Frogman Attacks!

Image is copyrighted http://www.jimsugar.com.

This weekend, I went down to Monterey to do my check-out dives for my SSI Level 1 scuba certification. I’m now a certified Open Water diver, which means I can dive in most recreation situations, including on my upcoming trip to Belize! Yay! The picture to the right is not me, and the gear shown is what is used by Navy Seals, not recreational divers. Our guns aren’t nearly as cool ;). Credit goes to Jim Sugar for the photo.

I got certified through Bamboo Reef. I highly recommend this diveshop. They have shops in SF, Monterey and the Northbay. They are highly competant and fun to work with. Their instructors are excellent, and they really understand how to make new and prospective divers comfortable and confident.

To be honest, I was anxious about completing my scuba certification. The classroom session were boring (despite a great teacher), and the pool work was very low risk. But to get certified, you have to get out in open water and prove your skills. I didn’t know what to expect. I had never dived in open water, never gone deeper than ten feet, and couldn’t imagine diving in the cold waters of the Pacific in the middle of February. But the open water dives were really well planned to get new divers accustomed to the unfamiliar environment in incremental steps.

Our check-out dives were in San Carlos Beach in Monterey. There were literally hundreds of scuba divers gearing up on Saturday morning at 8:00am — we looked like an army of frogmen preparing for an amphibious assault. Or something like that.

Our first ‘dive’ was just a snorkeling excursion. We got comfortable cruising around in the gear and the cool sea water. I was pleasantly surprised to find the water temperature bearable. The water was ~ 50 degrees (f), but we were rocking about 14mm of wetsuit (a shortie over a farmer john) including a hood, gloves and booties. I wasn’t cold at all.

The second dive (after the snorkel dive) was just 20 feet or so, allowing me to get comfortable with being deep enough that an unplanned ascent was a bad idea. The next dive was 30 feet or so, which got me even more comfortable with the depth and also gave me a chance to practice being neutrally bouyant. The first dive of the second day (dive 4) we went down to 40 feet.

During the first couple of dives I was so focused on being underwater and not freaking out that I didn’t pay much attention to the world around me. Occasionally, I would think ‘holy shit! look at all this crazy stuff around me!’ but I didn’t become completely aware of the scenery until the 5th and final dive. The final dive was just me and my ‘buddy’. We were free to cruise around, check out what we wanted, and didn’t need to follow a group of people or worry about where we were. Our only concern was having fun, keeping at the planned depth, and keeping track of our available oxygen.

On this last dive, we saw some loveley Monterey Bay sealife. Beautiful kelp forests, funky fish and bottom dwellers, and colorful underwater foliage. The underwater environment in Belize will be much more lively, but I look forward to returning to Monterey for more dives in the near future.

On Saturday, we also visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is one of the best aquariums in the world, host to some of the largest and most exotic wildlife.

I’m looking forward to diving in Belize!