Submitted By Dan Pitts
SCUBA has always been something I have wanted to try. When the opportunity came up, I decided to give it a go. The college that I attend, SUNY Oneonta, offers the confined portion of the PADI Open Water course over an entire semester, and the open water portion over a week span in the summer. I enrolled for the course in the spring semester, not knowing I was about to find my new passion.
From our first class session, we were right in the pool. During our first class, the instructors had us doing our 200-yard swim and the 10-minute tread water drill. With me not being the best swimmer at the time, I struggled with the 200-yard swim. I was able to complete the 10-minute survival tread, but not without some fatigue. After the first class, I contemplated whether I should stay in the class. I decided to stick with the class and see what came of pursuing this new hobby.
Over the next couple of months, I gained insurmountable knowledge about SCUBA diving. The first few classes consisted of learning the basics of skin diving and snorkel clearing. After learning these skills, the next classes had us put on our tanks and fins and learn the basics of SCUBA. Two of the basic skills we were learning, weight belt remove and replace and the disconnecting of the low-pressure inflator, came as a struggle for me to grasp. My instructors were patient with me, and I soon became an expert in almost all of the necessary skills of SCUBA. I became a star student within the class because of my focus and determination to become a diver. One of my instructors said something to me while I was on the surface of the water with my wetsuit, fins and mask on. He said, “You are looking like a diver now.” That statement stills sticks with me to this day because it shows how far I came in becoming a diver
I signed up for the open water portion of the class as soon as registration opened. The class was conducted in Otsego Lake, near Cooperstown N.Y. The surface temperature of the water was barely 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Once under the water, the temperature dipped to 48 degrees under the thermocline on most of the dives. This became another barrier for me to overcome. Our first dive had us exploring a sunken island in the middle of the lake. One of my instructors was my buddy, and we entered the water and began exploring the area. The sun lit up the area underwater and I knew right away that diving was something I was willing to pursue more.
Dives 2 and 3 of the open water portion of my certification went smoothly, and only one more dive stood in my way from becoming an open water diver. I was the most nervous for this dive because it consisted of mask removal and replacement and underwater compass navigation. Even though I have done mask removal many times in the pool, I was nervous trying to complete it in open water. I did my giant-stride entry into the lake, and we descended to the bottom to complete the skill. My heart was beating fast waiting for my turn to do the skill. When it was my turn, I turned off my nervousness and completed it with no problem. Next, I executed the underwater navigation skill perfectly and I surfaced as an open water diver. After not even being able to disconnect and reconnect my low-pressure inflator correctly a few months back, I overcame all my struggles and became a diver.
Calling myself a diver is still gratifying a year after my certification. My story should be taken into account for anyone who is teetering on the decision to become a diver. Even if there are obstacles to overcome, as long as you stay focused on learning from your instructors, you can join the group of people that call themselves divers. I am taking my advanced course in the fall, and I still enjoy learning all I can to become a better diver.