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Scuba lessons: First time is fun, if you remember to breathe

I've always been curious about scuba diving. The thought of being able to breathe underwater and mingle with sea creatures would be like living the life of a fish. I figured since I already lived like a bird and flew a plane a few months ago, it was time to put on some fins and dip into sea life.

Rather than just going for a certification and an open-water class, I opted for the Discover Scuba class at Calypso Divers in Tampa to ease my way into things.

Discover Scuba introduces people to scuba instruction by teaching the safety tips, beginner lessons and then trying out the equipment in a pool instead of throwing you into open water right away.

On the day of my class, my instructor, Bud, sat me down in a classroom to show me a PowerPoint presentation created by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), and explained the best ways to stay safe while diving. He told me that scuba is intended to be a relaxing sport and that planning your dive and diving your plan is one of the best ways to stay safe.

After about 30 to 45 minutes of learning safety tips it was time to try on the equipment and jump in the pool. The scuba tank alone was about 40 pounds. It absolutely amazed me how heavy everything was above ground, but how it didn't even feel like extra weight underwater.

Bud taught me how to properly turn on the tank, how to secure all the equipment to my person and how to breathe with the regulator, and then we got into the water. At this point Bud told me how to communicate underwater by way of hand signals. Then came the moment of truth — it was time to go under.

For me the scariest thing was accepting that I could breathe underwater. It was very difficult to stay calm and stay under. I kept coming up because I was so anxious. Even though I knew I was safe and secure, my subconscious kept giving me feelings of claustrophobia and fear that I wouldn't be able to come up ever again.

Honestly, this made me feel so silly, because I was never deeper than 5 feet of water, and at any point I could have just stood up and been fine. Thank goodness I wasn't learning in anything deeper, or my fears might have been stronger.

Needless to say, I didn't stay underwater much at all, and therefore I didn't get to do any tricks or learn as much as I could have. The biggest problem I had was trying to get out of my own head.

Bud told me that a private class would allow me to go at my own pace, because at my current rate I wouldn't be able to keep up in a traditional certification course. I would love to get the courage to go for a certification and swim under the sea, but I need to quit psyching myself out before I attempt scuba again.

— My First Time is a column about Ashley Grant trying new things in Tampa Bay. Got a suggestion for something she can try? Email her at [email protected]

Scuba diving

Where: 401 E Bearss Ave., Tampa, 33613, (813) 969-3483,

Cost: $45

Three things I learned

1. Scuba stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. The scuba tanks are filled with a blend of oxygen and nitrogen.

2. Never hold your breath underwater while scuba diving. It is hard to get used to breathing underwater, but you must continue to breathe normally or you could suffer an overexpansion injury in your lungs.

3. You must always dive with a buddy for safety. Accidents, injuries and deaths that occur with scuba diving are almost always due to user error. Following safety tips and guidelines will keep you safe and alive.

Would I do it again? Yes, but I have to continue to take it slow. Even Bud suggested private classes if I opt for certification.

Scuba lessons: First time is fun, if you remember to breathe 09/22/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:19pm]
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