Are You A Scuba Diver?

Scuba divers are those strangely garbed people who flip-flop in an ungainly manner down the beach toward the sea, or roll into the sea from the side of a boat.

Once in the sea it is a different matter. Within safety parameters the diver is free to explore, to cruise along weightless. Nowadays scuba diving has a large following and many head for the reefs. It isn’t surprising really, what better place to explore than a wild coral reef. Down in the domain of the fish, seeing more or less what they see.

I’ve had the good fortune to have had a look at reefs in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Red Sea etc and they truly are wonderful. But not as a scuba diver.

When in the Maldive Islands, Indian Ocean, for a holiday, I intended to take a training course to become a qualified scuba diver. Diving goes in stages, and the initial qualification is to dive to a maximum 60 feet. Then, if desired, further courses can be undertaken for wreck diving etc. Anyway, I wanted the initial course.

It didn’t happen though. I haven’t a problem with my ears until I get into the sea. I should say get under it to any depth. As the depth increases, say beyond 10 feet, the pressure causes considerable ear pain. I tried ear plugs to no avail. The instructors didn’t understand the problem, but of course – no diving course.

An acquaintance on the same course also had trouble, not with his ears but his face. No, he didn’t come out in spots – he had a ‘craggy’ face, deeply lined. When under the sea his face mask flooded and this happened every time no matter what was tried. So no diving course for him either.

I spent my time on the reefs with snorkelling gear. This gives a great ‘overview’ of the reef and everything is still wonderful to behold. I will always remember putting my head down for the first time and seeing powder blue surgeons, what a sight! An Emperor Angel majestically cruising along the reef face. Lots of memories.

I don’t feel as though I’ve missed out at all, I’ve seen some amazing things and got close up to a lot of them. A bit too close sometimes – waves pushing me onto sharp coral was a bit too close, or a large eel appearing in front of my face made me back off. I managed to dive down to perhaps 6 to 8 feet if something caught my eye.

So if you are a scuba diver, I’d have liked to have been in the club. If not or you don’t fancy it, if you’re going anywhere near a reef have a go with snorkelling gear.

  1. I think some of the ‘vacation style’ courses are not the best option, trying to minimally train you in a day or two for a quick dive. The pressure in the 1st, say, 15′, can be difficult, but any, even mediocre, instructor should have advice on the best way to ‘clear’ the pressure. Some can just swallow, I prefer to stop descent, plug my nose, and blow very gently until the pressure clears. Once you’ve done it a couple times, it’s a breeze and you don’t even think about it, just automatically do it when the pressure starts.

    I’d suggest not giving up and taking a true NAUI or PADI course in your home town for real certification, not a get in / get out quickie. It will be more thorough and focus on issues like this, along with safety, etc. You mention that you don’t feel you’ve missed out, but I’d imagine that may change, should you get proper certification & experience, and really get down there to enjoy it!

    Stonyreefs last blog post..True to form…

  2. Hi Stonyreef.
    Thanks for the observations. I note what you say.
    The course I had enrolled for was in fact a PADI beginner’s course. The instructor said that he was concerned about the ear pain because it should be cleared easily enough – as you say – and I couldn’t clear it. However, the truth of the matter was that they were concerned about any medical impact, and they cannot be criticised for that. The incomplete course did not cost me anything.
    I think it must be just some peculiarity about me (my wife would agree with ‘peculiar’ maybe!). Even when using scuba gear I have tried clearing my ears and failed, so I don’t go too deep.
    Thanks again.

  3. Who on earth told you to try ear plugs!!? That is the *worst* possible thing you could do!

    The pain in your ears is caused by changes in pressure in the closed air spaces (such as ears and sinsus). The idea of clearing is to equalize this – not bung it up further with ear plugs!

    When I first started diving I had trouble equalising my ears, so I have some tips:

    1) Try tipping your head to one side or another – this will make the air a lot easier to clear in one ear – repeat for the other side.

    2) Of couse, while you tip your head, hold your nose and try and breath out of it quite firmly – not mega hard, but harder than you probably think. You’ll hear a squeeking sound as your ears equalize.

    3) You can always take sudafed or another decongestant (dont go diving with a cold), just to make sure your 100% clear and you’re easier to clear.

    As for mask flooding, I’ve never met anyone with a “craggy” enough face not to be able to wear a mask! Most people need to try on a few masks to find a fit (and try adjusting the strap – too tight is just as bad as too loose!). Try putting the mask over your face, without the strap the breathing in through your nose. If it fits, the mask should be stuck on your face and you can’t breath in through your nose anymore.

    Give it another try!

  4. Thanks for the helpful input – very much appreciated.

    I no longer see the chap with the ‘craggy’ face so cannot suggest he obtains a mask before he goes that he knows will be ok, though perhaps he’s done this anyway.

    My bad writing again! – the ear plugs were to try and assist with snorkelling, the instructors didn’t tell me to use them – sorry.

  5. Thanks for the info.

  6. Although I’m a newbie to scuba diving and don’t have much
    to add, as of yet, I still want to thank you for this
    helpful information. Everything is helpful at this time in my learning curve.
    Keep up the good work, thank you.

  7. Hello. Glad that you liked! I hope you have a successful outcome to your underwater ambitions and in the course of time maybe you’ll be tempted to keep an aquarium.

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