Let’s Log Some Bottom Time

Stepping on to the staging platform, I took my last deep breath of the salty ocean air. Without thinking, I placed my SCUBA regulator in my mouth and forcefully inhaled a few times; listening to the familiar whoosh, click, whoosh. Yep it still works! I looked up at the designated dive guide, waiting for his A-Ok to leave the boat. He checked his gauges and then he spun around, and pointed a stubby finger at me. At that moment, his command could be clearly heard over all the other sounds and noise on the boat, “Dive! Dive! Dive!”

The object of diving is to sink

SCUBA diving is easy, as it is fun — and as an outdoor recreation, is gaining popularity as an alternative summer activity. Why is SCUBA diving becoming ever so popular?

Consider this: Over 70% of the earth’s surface is covered with water, and in the Philippines, we are blessed to have topnotch marine sanctuaries and world-class reefs and wrecks – Tubbataha, Apo Island, Malapascua, Moalboal, Palawan, Balicasag – to name a few.

The allure and mystery of the underwater world has inspired human imagination since prehistory — from the mythological monsters described by seafaring people, to the science fiction of Jules Verne and the modern underwater adventures in Hollywood films.

Breath-hold diving, dangerous though it can be, has been used to collect pearls, sponges and valuable commodities from the sea floor for many generations.

Self portrait

In the beginning. Advances in underwater exploration began nearly three centuries ago, using diving bells and large cumbersome sealed suits using pumped air from the surface. Only very recently, advances in technology and mechanics have allowed people to slowly conquer what most consider as the last frontier.

Though air-assisted underwater exploration has been around since the 1700’s, underwater exploration was out of reach for the average person, and recreational SCUBA diving was an unthinkable luxury. Great advances in the engineering of valves and compressed air tanks in the 1930’s produced the first systems that we would call “SCUBA”: the Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

These early SCUBA tanks were clunky, inefficient systems that spouted air constantly into the diver’s face. Between 1942 and 1946, Jacques-Yves Cousteau (a French naval lieutenant) and Emile Gagnan (an engineer) developed the Aqua Lung; a device which used pressure valves to deliver properly pressurized air only when the diver breathed in. Over the next two decades, experimental dives with the Aqua Lung proved its reliability and in the 1960’s, “sport diving” was born.

NAUI, the National Association of Underwater Instructors, was formed in 1960 to regulate and teach safe SCUBA diving to enthusiasts of this new sport. PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, was formed in 1967.

In the 1970’s, SCUBA equipment continued to evolve and buoyancy compensation vests, better valves and submersible pressure gauges were born. Through the 1980’s and 1990’s, SCUBA as a recreational sport became a multi-billion dollar industry with its popularity prompting even more innovation in the design and the engineering of better, safer, lighter, more comfortable equipment.

Today, SCUBA diving is accessible to almost anyone with only a modest investment in equipment. Anywhere you want to dive, especially in those sites I cited above, you can usually find a dive shop nearby to rent equipment and tanks, go on a guided dive with a master diver, take a chartered boat or just strap on the tanks and swim out from the shore.

The author sampling dive sites in Moalboal and Pescador Island in Cebu.

The Essentials. SCUBA makes “scuba” diving possible. A diver needs to know all about SCUBA diving gear and understand how it works in order to feel confident underwater. Fortunately, most resorts these days offer dive tours, which includes complete set of basic diving gear rentals. Others may offer Discover SCUBA packages for those who just want to try it but not seriously pursue a certificate. Part of SCUBA diving certification training is devoted to learning all about the diving gear, how to assemble it and how to use it safely and responsibly.

A beginner will need these five items – the bare essentials – just to begin training. Don’t fret. As I’ve said, most of these gears can be easily rented from dive shops in most resorts here in the Philippines.

If you’re planning on seriously making SCUBA diving a part of your lifestyle, the following are the basics that one should invest in:

  • Mask or Goggles
  • Booties
  • Swim fins
  • Weights and weight belt
  • Snorkel

After diving for a while, you might want to pick up some of the other diving gear for personal use.

Generally, the next item you might want to get is your very own wet suit. If you’re the squeamish type, wouldn’t it be nice to have your own to avoid the worries of renting one. Wet suits come in many styles, shapes, thickness and sizes, so be sure to get one that fits nicely and gives you both warmth and freedom of movement. Later on, as you keep logging some bottom time — most SCUBA divers carry with them a dive book where they log each dive, recording info such as dive location, length of dive (referred to as bottom time), depth, temperature, and visibility, you might also be attracted to owning other gear such as:

  • BCDs – Buoyancy Compensatory Devices
  • Gauges or Consoles – for air pressure and depth tracking
  • Regulators

Then, there are the SCUBA tanks. Unless you are radically devoted – you usually wouldn’t go through all the trouble of buying your own tank. It is always easier to rent them from a dive shop where they will be inspected, maintained, tested and prefilled.

The Fancy. As in any sport or hobby, there always is a “fancy” line for the spendthrifts; after all, as the saying goes: If you can’t perform, JAPORMS. If you can’t play, DISPLAY!

Topping the list of “fancy” gear are the integrated weight systems (BCD and weights combined) and rebreathers (which recycle your exhaled breath back into the scuba system).

Well, if you have money to spend, you will never run out of gear to acquire. So, watcha waiting for? Let’s troop over to the nearest travel office and book us a dive expedition!

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About Seeing with Brahmin eyes
My sense of humor can be keen, sarcastic, silly or corny -- sometimes all at once. I enjoy meeting new people with no preconceived ideas about what or what is not possible. You get much more out of life by being open minded and willing. I'm an easy going, good-natured person who loves life and loves people. I'm both optimistic and realistic and pretty objective when it comes to assessing situations, events, etc. In general I am a very positive person and you'll usually find we with a smile on my face.

One Response to Let’s Log Some Bottom Time

  1. Liza says:

    nice intro article, and great pics to boot! makes me wanna try SCUBA diving.

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