As my head drops down into the water I exhale through the regulator for the very first time. The first breaths are okay but suddenly the noise of my breath and the jostling of my mask causes my heart to start racing. I'm not normally prone to panic but I last about 20 seconds before standing up and ripping the regulator from my mouth.
Breathing deeply to calm my thumping heart I settle back down into the water for a second try. It's not much better. Apparently we're already behind schedule and the instructor is hurrying everybody along so we can get on with the first underwater exercises. All I know is that my mind is inventing about a billion reasons a second why I should tell the instructor to go screw himself and get out of the pool.
I release the air from my BCD and settle to the bottom of the shallow end of the pool. And breathe. Slowly. It's starting to feel like a meditation exercise. The instructor starts right in with how to remove your regulator from your mouth and then clear the water when you replace it so you can breath again. Sounds scary, actually dead simple.
I'm very comfortable in the water, it's having all the bloody gear wrapped about me that I don't like. The less gear I need to depend on the happier I am. Once I figure this out things settle down and over the course of the day I get familiar and comfortable with the gear. The day is a relentless pursuit of safety, it becomes increasingly obvious just how much thought has gone into the design of scuba gear, "a place for everything and everything in its place".
Overall it's a good day, by the end I'm very comfortable with my gear. The only piece which is still a little intimidating is my weight belt. We had to practice removing it from our waists and then putting it back on, which I only managed with assistance. A second attempt was better, but not really a success. It's a reminder to me that my upper body really isn't very strong, something to work on. Hopefully there's not much which can go wrong with a weight belt during an actual dive, I'll be careful not to accidentally remove it underwater!
Until I'm learning something new, I always forget what a worrier I can be. My brain is inventing all sorts of things which could go wrong during our ocean dives next weekend. I don't understand why I panicked getting into the pool after lunch, when I was very comfortable right before lunch. I'm not convinced that any of us has a grip on buoyancy control, and suddenly the cold and poor visibility of Wellington's ocean seems much more intimidating.
Still it's been good to challenge myself and I'm looking forward to the four ocean dives next weekend. Right now my knee hurts, I'm very tired and I'm slightly bruised all over. Food and sleep are calling.