Ivan's First Dive (May 2011)

by Natalie Novak

My husband's first dive experience was horrible. It did not matter that he had wanted to try scuba diving for as long as he could remember. It did not matter that he had been a competitive swimmer in high school, or that he worked in water sports and rescue at the time. The big dive operation in the all-inclusive hotel where he worked had left out something that no amount of comfort in the water, or great physical conditioning could overcome: They never taught him how to equalize his ears, in English or in Spanish. They had explained how to do it only in German.

When I moved to Playa del Carmen to be with my (now) husband, he knew that I was crazy about two things: him and scuba diving. He also knew that I was working towards becoming a professional diver. He loved water, sailing, snorkeling and swimming. After a while I found it odd that someone like Ivan who really loved water did not show any interest in scuba diving, especially when he was living with a woman whose life seemed to revolve around it.

It was not until I was studying to become a scuba instructor that Ivan told me about his first dive experience. Years before we met Ivan had worked as a sailing instructor in an all-inclusive hotel with well over a thousand rooms. He convinced some of the guys in the hotel's huge dive center to let him join their introductory class. Unfortunately the class was in German, but the instructor told Ivan that the briefing was not important, and all he needed to do was copy everything the instructor did. So Ivan practiced some skills in the pool with about 12 other people, then went out on a boat and descended down a line with several other students and their instructor. A few feet down he felt pressure in his ears and signaled the instructor. The instructor touched the nose-pocket of his mask with his thumb and forefinger and Ivan did the same. Then the instructor continued the descent and the pressure turned to pain in Ivan's ears. Each time Ivan signaled the instructor he had a problem with his ears, the instructor had him touch his nose and continue his descent.

Ivan endured