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Lesson 2: Wait, wait… where’s my weights?

My first dive at one of the most famous dive locations on Okinawa- Maeda Point- was also my second non-class dive ever and I was the usual excited and nervous!

I was diving with a good friend who is also a Dive Master so I felt very comfortable with his experience, but admittedly, I was also a little intimidated by it. What if I screwed something up and he refused to take me diving ever again? What if I annoyed him with my “newba-ness”? [Author’s Note: As of this writing, I am officially changing “newba” to this very dive buddie’s suggestion of “snewba”- this is the kind of skill that only comes with experience, ladies and gentleman! The man is some kind of a diving-lyrical-genius, I’m sure of it.]


Of course, I didn’t really think he’d be that bothered by me or be that cruel to ban me from diving with him ever again, but I think I may have been having flashbacks from driver’s training when I almost wrecked my dad’s truck. In my defense, I have to say it was partly my dad’s fault all because he decided it was a great idea to yell at me for taking the turn too fast. I think I became paralyzed with fascination when I saw how quickly his face turned red, causing me to forget the need to apply the brakes and, inevitably, I almost hit a tree. He fixed his mistake though; while yelling and turning redder, he managed to grab the wheel and apply the brake just in the nick of time. Everything was fine, I managed to get my driver’s license- though it was pretty “iffy” for a while; but, yeah, I was never allowed to drive with him again. Good times… moving on!

Wrestling with those flashbacks and my growing excitement/anxiety, I got my diving gear ready, trying with every bit of mental energy to remember everything I learned in class. I conducted a BWRAF on my buddy, myself, a diver with another group, and an old woman who wasn’t even diving (she failed her BWRAF miserably), then conducted it a couple more times on myself, ran through my mental checklists about six times, and then finally we began our trek down the long, narrow stairway. I thought my knees were going to collapse not being used to the weight of my gear, but they managed pretty well. It was low tide, so we had a bit of a shaky walk over the lava rock. The mildly challenging entry was worth it though as the diving was excellent! Nothing particularly special I’m sure: forty foot vis,  giant bat fish, beautiful coral, the usual gorgeous blue water- but for me, it was heaven!

Our plan was to go out a bit along the wall, and then to go up to the surface, snorkel over a shallow area, and go down through a small swim-through. At least, I think that was the plan.  I remember one fish in particular who was following us on the way out; out of no where, I felt this strange sensation and turned around to see a giant white bat fish following closely behind me. As I stopped to watch him, he swam in front of me just staring me dead in the eye. My buddy tried to lure it away from me with a bit of food, but it looked over at his offer for little more than a split second and then back to me. I have never felt so flattered and terrified at the same time. Suddenly, he fluttered making me jump back, (thinking he was attacking me!), and then swam away. I saw my buddy snickering at my startled state and realized that he had shooed the fish away causing it to react the way it did. We started again, and I remember a strange sensation, like something pulling me somehow. I vacantly thought that it was something to do with my buoyancy (I’m always struggling with that monster of a skill!) and I managed to override it and continue on.

Shortly after that, we surfaced and began snorkeling towards the swim-through. At the surface, I noticed that my BCD was a little awkward, pulling down to the left more than the right. I didn’t think much of it, just maybe my releases or cummerbund needed to be adjusted. When we reached the cavern, my buddy gave me the scoop and asked if I was ready to descend. I gave him the signal, we did our SORT-D and equalized to the bottom… well, he did. All the air was out of my BCD and I twisted and turned trying to let more out to no avail. Then it hit me, I lost my weights. I could have sworn I checked to make sure they were both locked! Somehow though, my pouch slipped out so I must not have been as careful as I should have been with locking it. Palm to forehead, I felt like such an idiot.

My buddy was very helpful though as we searched fruitlessly for the missing weight pouch- here’s where a Search and Recovery lesson could have come in handy. We retraced our steps carefully as I tried to recall the dive. I remembered the strange pulling sensation and tried to remember if I had somehow pulled on the release or if it felt like something fell out. At one point, we saw a huge school of bat fish. I thought jokingly to myself that our little friend went to get back-up and was going to come after my dive buddy. Or maybe he/they were trying to tell me that I dropped my weights?

After all that, we didn’t find the weight pouch and since I was trying to swim with one side of my BCD being heavier than the other, I was pretty worn out so we called it quits for the night. (After which, my buddy suggested he carry the other weight pouch, prompting me to realize I could have just done that myself and it would have made it a whole lot easier to conduct the search!) I was bummed that I didn’t get to check out this amazing swim-through and also worried about what my buddy thought about my lacking diving skills.

I assumed the worse, no one was going to want to dive with a buddy who made such a terrible mistake! My diving days would be over! I was ruined! But, I was wrong. I learned my lesson, and we went out again soon after that, the next time (and every time thereafter) I would check that my weights were positioned properly and very securely locked into my BCD. My buddy reassured me that even he makes mistakes as a dive master, it happens. I’m reminded of a saying from my first job- “You’re not a pizza maker until you drop your first pizza.” I’m hoping that these lessons I learn are permanently implanted, but I know that it’s foolish to think that once I’m “experienced” I won’t still make the mistakes of a “snewba”.

I’m curious- What kinds of mistakes have you made or forgiven a dive buddy for? Is there anything you find unforgivable?
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