On a sunny Friday afternoon, I made my way to my nearest PADI dive centre. I was lucky enough to begin my diving adventure in beautiful Mallorcan waters.

Before fully committing to the course, I was able to participate in a ‘try dive’. If the experience didn’t agree with me, I would not be left with the full cost of the course. If I liked it however, the price of the try dive would be deducted from the course cost and it would be considered as my first open water dive.

As you may have guessed already, I thoroughly enjoyed my time and have since decided to complete the open water course.

I sincerely recommend that anyone considering learning to dive takes this route: the try dive introduces you to many new and somewhat intense experiences. It is always better to give it a try rather than commit to the course in its entirety, especially if you didn’t enjoy it.

The try dive began with a rundown of the equipment: how to assemble, what each component does, and so on. As someone completely new to diving, I listened intently and tried to remember everything I was told.

We were shown the very basics of dive sign language such as, “are you ok?”, “ascend”, “descend”, and “something’s wrong”. These were the first of many signs that would be introduced throughout the course.

We then suited up: a full-bodied wetsuit, wetsuit shoes, fins, mask and the BCD (Buoyancy Control Device). This houses the oxygen tank (called the cylinder), the regulator (breathing equipment), and the spare regulator (sometimes referred to as the ‘octopus’) which is there in the case of an emergency.

My heart was already racing as we each took a giant step into the water. Thankfully, it was not as bad as it looked and I quickly surfaced thanks to my inflated BCD.

Whilst in the relatively shallow water, I had to perform several skills to prove that I could continue the dive.

First, I had to clear my mask of any seawater that had flooded in. To do this you look up, hold the top of the mask against your face and blow out of your nose. The introduced air from your nose expels the water. I initially struggled with this; breathing out of your nose and not out of your mouth whilst underwater was difficult. Soon, however, I did it correctly and it was a skill that I used many times for the duration of the dive.

Next, I had to clear my regulator. If the regulator ever falls out of your mouth it will fill with seawater. When deep underwater, you need to know how to continue breathing from it. To do this, you simply breathe out of your mouth forcefully. Any water that was in there will be expelled and you can continue breathing as normal.

I was also given some training of how to use the BCD to attain neutral buoyancy i.e. when you neither sink or float in the water. This is a difficult skill to master and I am by no way fully competent yet. However, I did show that I knew how to adjust this in the case of emergency, and thus the dive went on.

Myself (left) and my instructor (right) practicing the basic techniques whilst in the shallows.

Now we were ready to leave the shallows and head to slightly deeper water. I stayed close to my instructor at all times but thankfully, I never needed his assistance.

We were taken across the sandy bottom of a Mallorcan beach. I saw hundreds of animals that I had only seen in books and on TV, from bright purple sea cucumbers, to vibrant orange sea stars. I was surrounded by hundreds of fish, of all different shapes and sizes. At the risk of sounding cliché, I was in another world. A world that has fascinated me for my entire life.

The best was yet to come. As we made our way along rock and sand, my instructor turned and signalled for ‘octopus’. I couldn’t believe it. I swam as quickly as I could and there is was. Hidden under a small rock, cryptic beyond measure. Had it not been for the sweeping tentacle outside its cave, I would not have seen it.

I started diving because it would be an incredible skill to have, and may open up many research opportunities. In addition to all this, it is a chance to see some of the most fascinating organisms on earth.

I did not, however, expect to see an octopus on my first dive. I was euphoric. That moment of coming so close to something that’s been a big part of my life for many years, is one that I will always remember.

I could have stayed there forever, but the dive had to continue. We traversed across rocky and sandy bottoms until it was time to turn back. Our SPGs (Submersible Pressure Gauge) were reading at approximately 125 bar; just over half of what we began with.

It is common practice to set a “turn point” in the dive so as to safely get back in time. Often, attempts are made to return with 50 bar of air left in the cylinder. This is reserve air, in the case of an emergency.

On my way back I got severe leg cramps. I did not know the signal for this. I rested a little until the pain subsided.

After surfacing, I was told by the instructor that it was because I was kicking my legs too much; I should swim in large strokes from the hips. I was also shown the hand sign for cramp in case it happens again.

That was the end of my first dive. It was a great experience and I felt so fortunate to be able to take part. I left the centre looking forward to my next lesson.

Written by Lucas King