I am a certified PADI Open Water Diver (POWD) from the London School of Diving (LSD)! Yes, I’m a POWD from LSD! It sounds bad, doesn’t it? I loved it so much though…
We went to the headquarters of LSD (me, my housemate and her sister) on Saturday early in the morning. People were already gathering from different ages, sex and background! You could see that some of the students were slightly stressed. Having to face the same difficulties made us all connected in a way and laughter and discussions were easily shared after a while. I have to say that I met some really nice and interesting people during this weekend.
Our first task was to find suitable gear. We needed a fitting wetsuit, BCD, mask with snorkel, fins, weights and hood (I had my own boots). Trying on things like the wetsuit can really be a struggle. You have no idea how tough it is to put it on. It’s so tight! I must have lost a couple of inches around my body wearing that wetsuit for two days.
An hour later, after we’ve been all sorted, more than 5 cars started their way to a diving centre in the south west of London. I didn’t know these kind of centres existed. I don’t know how the other ones are but ours was a small hut by a not very big lake. In the hut you could get your air tanks refilled, eat lunch or have a cup of tea in a very reasonable price and buy equipment. There were many cars with families, groups or individuals wanting to dive as well. The centre provides some underwater platforms in 5 meters deep for training purposes and some interesting things underwater for recreational diving like a taxi, a car, a ship etc. We managed to see the taxi twice, it was very cool!
When we arrived there, we were allocated instructors and groups. Fortunately, the three Greeks (us), we were one group with a very good instructor and a safety diver that we met on our previous trial dive. We managed to stay slightly separated from the rest of the group by our instructor’s choice. We weren’t taking part in the large group discussions. In the beginning I didn’t really like that but after a while I saw that we were quicker in doing the debriefings, the dives and sorting out our gear. We were the first in the lake and the first to come out. The time to finish the training took less time for us as well. So, I didn’t have any reason to complain.
So, each day we did two dives. I really didn’t like much the very first one though. I wasn’t familiar with the water’s temperature and “visibility”. You could only see two meters around you which was our visibility for all of our dives! The rest was just a colour of green / brown! Also, because I was wearing an extra wetsuit jacket that was really tight on my chest I couldn’t breathe easily. That made me feel very uncomfortable going down to the platform for the first time. I felt claustrophobic and panicky. I had to resurface to catch my breath and relax. With my instructor’s help, I unzipped the second wetsuit and I was able to join my team on the platform in 5 meters.
The rest of the dives went much smoother than the first. When I was diving, I knew what I had to face so I was relaxed and ready. So nothing else dramatic happened during our dives. Me and the rest of my group, we finished all our challenges fairly quickly and easily. All of the stuff we did underwater was stuff we’ve already done in the swimming pool for our ‘Open Water Referral’, although the lake was giving it a different level of difficulty. We had to so stuff like having our air supply cut in order to get our dive buddy’s second regulator, we had to remove and put back on our mask or maintain for a certain amount of time neutral buoyancy etc.
One girl of the group didn’t finish the course because she couldn’t handle not having her mask off. She felt that water was going through her nose without the mask, so she panicked (worse thing you can do) and tried to dash for the surface. What she did was extremely dangerous for her lungs and blood pressure. Fortunately, nothing bad happened to her. Her (poor) instructor must have gotten a real fright going after her, reaching her on the surface, checking that she’s alright and trying to make her calm down. After a few hours she did try going into the water again but wasn’t able to continue her training. She then made her boyfriend (also in the group) to abandon his training. They mentioned going to Maldives for holidays, so they’ll try to do it there.
At the end of day two, we had successfully completed all the tasks needed by PADI, so we were granted our certifications of ‘Open Water Divers’. We celebrated (of course) by going to the near pub to drink with our instructors talking about our future as qualified divers!!! There are many more courses I can take and many options of where to go and dive. However, what I will do next is go and dive in Rhodes. I want to experience diving in the sea, in warm waters, where visibility is good and fish swim around! I hope that the experience will be much more gratifying!
Here are some pictures of the weekend: You can see me in one of them: