Dive Master certification day – The final hurdle

Posted on May 30, 2017


“You know Asha, this is not a true picture of what the ocean is normally like,” said my instructor Big D looking at me with a stifled smile. My worried face was reflected back in his mirrored faux Ray Ban aviators.

“Errrrm what do you mean?” I asked awkwardly pulling at my rash vest and fixing my oversized dive computer to my wrist.

“Well, where are the waves? This is flat, there’s no swell here.”

I breathed a long deep sigh and squinted into the horizon at the afternoon sun. A heaviness filled me. I had come so far and now my worst skill, swimming freestyle, was about to get harder.

“We will drop you at that yatch anchored over there, ” he said pointing his finger out into the distance. “Then you will swim back to the dock. But we will be in the boat next to you counting and……making waves.”

At first I thought he was joking. But then it dawned on me he wasn’t.

I stepped aboard the glass bottom boat. Usually reserved for tourists at the resort for a fun ride out. My short journey was only filled with dread.

As the boat pulled alongside the yatch. My heart was pounding. There was no way I could fail this unless I stopped swimming or drowned. I had no intention of doing either. But still, I hadn’t practised swimming in a week due to working the early shift. 

“Should I chicken out and do it next week when I have more time; or tomorrow even?” I wrestled with my conscious. “No Asha it’s now or never. Just get it done and start June qualified,” I reasoned. 

I put on my dive mask and jumped into the water. Ant (one of the Fijian dive masters – a nickname he earned after the insect this weekend) was gonna be calling the time.

“You can do this Asha,” he said resssuringly. “I’ll be yelling out the time. Just try to finish before the end of the day – ok?” He said winking. “Ready….????……GO!!!”

I threw myself forward and tried to think about all the techniques every guest and every swimmer and anyone who had an opinion had shared with me over seven weeks. 

Reach with the arms. Pull down hard. Rotate your shoulders. Breathe!! Don’t over exert the legs. Use your back muscles.

Front crawl left me breathless and I moved into breast stroke to slow my heart rate down. Then the boat veered off to the left and started circling me. Up and under the water I went. “Keep going Asha 2 minutes,” yelled Ant. His voice muffled by the engine and the water now baptising my head fully.

My legs moved inwards and outwards like a frog and my arms digging forward and pulling the dark water apart wth my arms. More waves. I left like I wasn’t making any progress. Back to front crawl. Another wave, this time water in my mouth. Spluttering I continued.

“Errrghhhh, breathe in , blow out!” Panting now I flipped onto my back. “Right, push Asha, you can go faster like this,” I told myself.

“Six minutes,” yelled Ant.

“There goes the Gold medal,” I mused through gritted teeth.

I completed the rest of the swim test solely doing backstroke as I found windmilling my arms backwards much easier in the man-made waves. The only downside was I wasn’t going straight but in a zig zag. I probably ended up doing longer than the required lengths, but hey-ho.

“Go right Asha,” shouted Ant. “Now straight!”

I thought about all the hurdles I have had to overcome to get here. Decompressing after a year living in Turkey through bombs, a coup and crappy working hours. Ligament damage to my ankle, a rotten start to the dive expereince in January and February living on an island that left me out of pocket, fed up and frustrated. Every stroke i dug a little deeper.

The swim felt like an eternity. It was only 400m but I am not Michael Phelps. I passed, not breaking any records, but it was all I needed to qualify and that’s all that counts.

My goal this year was to get my Dive Master certification in Fiji. Mission accomplished in seven golden weeks at Jean-Michel Cousteau with an incredible team behind me. Thank you guys!!!

Now the fun can really start.