Captain’s log: 27th November 2021
Location: Atlantic Ocean, Canary Islands, multiple divesites
As we arrived to the Canary Islands, we encountered again SY Ornella, French Flag.
Onboard, Cpt Thierry and skipper Nathalie on their way around the world.
Both of them were very interested to learn some more about scuba diving as Cpt Thierry already did some diving during 2 Try Dive sessions over the past years (with 1 good and 1 lesser experience somewhere in the world). Skipper Nathalie had a very traumatic water experience at a younger age and wanted ’to beat’ her anxiety for water as she realised that they would be spending the next many years living on/nearby the watersurface. She showed a super interest in the underwater world and scuba diving was her ultimate dream nevertheless the fear of water and what happened during her youth.
“The will & desire to do so”… do you remember that phrase from the NAUI S&P?
It only takes a patient instructor to teach the Open Water Scuba Diver course and onboard SY Blowing Bubbles, we are always up for a challenge and believe me, we are patient!!
After taking the time to go through all parts of the NAUI Open Water Scuba Diver course, clearly explaining all parts and steps involved AND the fact that certification was only reached upon succesfully reaching all standards inside the course, we had another difficult task to set: how to calculate the costs for this course?
As Thierry & Nathalie are not guests onboard SY Blowing Bubbles, but have their own catamaran SY Ornella, moored next to SY Blowing Bubbles, their course can not be given for free as we have a job to do, bills to pay and need food to eat!
(All guests onboard NAUI Flagship SY Blowing Bubbles can choose any NAUI recreational scuba course for free during their charter.)
The fact that Nathalie had serious water-issues was pointing towards the fact that a lot of explaining and in-water-time was going to be invested to get her mind free again to trust the aquatic environment and to be able to master all necessary skills to get certified!
As a NAUI professional, how would you set the course and what deal, costs would you propose? Good guidelines make good friends and nothing is more important than making clearcut agreements before starting the course and establishing commitment.
These are the challenges in your professional carreer that you will either like or step away from!
We, Karen and Jean-Marc, dive instructors onboard the NAUI Flagship, can off course NOT step away from these challenges. So we planned and started the Open Water Scuba Diver course with Thierry&Nathalie.
Step 1: the online course combined with private teaching in the french language as both Thierry and Nathalie are french.
Going through the online theory and helping them to understand all parts involved, really does help people with ‘fears’ to open up their minds and understand better what diving is all about
It is just NOT correct to send them the email with the online course link and just sit and wait for them to struggle through those parts and hope for the best…NO WAY!
Going through the theory with them, gives you, as NAUI instructor, the chance to explain in depth what it is all about, to recognise the parts were your students have a ‘click’ or where they struggle to understand what it is all about!
It gives you the possibility to gain their confidence, even before touching the water, in our case, clearly needed! Using the online course gives you the opportunity to combine self study with personal instructor guidance and clearly set your position as instructor, tudor, mentor and person of trust.
Step 2: equipment preparation
Most dive centres will prepare the equipment for the 1st watersession themselves (and not really involve the students) in order to save time and energy and have the student focus on the waterpart coming up.
In our case, we decided to have multiple equipment sessions done, even before going to the water. As scuba diving is an equipment dependent sport (for example freediving is less equipment dependent), we decided to build a confident based relationship between our students and the dive equipment to be used during the course. This would give our students more awareness and more structural knowledge before entering the water.
Do you, as a professional, still remember that scuba dive equipment is something ‘outside the box’?
Scuba equipment is something out of the ordinary, equipment that has to give comfort aswell to keep you alive and has to give enjoyment while using it?
Does the regulator break, malfunction?
Do you realise that once you put the regulator in your mouth, you can’t actually see it yourself anymore? Talking about some “blind” trust your students need to have in their regulator!
These equipment sessions can take up hours of time as a full scuba set has many parts to be explained and attached, their functions to be showed and a lot of touching & feeling to be done by the students.
But the results of these sessions are needed to establish the ‘click’ some students need to start trusting their equipment to take the next step: going in the water!
Step 3: going IN the water (and not UNDER water)
After taking the time to set up the equipment, putting the scuba set on your back and by this, changing the way you feel, move and walk on land (merely by the sheer weight of the scuba set), just imagine how your student will feel once entering the water and feeling the weight of the scuba set disappearing but instead feeling the water movement taking over and all of a sudden the need to move in a different way to regain control of body position in the water?
So, a slow and controlled entry in the water, helps again to keep faith, to find balance and to make the student understand that he/she does have control over the equipment.
(So, doing a giant stride entry or backwards boatroll is not what we are talking about).
It is all about gaining inch by inch waterdepth and setting confidence at the same time.
How would you feel getting a parachute strung to your back and being pushed out of an airplane for the 1st time with a skydive instructor by your side telling you not to worry as he will pull the cord to release the parachute at the right time??
Well, that is exactly how most students will feel on their 1st dive/Try dive sessions!
If you, as a NAUI Professional, have forgotten about that feeling due to your extended dive experience, just sign up for a Try Skydive session and focus on the feelings you will experience. I will promise you, you will even become a better scuba instructor!
Our in-water sessions were both handling shore based and boat based entries as Thierry&Nathalie were living on a boat and so would be faced a lot with diving of their boat. We even extended the boat based parts by using both their catamaran and their dinghy to enter the water as entering the water from a dinghy is completely different compared to a commercial dive-vessel.
And it is not only about entering the water, there is also the part of exiting! Most sailboats, dinghy have no dive ladders that can be used to exit the water!
So, exiting the water means taking weights of, taking the BCD/tank of in the water, just floating on the surface and getting at least 1 person at first in the dinghy to start bringing in the floating BCD/tank and helping the other diver(s) to get into the dinghy or onto the boat.
Most sailboats will have a swimladder to get in/out of the water but these ladders can not support a scuba diver loaded with a full scuba set on its back so the same procedure needs to be used!
Now, are you still ‘calculating’ the time and energy spent on this NAUI Open Water course?
We still haven’t entered the underwater world, we are still on the surface, building trust and confidence! We are still taking our time to connect the student to the water…
Step 4: guess what, time to Blow some Bubbles…yeah, what’s in a name?
After steps 1+2+3 done and really taken the time to build trust and confidence, we are now getting to the first breathing in water experience.
Their goes the regulator in the mouth and thus disappearing from the students own view and the first breaths are taken… standing on the ocean floor, waterdepth reaching up to the students waist.
Never forget, if you are 1m85 tall (6ft something) and your student is not, make sure that you have the waterline to the waist of you student and not yours!! They could be neck-deep in the water at that moment and believe me, that will not give them the same feeling to start of with!
Breathing through a mouthpiece for the 1st time, stuck between your teeth? Do you remember your first time? Off course not, as you have done it about a 1000 times…
Take the time to have our students connect to it as breathing in general is the most important thing they (and you) will do for the rest of your life, warranting a long life if you succeed in keeping up with it!
Breathing through a scuba regulator is a complete different thing and many people need extended time to get used to it.
Immediately setting of into the underwaterworld is not going to help these people in controlling their breathing pattern and with a disturbed breathing, well, this first underwater session is already doomed before even started.
Breathing, controlling inhaling and even as important exhaling (through the mouth and not the nose), it just takes time. And believe me, doing thi while standing in waistdeep water is a different experience compared to doing this on land, standing dry in your shoes.
Step 5: going to have a look beneath the surface?
Are you always aware of the field of vision that your student has?
When bending forward to take the first breaths underwater, your students field of view changes completely and so mostly losing the connection with the instructor?
On top of that, their body balance will change aswell!
So, as instructor, sit down on your knees in front of the student, so they can see you, see your breathing pattern and the formation of the exhaled bubbles and you will become a point of support aswell if they lose balance due to the new position they are getting into.
Next part is to breath and communicate! Did you explain the signs needed to make your students aware that they can actually communicate underwater without being able to speak??
Seeing deaf people use sign language is quite the thing and even to me (speaking and being able to teach scuba courses in 8 languages), sign language is spectacular!
Scuba divers use sign language and your students need time to adapt to this…practise, have fun by using the handsignals and yes, many divers will keep on using some scuba handsignals in daily life!
My scuba “Ok-signal” has already been replacing the ’thumbs up’ signal for many years and sometimes (actually most of the time) I just forget that not all people are scuba divers (why not?) and so do not really get me when I am showing them 2 fingers making a little circle between them…
As well trained NAUI Scuba Instructor, by now you should have realised that in above explained steps, I am just writing in details, combined with some feeling, how to perform a Try Dive!
And continuing this way, I could probably write a complete book how the complete a complete NAUI Open Water Scuba Diver course in details with combining them/pointing out the baby steps to be taken with students that are not Superman before entering the water.
Well, our NAUI divemagazine Sources in not the place to publish a complete book and so, we return to Thierry&Nathalie and their scuba course onboard SY Blowing Bubbles
The last step?
After 20 scuba dives and taking up to +250hours of teaching, in-water, in-depth and on land, both Nathalie and Thierry finished their NAUI Open Water Scuba Diver course!
Even going a step further, mainwhile Thierry also finished his NAUI Advanced Scuba Diver course and Nathalie will soon do aswell.
2 complete divesets are put onboard their catamaran SY Ornella and even a compressor to fill their divetanks was installed onboard to be able to be independent wherever they decide to travel and dive, to be able to jump in the ocean to discover the underwaterworld during their next years of travel to come!
Will there ever be a last step in this story?
Comments written by students Nathalie & Thierry, SY Ornella (translated from French):
As a child, I have survived a traumatic near-drowning experience that has created a lifelong water anxiety.
Along the age of 30, I wanted to break this anxiety down and took several classes of fighting against waterphobia, resulting in little progress as I was convinced my body would always sink down and be submerged once entering the water. This resulted in the fact that I never went into water surfaces anymore were I couldn’t see my feet touch the bottom.
At this moment, we are living on our sailboat for 2 years and I came to terms that I really had to fight and gain victory over my fear of water.
What a shame it would be to be on anchor in beautiful clear blue water and NOT being able to enter the water?
In 2020, when preparing our boat in France, Port Leucate, we have met SY Blowing Bubbles and owners Karen & Jean-Marc. They had spoken several times to us about scuba diving and the possibilities it could give me in beating my fear of water. They really understood my ‘problems’ and were ready to create a path and guide me throughout my journey to beat my fear, using scuba diving.
Imagine, me, afraid of being submerged, signing up for a scuba diving course??
Dates were defined, location was set and the Canary Islands were the place to meet again to start the practical part of scuba diving, so I could do the NAUI online course before arriving there.
With a great deal of super confidence in my Instructors, Karen and Jean-Marc, I am sitting on the side of the RIB, ready to enter the water with my scuba gear.
Putting the fins on my feet, putting my feet in the water alongside the RIB, believe me, it sounds easier than it is for me. During the complete course, the psychological approach and time taken have given me the time it step by step, each time discovering a new part of possibilities within scuba diving.
My fears were starting to be cut in pieces, each piece disolving in new emotions discovered by each session of diving. The first dive was a real revelation to me due to the attitude of Jean-Marc, explaining every step, every movement and taking every ‘psychological block’ in consideration towards each next step. The road was going to be long and both I and Jean-Marc were having the energy to get to the end of it.
This was going to be the beginning of a great adventure and I was ready for it!
Step by step I progressed, thanks to the patience of my instructors and the skills in teaching they posess.
Every step I took was a step with less anxiety, less fear and more sence of possibilities, freedom and confidence in my own possibilities.
Different divesites were chosen by Jean-Marc, in order to progress my skills in being underwater, in order to become more proficient, day by day.
20 days of continious diving, 20 days of working towards 1 goal, becoming autonomous, becoming a self-confident skilled scuba diver with a serious backbone to counter any problems on my way in the underwater world.
The last step, the last dive, number 21, day 21…the last skill to perform underwater with confidence: taking my mask off and breath without a mask, having water up my nose, being fully submerged in the ocean, alone!
The divesite was going to be the first divesite were it all started 21 days ago, what a difference, what a day! Next to me, Thierry, who joined me on all these dives to get trained as well but in the meantime also completely finished his advanced Scuba Diver course.
Strongly filled with emotions and feeling 200% secure, I performed the last skills again and again, feeling I could do it with Thierry next to me, watching me with tears in his eyes!
What a feeling of total happiness, 21 dives of progress and now being to proudly say: I am a skilled NAUI Open Water Scuba Diver.
If I have to write down the summary of this success for me, it would be analysis, trust, understanding, listening, psychology and teaching talent, taking time and of course the experience from both Jean-Marc and Karen.
So I wish to warmly thank these 2 instructors for their time, their involvement, their energy and ‘joie de vivre’ and making sure they were always ’there’ when I needed them.
Thank you for being who you are!