Updated: Jan 24, 2020
1. Removing your mask underwater
2. Sharing air with your buddy
3. Having your air shut off by the instructor
4. Rolling into the ocean backwards off the boat for the first time
5. Descending to 60 feet underwater
I think this picture says it all - Mark is giving the o.k. sign and posing for the camera while the rest of the class is in seeming disarray. No one was really panicked. We were just nervous because we were being tested on the required skills. Yes, removing your mask underwater and then putting it on again is pretty scary, but once you have done it several times successfully, you know that you won't panic if a fellow diver accidentally kicks your mask off you in the future. You will continue breathing normally through the regulator in your mouth and will put the mask back on whenever you are able. It's comforting to know that you don't need the mask to survive. Of course, it helps you see more clearly, but it has nothing to do with your ability to breathe from your regulator.
Sharing air with your buddy is the "brainy" thing to do in an emergency and this brain coral is a good reminder to keep thinking in scary diving situations. Modern scuba equipment now includes a regular regulator and an "octopus" regulator that you can share with your buddy without having to give up your own regulator even for a few seconds. It is much easier than the old way where you had to relinquish your own breathing apparatus in an emergency. The closest that we felt to that old scary feeling was when our instructor shut off our air tanks in the test and had us give the sign for "out of air." At that point he handed us his "octopus" and everything was fine again.
Here we are with Michael and Patrick from the Bananarama Dive Resort in Roatan. Friendly and competent dive masters and boat captains are the most important elements in a positive scuba experience - especially for newbies. Both of these guys are Roatan natives who love to introduce divers to the ocean they started swimming in as babies. Their familiarity with every cove, wave and fish makes the diving experience stress-free even for beginners. After checking our equipment on board to be sure we assembled everything correctly, Michael would always say with a big smile, "You're ready to go," as we sat backwards on the edge of the boat before tumbling backwards into the water. Patrick took over underwater leading us through swim-through caves and pointing out tiny seahorses and immense manta rays and moray eels. Somehow seeing these creatures in their own environment is not frightening at all. Once you become "one" with the ocean, you feel as if you belong there too. It's a very relaxing, "zen" experience. Combined with the regular deep breathing, it reminds me of a yoga class in water.