Kneeling within the silty backside of De Leon Springs, I ready to take away my full face masks. My teacher, a veteran of the PADI Full Face Masks course, signaled I used to be OK to proceed and I replied with the identical affirmative hand gesture.
Holding the masks to my face as instructed, I started by loosening the 5 quick-release tabs, systematically transferring my approach from backside to prime as I’d been informed to do. Facemask unhooked, I took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes earlier than solely transferring the masks its built-in regulator.
My notion narrowed within the quiet darkness, my unmasked face fully lined in water.
As I positioned the masks again over my face, I struggled to concurrently keep away from sliding down the spring’s steep slope and exhale the tiny stream of bubbles required by PADI coaching requirements. The rubber quick-release tabs tangled in my hair. I fervently wished I had practiced taking it on and off on dry land first.
Pulling the masks free once more, the primary stirrings of air starvation hit—with them a pointy metallic style of adrenaline. I pressed the masks to my face and hit the purge valve. If I might simply get a few breaths of air I might be okay.
However, I didn’t inhale air. As an alternative, I sucked in a lukewarm mouthful of water. I then proceeded to do precisely what I had skilled so many college students to not do through the Open Water masks remove-and-replace ability—I bolted for the floor.
My teacher surfaced simply seconds after me and I used to be instantly flooded with embarrassment. I didn’t bolt. I had by no means bolted.
It was a impolite awakening. I used to be no totally different than most individuals when confronted with a breath of water. What I ought to have accomplished as I struggled with the complete face masks was as an alternative attain for my alternate regulator—in spite of everything, I’d dived with it sufficient that I might discover it blind.
I made a silent vow. I might apply this new ability till I used to be so comfy with it my response would enable for fixing the issue underwater.
Making an attempt to not overthink issues any additional, I deflated my BCD and sank again to the opposite college students. I took a deep breath and as soon as once more, eliminated the masks. It took a second to regulate to the urgent darkish after which I changed it easily, hitting the purge valve to flush the water. I took a tentative breath. Air. I’d accomplished it.
From that time on my confidence grew and I carried out the remaining abilities with little problem, even repeating all of them once more at a higher depth.
The masks didn’t match completely—bubbles burbled slowly from the highest of it—and the 2 pins jammed into my nostrils harm a bit however I used to be doing it, utilizing a bit of scuba expertise exterior the realm of my “regular” gear.
As I hovered over the gushing spring on the backside of De Leon, I contemplated how this gear would change my diving. Would I at some point have the ability to communicate to a buddy underwater? Would I have the ability to narrate my very own mini-documentaries as I meandered by coral reefs or over wrecks? What else would this variation? The fun of getting one thing new to grasp was again.
Two weeks later I used to be diving with a full-face mask-certified buddy in Alexander Springs. The shallow dive website made it simple to apply getting actually comfy; I grew to become a professional at equalizing with totally different masks fashions, both urgent my nostril into the pins or flat rubber mattress just under my nostril pocket.
We practiced clearing and eradicating and changing our masks time and again. Lastly, we switched to the OTS masks that got here with a Buddy Telephone. For the primary time, I heard a human voice underwater. It wasn’t completely clear and there was a variety of background static—however it was sound. As we finned to the deeper a part of the spring we discovered to time our talking between breaths, and to look at one another’s fingers as we pressed the speak button in order that we might not speak over each other. It was novel and astonishing and I discover myself longing to attempt it within the ocean.
Since then, I’ve had the fortune to do exactly that. It’s nonetheless stunning to talk underwater and to be spoken to in flip, however I think, with sufficient time on this new world, it can turn out to be one I’m deeply comfy in; one other world wealthy with alternative.