April 29, 2010
No longer a beginner
I liked diving in Cozumel so much that we went back there in February. Going back to a familiar place is always nice, though when I do it I also always feel like I am missing an opportunity to explore something new instead.
As far as diving goes, returning to Cozumel was a bit of a coming-of-age trip for me. With the 15 dives I did with the Sand Dollar dive shop at the Wyndham there, my total is now 132 dives. That's nothing compared to enthusiastic divers who’ve been at it for years and decades, but still more than most.
I no longer feel like a beginning diver. I am no longer nervous before every dive. I usually, though not always, have more experience than most on a boat. That made me feel much more at ease. I also found myself helping others, offering suggestions, was asked for advice and even saw other divers imitating my form underwater.
Most of the time I felt completely in control, most of the time my buoyancy was just fine, and I knew that when I went through narrow swimthroughs I would neither bump into things nor kick up sand. I felt comfortable following the guide inside a wreck and didn't kick up silt in there either. When I descend I no longer anxiously dump air and then drop down feet first. Instead, I reach to my right shoulder and dump air from my BC through the valve there, then do a jackknife and dive down head-first. When my mask fogs a bit, I simply let in a bit of water and swirl it around so I have a clear field of vision again. I no longer spend every moment of a dive painfully aware that I am deep underwater and, should anything go wrong, I cannot breathe. I still think about it every now and then, but mostly I just enjoy the dives.
I found again how very important it is to equalize your ears properly, always. As you gain more experience, you do this pretty much automatically, but there will probably always be times when pressure sneaks up on you, or your body does not respond they way it normally does. I don’t know what I neglected to do that caused my left ear to not properly equalize during one of the dives, but two weeks later there was still residual rumbling in there, so something must have happened. Just like during my first ocean dives in Roatan where I didn’t slow down a descent during a sinus pain and paid for it with nose bleeds for several dives.
It’s also amazing what difference little things like the right regulator mouthpiece can make. This had been an issue for me almost from the start of my diving career. The standard mouthpiece hurt my gums and I felt like I was constantly fighting it as the air hose from the tank tried to twist it into a position that was not comfortable for me. The latter was addressed by replacing the standard hose on my Scubapro second stage with an Atomic Comfort Swivel hose, which must be one of the all-time greatest ergonomic innovations in scuba. The former was fixed by replacing the hard, one-size-fits-all mouthpiece with a custom mouthpiece by SeaCure. It’s made of a special plastic that you heat up, bite on it, then let cool off. Presto: custom mouthpiece. That made a huge difference as well. Between the two, all discomfort is now gone.
130 dives is nothing compared to Carol's 2500, or the hundreds that many recreational divers compile over the years, but it did make a difference.