I've been really keen to get fit for a long time now, my air consumption is terrible, my pot belly obstructs my underwater rear view; and I pant more than my dog, Scuby, after a half mile run!
The trouble I’ve found, it is very hard to motivate myself to lose weight and get fit. I've been qualified as a PADI Rescue Diver for 3 years now, I have also been a member of BSAC for 18 months, and bridged over to a Sports Diver. I have always had a desire to teach, so I thought it appropriate to further my training and get fit at the same time by taking either my PADI Divemaster course or BSAC Dive Leader. One year later and I still have had no opportunity to do the Dive Leader course locally, they seem to busy teaching ocean and sports diver courses to do anything more advanced. One opportunity I had was over 100 miles inland, apparently they completed 7 skills in one weekend, for about 20 student divers, seems a little intense in my opinion, but things can be done quickly if you are lucky with your timing and location.
Based near Portsmouth, the options of taking my PADI Divemaster on the south coast are unfortunately non existent, unless I was willing to travel 170 miles to Portland and back every other weekend, I also wasn't keen to take the course inland 2 hours away, at Vobster or Wraysbury. Eventually I decided to complete my PADI Divemaster in the Maldives and my theory with Triton Scuba at home. It wasn’t straight forward to arrange at the time, but since I booked my course PADI have now the facility to do the theory online.
Three months later after chewing though several books and exams, my theory was complete, my swims were done with a total of 16 points, I completed the 400m swim in 9 minutes (compared to an unfit attempt a year ago of 28 minutes, so my fitness had obviously improved!), my weight also had, I was 16 st 1lb when I started my diet in January; it was over 4 and a half days a week and was simple - a healthy cereal or a cereal bar, a hefty homemade salad for lunch, and 4 pieces of fruit through the day, that was it. My fitness training replaced my evening meal 4 nights a week, it was always intense; it consisted of spin class to start the week (its important to have someone at some time in your session to be pushing you), then interval training and weight circuits on other days. Each night varied from 1, to 1 and a half hours. By April I was a healthy 13 st 12lb. - Very chuffed to say the least, roll on the Maldives!
This was our sixth time to the Maldives. My wife loves the secluded tranquility of the lush green wilderness of herons, geckos and fruit bats, the silver beaches, and also the pleasantly social side of the resorts. We chose Ellaidhoo on this occasion as it came recommended by a few holiday makers we’ve known for quite some time and the house reef comes well recommended by many, which I thought a great advantage for the course. A seaplane was also not necessary to get there. We found this handy, as the transfer was quick and easy. No more checking in, waiting, and paying for excess luggage that was free on the charter flight, just straight on the speedboat (hoping for no big waves!).
At least 3 weeks were necessary to complete my course. I mentioned this to the tour operator and as it crossed 2 seasons, they sorted us a 25 night package. I requested room 101, the closest standard room to the dive centre.
Ali was my instructor, a 47 year old Maldivian, who had been in the dive business for 27 years. He obviously knew his job, initially he seemed a bit of a loose cannon to me. With my first day on a dive boat here, I had the supreme pleasure of seeing a pod of dolphins, a sailfish and 6 mantas, and that was just on the surface, this was enough to tell anyone that the majestical Maldives was certainly a place that ticks all the boxes . As time went on, and Ali put me through my paces, I found that I loved guiding the inexperienced, it gave me plenty of challenging opportunities to make them relaxed with problems they had.
Only a few days into the course, I woke one morning to have pain in my left ear. Nerves struck immediately (not in my ear I hasten to add!) I spoke with the Dive Centre and they recommended I should see the resort doctor. Worry was setting in even more; the last thing I wanted was to find I couldn't complete my course, never mind another dive! I saw the doctor almost immediately; he diagnosed an inflamed middle ear infection. In 13 years of diving, and nearly 400 dives I've never had any problems whatsoever with my ears, so was very concerned. But he re assured me that it would be clear within 2 days once I'd taken a course of ear drops, and anti-this that and the other, 2 days later, I was fully recovered and got back to work! It was nice to have a break though, although the dive centre was visited once or twice with concerns why I was seen drinking at the bar in the afternoon!
My favourite accomplishment, apart from teaching Russians who couldn’t speak a word of English, was guiding two 12 year old PADI Scuba Divers with only 2 dives under their belts, a lot of responsibility was on my shoulders. I calmed them in the water successfully and they had a great dive! I completed my rescue assessment, the surface tow, and rescue of an unconscious casualty. Personally, I could have done with more practice, as when Ali showed me how to do it, it was evident there was room for improvement. On the same day I also did my equipment exchange, we were neutrally buoyant in medium current about 9m deep, we had to exchange our mask, fins and BCD whilst sharing one regulator, what a rush! I did this twice with no problem apart from being a bit selfish on the regulator. To add to the stress test my BCD was inflated and air was turned off once or twice, bring it on!
Ellaidhoo was a great location to do my DM. The house reef is amazing, a lot to see, they have a small wreck just off the pier and the wall starts around 3-5 metres. I've done over 400 dives now; my 400th was luckily on this trip, it was on a popular nearby dive site called Fish Head with a Maldivian friend; Shaff, who runs the odd liveaboard trip. While I was in the Maldives, he was doing a trip in the area, and offered to pick me up for a couple of dives, it was great to get away from it all for a couple of days.
My 401st dive was my last dive to complete my DM course, I gave a boat briefing, checked the current as usual, and led the dive. I’ve always admired Maldivian dive guides checking the current, now it was my turn, currents weren’t very fast for us, so it was very difficult to give Ali an answer for the strength and direction, when there wasn’t much. Part of the judgement was to look at which direction the majority of the fish were swimming as they tend to swim into the current so it makes it easier for them to consume particles within the water, sometimes I had to free dive down to around 10m to get a better view. Other exercises I did were teaching someone an underwater photography speciality as part of their advanced open water (which was very easy for me), mapping a dive site was fun, demonstrating 20 basic Open Water skills, which involved a lot of practise, and to create a diver emergency plan. All of these were performed satisfactorily enough to pass me. One problem I felt, was doing the course in an active business where they had unexpected customers coming in, causing my plan to change last minute quite a few times, quite frustrating, but that’s what PADI’s about I guess. Looking back on the course, I would have preferred more time practicing all my skills, but not really possible within 3 weeks in my opinion, especially if the dive centre are busy and slightly understaffed, I think this was what made Ali seem a bit of a loose cannon, as he had the responsibility to make sure I had training relevant to my course, as well as keep other customers happy at the last minute...to be fair.
So that was it, the course was complete, with 3 days left to do some pleasure dives, and relax with my wife and some newly acquainted friends. I did a 5-10 metre dive one day, on the edge of the reef wall and managed to get right round the island. It was disappointing for me to discover that my air consumption is still not much better, as that was using my indie twins.
Its now the end of May, and I've just completed my HSE medical in Portsmouth, and thankfully passed the Viagra honesty test (that’s another story!). I now hope to continue working at least once a month as a DM on top of my current job, and my hobby as an underwater photographer. I may do my IDC next year, something I hadn't really planned on, but I just love it! Living the dream.