feeling" our way forward.
We had to remove the weights and drop them from our BCD and then put them back.....in the water!!
THAT was hard. Why? Because I'm not flexible. hahaa
You have to deflate your BCD to make it easier to replace the weights in your vest. And it's not over until you hear the "click."
We practised "hovering." Close to the bottom of the pool, with our BCD deflated, we had to take our mouth of the regulator and blow air into the low pressure inflator hose. At first I couldn't "get" the concept behind this, and then it totally clicked. By adding air with your lungs, you were inflating the vest, which would enable you to become a tad more positively buoyant, which would help you rise from the bottom of the pool thus making you "hover." Click!!!
At the bottom of the pool we had to fully remove our BCD while breathing and maintaining control of the regulator that's in our mouth. It takes some dexterity to make sure you take off the BCD in the same direction of the regulator, or you'll become tangled up.
We had to remove the top strap, the bottom strap, the cumberbun and then use our shoulders to get our arms out of the two straps.
Not too difficult.
We had many other drills to perform but I'm having a brain freeze and am forgetting them.
No credit cards? Antiquated system, no?
6 per hour = $1:50 an hour.
Bring tons of coins with you!!!)
Pretty flat oceans without a strong and noticeable current.
Aqua Lung Thermocline!! They fit like a ......um....glove!! hehee!!) Deep See by Aqua Lung 3mm Men's Thermocline Dive Gloves (Large)
After swimming out about 70 yards or so, (perpendicular to the end of the Redondo Pier,) Colleen dove down to the ocean floor to anchor a yellow float. She's one tough chick. Fearless and a hard worker. The yellow float on the surface was a great visual reference and probably a good safety precaution (just in case a boat, SUP, jetski was going by.)
I was tested on the CESA (Controlled Emergency Swimming Accent) and made a very slow accent to the surface all the time letting air bubbles out of my mouth and not inhaling from my regulator. I passed.
My buddy and I had to perform a "cramp stretch." I guess since we are recruiting muscles that we ordinarily don't use in our legs for kicking, getting cramps is quite a common occurrence. And boy do they hurt!!
We also had to perform a tired diver pull.
We had to take off our BCD's while at the surface of the ocean. Since we did it once in the pool, and the BCD was fully inflated and therefor buoyant, it was relatively easy to take off and put back on.
We had to remove our weight from our vests and put them back in. VERY hard for inflexible old me!!! I was so relieved to hear the "click," when the two plastic clasps met.
The visibility was around 6 feet. Not so good and we didn't see many sea creatures. Redondo Beach has a significant "drop-off" at around 30 feet. Once we reached 30-35 feet you can immediately feel the coldness from the current. Gloves on, neoprene hood on, wetsuit and booties on and I still felt the chill!!
A big shout out to Colleen Shepherd for being such a kind and wonderful instructor. Colleen didn't rush me, which is huuuuuge when going into the water with thousands of things going on at the same time!!! Her instructions were clear and concise and she didn't mind repeating herself lf if you didn't understand. She is patient, compassionate (yes, I saw her pick up plastic litter from the ocean and dump it into a trash can, bravo) and she's got great leadership skills. And she has a great way of calming you when you need it. Thank you Colleen, and I appreciate you very much!!!
I'm a certified open water PADI scuba diver!!!)
Time to do some underwater photography and videography!!
I've previously been commissioned to do professional underwater photographs with my pro-AquaTech Underwater Housing for my Canon 5D Mark 3, however, now that I have my PADI license I can do more advanced work!! I'm sooooo excited!!!