Breath slowly & steadily and never ever hold your breath - PADI course part I / by Marek Charytonowicz

Living for a moment in a place like Byron Bay inspires you. Firstly to learn surfing - when you watch all those people young and old picking their boards or all shapes and sizes and running to the waves to surf them, get tumbled, get up and surf them again. It's a spectacle that we loved watching from the beach but even more wanted to try ourselves.

And secondly - it make you want to learn diving. After doing the two introductory dives on the Great Barrier Reef I really wanted to do the PADI Open Water diver course - the entry to the diving world, that usually takes only a few days to complete and can be partially done online. 

I've enrolled to the online theoretical part right after doing the dives in Port Douglas - just to do it in my spare time and when an opportunity arrises - do the practical part somewhere during the journey. The opportunity happened to be now and I signed up for the course in one of the local diving shops - the Sundive Byron Bay. The course was supposed to start on Tuesday and take three days of practical training - under the condition that I complete the theory part on my own.

It turned out that the theory takes time - almost 10 hours of it if one wants to read everything but skip the videos. I finished at half past one am on Tuesday morning. Seven hours later I was at a small pool of a local backpacker hostel, staring at a pile of diving equipment among other eight participants of the course. I was excited - being under water has always been the most relaxing experience for me and I loved doing lengths at the pool underwater almost touching the bottom. 

The pool training was interesting - two instructors were methodically going through a number of exercises and skills that we were supposed to learn and demonstrate practically. Because a pool is a controlled environment, it's easier to learn there. Once this is done, the skills are then repeated in an open water environment- lake, sea or ocean. One needs to successfully complete the pool training and four ocean dives to gain the PADI Open Water Diver certificate.

Our pool training was great fun but the 9 participants and tiny pool made it look like fish in a bucket at Christmas - overcrowded, bumping into one another and unable to swim. I liked it though and after a day of that I was exhausted but happy and looking forward to the next day when we were to start the ocean dives.

That part unfortunately never happened. When I showed up at 7am at the diving shop the next day, my instructor told me that all of the dives are on hold for the next five days due to the weather - Cyclone Winston brought swell that made the only local diving spot inaccessible most likely till next week. The week when we're already in Brisbane. The one good thing was that Sundive decided to not charge me for the pool training - I'm not entirely sure why, but it was a very nice gesture from their side.

Tough luck. I was very disappointed. The diving spot here - Julian's Rocks -  is the only rocky place in the sandy bay which means that all of the marine life is sheltering there - sharks, smaller fish, manta rays, turtles. But if you can not safely anchor a boat out there, you can't go down to see all this beauty.

I started researching where else I can finish the course on a referral basis and decided that our few days in Sydney is a perfect opportunity to do so. So it looks like I will spend two days under water after all!