The following is a class report from a student who has taken the UTD Tech 1 course and will be starting Tech 2 shortly
"Let's go for a swim..." Those were the last words I remembered our instructor, George Watson, say to us before we submerged for the first dives of our Tech 1 class. Knowing what I know now, George is a horrible team mate. Disasters seems to strike when ever he starts a dive with "Let's go for a swim". I've never had so many entanglements, broken lights, blind buddies, failed buoyancy devices, or failed gas supplies in my life with any other team mate. Did I mention that many of those failures were simultaneous?
Let me put it into perspective for you; during one dive, my buddy was mask-less, out of back gas and had a failed deco gas supply. During our simulated deco ascent, I did my deco, stowed the reg and proceeded to attach my deco bottle to my blind, out of gas team mate. When we surfaced George commented on how comfortable we were in the water, but we really didn't need to do a blind bottle pass when the team was already compromised. It was George's way of saying "Good job, now don't do that again". We experienced many moments like that throughout the class.
The dives started off simple, pretty much where my Fundamentals class left off, but quickly became more complex, to the point where my brain seemed to shutdown at one point in time and I couldn't interpret which gas failure George was trying to throw at us, much less figure out how to fix the problem. I left that weekend fairly disappointed in my performance, but knew that a break away from the class would do some good and I would be able to self-analyze the dives and wrap my head around the failures.
I came back during our next training weekend with my "A" game and ready to complete our critical skills dives so that we could begin our experience dives. This weekend, a third team mate had joined our two man team. All of our names start with the letter J and we were quickly named the "J Team". I had dove with everybody in our team before, so I mostly knew what to expect. During our critical skills dive, George threw multiple complex failures at us, which we handled almost flawlessly. Then we started our blue water ascent, which started off fairly relaxed... in the beginning, but quickly turned into multiple failures with multiple lost masks, lost gases, and failed buoyancy devices; while doing our simulated deco. I was impressed by how quickly our team came together to deal with the failures. When we surfaced, George made a few minor critiques on our team work, which we were already well aware of before we surfaced, but George was pleased enough to allow us to start planning our experience dives.
During our surface interval, we blew down the remaining gas in our back gas / deco tanks, began blending for our experience dives, and began planning our first of two experience dives. We wrote our profiles in our wet notes, which George went over with us before the dive to make sure that we weren't going to kill ourselves.
Then came the dives. I started both dives a little more nervous than most dives. George didn't start either dive with "Let's go for a swim", so that eased my mind a little bit. I was more nervous about the significant deco that would be incurred instead of my skills or depth of the dive. I was confident in my ability to do the dives, but since these were firsts for me, I was intensely focused on the execution of the dives. Both dives went off without a hitch. The vividness and the fine details of the things that I remember were amazing. I had done this same dive previously without helium or the significant deco and I only thought that I remembered the details of the dives. I've now seen and remembered things from these dives that I have not experienced before; from the white algae looking substance with tiny green spores, the tiny crustaceans bobbing in and out of the silt, a translucent fish, and the gypsum crystals that are more abundant and unique from the crystals in the shallower depths. I'm excited to explore some more and now have a license to learn, grow, and gain more experience.
Overall, this class was an excellent experience. Oceans First Divers, where the class was hosted for the academics and pool portion, was a very clean, professional, and personal dive shop. It was the first time that I've been in a shop with an attached, indoor pool. Very nice! George is a patient and talented instructor. He put up with many hours of newbish questions, walking us through thought processes, and the numerous personal blunders. And the team.... Being familiar with the other members of J Team made the critical skills easier to deal with and made the overall experience that much more enjoyable.
On a parting note, I'd like to display a public service announcement from the "J Team". I pity the foo' who has to enter the water with George when he starts the dive by saying "Let's go for a swim..."