I decided to do PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course during my holidays in August 2018. I enrolled to perform this program in Centre de plongée de la Rague in Côte d’Azur located between towns Mandelieu and Théoule-sur-Mer.
Before my travel to France I visited a doctor specialized in diver’s medicine to make him familiar with details about my health and talk for a while about my present abilities to deep diving. As he realized I am in a good physical fitness, do not take medications and do not have any permanent health issues that might interfere with my diving, so I got a permission for a whole year. As I write this entry on my blog now so this means he was not wrong about giving me that permission.
I had to get actual health results for other purpose so the beginning of August 2018 was fruitful for me in terms of many up to date results indicating my general health and physical fitness. As I spent half of the winter 2018 teaching snowboarding or actively snowboarding and another time doing many other physical activities I was finally not too much surprised that I am generally okay.
My first day of AOWD course I mentioned in my regular blog under La pointe de l’aiguille blog entry.
My own, proven equipment with 15 l tank from diving center. In France there is a little bit different system with 2 valves. One for manometer and octopus that you have on your left during dive. And one on the right for your inflator and regulator. I used that left for my whole 1st stage. But cannot understand why it was closed before my jump into the water. I opened it yet during setting up all that things together. And tested!
Storm with thunders before our departure and we can see on that video that burning tree that was struck just a few seconds before this video.
It was a diving to perform peak performance buoyancy and to get close to my limit depth with my regular limits trained before and prepare for deep diving. We performed a few underwater orientation and navigation introductory issues and trained how to use SMB.
La pointe de l’aiguille is a part of l’Estérel nature reserve.
My instructor Eric before our first dive.
Captain Franco Marrone, director of the Diving Center during an attempt to outline our diving site.
Our second diving site was Le petit cap roux.
For my second dive I did not take a camera because I did not know that we start series of deep dives just from the second day of my AOWD course. From pedagogical point of view it is necessary to perform all elements as they are introduced gradually and repeat most difficult of them every day after. So as to recreational PADI standards deep dives start from below 18 meters. The second day was my fist deep dive. And first serious task. I had to perform navigational tasks with closed eyes being on 27 meters below the surface. To refer to imagination of Polish people – lighthouse in Rozewie at Baltic Sea is „only” 32,5 meters high. I had to do for the first time something so deep. And follow Ariadna’s thread from diving spool that has been anchored between rocks and follow and navigate only using line with my eyes closed. Surprisingly I did it with perfect buoyancy performance even not touching ground once. So my instructor complimented me after that dive saying that almost has no divers on that level of my kind. Good to know that I have some predispositions to work underwater.
During that dive I saw for the first time in my life a creature called sea cucumber (strętwa in Polish).
For our third diving we departed directly towards Cannes and stopped diver’s boat surprisingly not too far from the seashore. But surprisingly the diving site was very very deep. Up to 55 meters deep. The diving site is called La fouillée.
Our goal was to do a multilevel diving starting from the deepest point we planned. As the diving site was generally one of the deepest in that area. It was not difficult to descend to quite deep level as to 28 meters deep.
Here we encountered really interesting underwater creatures like murena.
But not only!
2 meters deeper, about 27 meters deep we encountered scorpionfish (pol. skorpena, like the name of diver’s club in Olsztyn) first.
During preparation to our 4th dive I asked my instructor to do more recreational dive without challenging too much deep dive. I was feeling tired for no reason. And if too much nitrogen I am not used to was in my veins I preferred a one day of a break from deep dive for safety reasons. I live on 700 meters asl normally and diving for me is not only being exposed to pressure even of 3 bar or more. For me normal thing for about 4 years is to live in a place my air pressure is lower than normally people experience living in places on elevation closer to the sea level. I did not know exactly how my body gets used to new conditions that I expose to everyday from Monday.
Our diving site was near from that from day 2. It was called le grand cap roux. And was a bit deeper than that from the second day. And located something like within 100 meters from that we were there before.
My instructor understood me perfectly about my no need for deep dive. He said simply that we are not Navy Seals and we do not have to do challenging things everyday. Till Friday I will perform everything anyway as we do it every day gradually introducing new elements to perform full AOWD obligatory program.
My task during that dive was to become a leader. Like a divemaster. And show to Eric that I can remember diving site map and associate it with underwater clues from the environment and to navigate underwater to get back to the place where we started our descending near diver’s boat.
As for AOWD obligatory parts are deep dives this means to 30 meters (40 is absolute maximum for recreational diving) and navigation so we repeated all that tasks concerning these parts almost every day so I new limit of 30 meters became natural to me and I even did not realize when it has happened.
We were very lucky that time. As it is the underwater reserve we had the opportunity to see a shoal (a school) of barracuda fish.
Eric also captured a video of me as I asked him for this before we jumped into the water. I present my peak performance buoyancy and generally how easy is to move underwater precisely for me.
I also followed for some time really big fishes.
And by the end I realized (but I controlled it) and surprised even my instructor that this time I spent also some time at really deep.
Our last dive on Friday 17.08.2018 was at the Island in front of Cannes. The diving site called Le Batéguier. On island there are visible bunkers. It has been built as the last point of defense of France during war.
For celebration 15th of August came special vessel of US Marines. To celebrate with France that date of the victory.
Plan of our diving site.
This place begins innocent. By the coast there is 6 meters deep maximum. But after a few meters there is a wall underwater and depth is up to 55 meters. This time I submerged and descended to 32 meters. What was really a lot taking into account that I was breathing with air. Even using nitrox oxygen starts to be dangerous with EAN32 or 36. Nitrox is just to aviod exhaust. But here no decompression time starts to get shorter with every meter deeper.
When I told captain after ascending, after all that very long dive. This time we were in a team of 3 like during first day on Monday. Eric heard that and told me that I will land in prison in France and will spend rest of my life in prison. Captain said that now I have to pay.
Along with practical exercises during 5 dives I had to follow particular chapters from the book to complete the program that consisted of obligatory deep dive and navigation and 3 selected by choice but to be good in really fundamental skills I was suggested to have just peak performance buoyancy, multilevel diving and boat diving as passed on this stage. I may not repeat it in terms of regular practice or theory but it will be all the time important for me when I will participate in dives for AOWD skills. It convinced me as an explanation. But to be honest. Every chapter of this quite big but very interesting book is comprehensive and really well thought-over. I feel lucky that I started from Discover Scuba Diving when being 15. Achieved OWD when being 19. And now got AOWD being 32. It sounds logical, isn’t it? To be a professional you cannot become a superhero within one day. Here expertise and experience rises non-linear.
I could do a mountain diver. But in fact I did such a dive. I could do an underwater naturalist or photographer but actually I am an underwater naturalist and photographer. But what I can learn about most technical issues from professionals and will not cut corners it will pay me back in the future as my OWD course always paid in hyper-consciousness of everything since I finished that level. I think that good OWD even saved my life once. So every next level I take even more seriously.
For multilevel there is no form on PADI extranet so I have a confirmation in diving center and a stamp in my book at the testing part.
So my new confirmed skills are:
- peak performance buoyancy,
- multilevel and computer diving,
- underwater navigation,
- deep diving,
- boat diving.
My first diving from boat was when I was 15. But good to have a separate certificate for it.
Now I am only waiting for the letter from PADI organization in Bristol, UK. So I am skilled to dive down to 30 m with a buddy right now.
That’s it. As I started as a teenager I grown up as a fish.
On 3rd of September I got the letter from PADI.