Hawaii -- Among the activities many repeat visitors to Hawaii look
forward to is scuba diving. For most of them, the chance to blow
bubbles occurs just once a year, if at all.
That can make
diving more special -- and more dangerous.
Every year, divers
die because they let fundamental skills get rusty, then didnt react
calmly and prudently when a minor glitch came up.
I didnt want to be
one of them. So, after not having dived for more than a year, I
signed up with Mauna Lani Sea Adventures on the Big Island for a
refresher dive. Before it was over, I had good reason to be glad Id
reviewed my skills with an instructor.
Like a number of
Hawaii dive businesses -- especially ones that get a lot of resort
business -- Mauna Lani Sea Adventures offers a guided refresher
dive along with its other tours. Those other tours range from intro
dives for first-timers to guided dives, day and night, from shore
or boat for experienced, certified divers.
Gary Simons, a
divemaster for 24 years, had the dubious pleasure of leading me and
two other guests from the Fairmont Orchid Hawaii through our
refresher. (The Fairmont, like the other properties at the Mauna
Lani Resort, offers free shuttle service between the hotel and the
classroom was a shaded, dockside picnic table. There, for about
half an hour, Simons got us reacquainted with fundamental diving
Under his gaze,
each of us did a dry-run of clearing our mask underwater, inflating
and deflating our BC (buoyancy compensator) vest, and recovering
our regulator. Simons easy-going manner made it fun, but he left no
doubt that hes dead-serious about safety.
We learned his
Three Most Important Rules of Diving. Simons says:
Never hold your
pressure in your ears early and often.
Soaking all this
up, we three students suited up and slid into the ocean with
Hawaii does not
have the best diving in the world, but the Kona and Kohala coasts
of the Big Island offer drop-your-jaw underwater scenery. Within a
few kicks of shore, the clear water revealed to us a rainbow world
of coral and darting fish.
decided it was time for zero-G aquabatics. With perfect
weightlessness, he somersaulted forward and backward. We imitated
him, but with somewhat less grace. This was so much fun we didnt
realize that Simons was having us practice an important scuba
skill: buoyancy control.
along for a while, our instructor stopped and demonstrated that we
were now going to practice clearing our masks and recovering our
One at a time, the
other two divers carefully filled and cleared their masks, then
released and recovered their regs. Simons signaled his approval
with the universal thumb and forefinger OK.
Now it was my turn.
I decided to show off and remove my mask completely. Thats when I
somehow knocked my reg out of my mouth. Everything went and I
This is exactly the
type of situation from which divers up on their skills easily
recover -- and where inexperienced divers can panic and really ruin
Simons says never
hold your breath, so I slowly blew out tiny bubbles as I reached
back, found my dangling air hose and brought the regulator to my
mouth. I purged the water and inhaled. Better already.
Strapping on my
mask, I blew in air to clear it, blinked and saw Simons, poised
right in front of me, clapping silently in slow motion.
The cost of the
refresher dive is $65 per person. For more information, call Mauna
Lani Sea Adventures at (808) 885-7883, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.hawaiiseaadventures.com.
To contact the
reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].