Everyone talks about the really good stuff and the really bad things. No one talks about the in between. You hear stories about panicking and not being able to breathe. And the ones where people become obsessed and make diving their new go-to hobby. But what actually happens on your first dive? What is scuba diving like? What’s the middle ground, where everything goes ok and nothing out of the ordinary happens? If you’re a diving virgin and have been considering giving it a whirl, then this is the post for you. Read on to discover everything you need to know about your first scuba dive.
If you’re new to diving, chances are you’ll have friends who’ve done it in Thailand or Australia. They throw around words like PADI (so different when you see it written down and nothing to do with the Irish) and open water. They’ll discuss different depths and compare stories about coral reefs and manta rays. It’s a totally alien world and I couldn’t really comprehend it at all, so my curiosity got the better of me. I saw blogger Curious Claire had been diving in Tenerife with TenDive about a week before my birthday trip out there. The dive shop she went to is only twenty minutes from our apartment in Playa de las Americas, so I got in touch and told them I’d love to try diving.
As the big day approached, I considered cancelling on at least one occasion. I told myself that people do it all the time, it’s obviously reasonably safe. But I couldn’t shake the feeling it is just a bit, unnecessary to try and breathe underwater. Like, I’m a human, you know? Anyway, it was booked and I hate quitting….so off I went to TenDive for my ‘try dive’.
Filling in the insurance form did nothing to settle my nerves, but the safety briefing with Claudio did. I’m a complete diving beginner, so I was reassured when we started with the absolute basics. Everything you need to know about your first scuba dive. Baby stuff, like breathe all the time….as normal. Equalise your ears as often as you need, a million times if you have to. Those are the things that made me feel like, “ok, I don’t need to worry about looking stupid”…or making a mistake. It’s totally normal and they’ve been through it all a thousand times with newbies. Chances of you being that one person who fucks it up are unlikely. What else did I need to do? Keep my balance (I’ve had a few years practice, still not great though), and that’s it.
Things you’ll need to do:
Your instructor does absolutely everything else, even down to Claudio putting my flippers/fins on for me once we were in the water. All I had to do is float. Thank GOD, because do know how awkward it is to do that yourself? Or walk in with them on? Stop!
I’d seen pics of people learning to dive in swimming pools then going out on a boat for their dives. And while I do love boats (6 reasons why you should choose a boat for your next holiday), I was glad my experience was simplified and we walked in from the beach. TenDive is about a 60 second walk from Playa de las Vistas, so once you’re suited and booted, you don’t need to wait long to get in the water.
The equipment is heavy AF. Balancing on dry land can even prove difficult once the tank is on your back for a beginner. But like I said, you don’t need to do anything. Claudio and Daniella from the dive shop set everything up and helped me into the jacket. They showed me all the bits and bobs, but since he’d be controlling my buoyancy etc, I didn’t have to worry about that. He’s got a spare mouth piece for air on his rig-out too, just in case.
We’d only be diving to about 5 or 6 metres, for around twenty minutes. Thankfully a short wetsuit was fine because the water isn’t that cold and we weren’t going deep…they are an absolute HEAD WRECK to get on. Am I missing a trick there?
Once we were in to about chest height, Claudio put both our pairs of fins on and explained what was going to happen next. I tried breathing through the mouth piece just like you would with a normal snorkel, but out of the water first. Next was to try with my head just at the surface of the water before going under. After about a minute of breathing normally but feeling like I just couldn’t fill up my lungs, (even though I knew I was fine and everything was working perfectly), I popped my head up and spit out the mouth piece. My little wobbler was talked down though and I was told I was doing great and to continue breathing until the end of the dive. That was me told… and I didn’t think about it again!
Once under I was more concerned with equalising (the way you pop your ears on a plane) and trying to keep my balance. You don’t use your arms how you usually would when swimming, which I completely forgot in a few futile attempts to navigate the water. My sense of direction was all off and it’d take a while to acclimatise, but luckily I was led by Claudio who did all the graft while I posed for pics and checked out the fishies.
You obviously can’t speak underwater, so you’ll learn a few hand signals allowing you to communicate. OK, up, down, “look”, etc. All easy peasy stuff that you feel stupid doing on dry land when you’re being taught the ropes, but you have no choice to use once you’re under and the sense of humility leaves you.
I have to say, I felt totally safe knowing I was close to shore, not too deep and at arms length from a professional at any given moment. I forgot about the breathing and allowed the soothing sound of the bubbles to calm me. We played about spotting funny looking fish and finding sunglasses and odd sandals on the sea bed.
I couldn’t believe when it was already time to go up. Since we had just waded in from the beach, we were able to swim most of the way back. So, I didn’t have the anticipated ascend to the surface, it all happened very gradually. Again, Claudio removed my fins and I was able to take the mask off when I popped my head above the surface back into the sun. I’d done it! My first dive!!
What to bring:
- Dry stuff for after
- Hair band
What not to bring:
- GoPro, if it’s your first dive you’ll be too busy. Let the dive shop do the photo taking
I’m really glad I didn’t chicken out of my first time scuba diving experience. I’ll definitely go back to TenDive the next time I’m in Tenerife for one of their courses (which you can read about and see prices for here – they’re very reasonable). Now I know that I’m physically able for it, I might just learn how to scuba dive.
Is that everything you need to know about your first scuba dive? Hopefully I’ve answered some questions for diving virgins, if you’ve considered it then give it a go, it’s a lot less scary than it looks!
Booking a trip and need inspiration? Here are 4 alternative holidays that might fit the bill.