My name is ___________, and I’m a Resort Course drop-out.” Although seldom acknowledged by others Certified divers, I’m sure I’m not alone. My first experience with scuba diving was at a Club Med in the Bahamas. At the time, they ran a 5 day course, 1 hr each day, that was basically an introduction to scuba. Upon completing the course you were given a Club Med diving card that would allow you to do resort dives at any Club Med. The course was run at in the Club’s idyllic lagoon that had a max depth of about 15 feet with the beach at one end and the remaining perimeter enclosed by a dock that had at least 4 ladders. There was about one instructor for every four students. The first hour was spent sitting on the dock learning the name of each piece of equipment and what it’s purpose was. Day two included donning and removing gear and a dry-run of mask and regulator clearing. On the third day we were in the water, waist deep and on our knees to give mask and regulator clearing a try. About half of us were unsuccessful and a few just wouldn’t do it.
At this point, as I learned in future experiences, it should have been explained that you can’t dive if you can’t master these skills. But, in the Club Med lagoon it just meant that if you get water in your mask or have any other problem, you were instructed to just swim to where you could stand up and with your head above water, remove and replace the mask and off you go. No worries. And so on day four we were all diving in the lagoon with an instructor always at arms reach. Day five, our final day, we were in the lagoon with just 2 instructors while the others remained on the dock. What a site it must have been as divers stood up to clear masks, spit out salt water and adjust equipment. And what a false sense of security we had thinking that we could now go on dives at any Club Med, anytime. Having never taken advantage as this was my last Club Med visit, I can only guess that other clubs had equally sheltered and safe lagoons for these “dives.”
My next Resort Course attempt took place about four years later in Cozumel. My husband, although not certified, had done many resort dives and I was anxious to join him for a dive in Cozumel. I passed the theory portion with flying colors. The skills “dry-run,” also no problem. I was also fine with getting the equipment on. Then, as I took the last step into the water it happened. I got nervous, felt weighed down, wasn’t comfortable with the regulator that was too big for my mouth, the mask that wasn’t keeping water out and as the instructor reached for my inflator hose, gave me the down signal and my head went under water, I couldn’t do it. I felt my hear racing and couldn’t seem to get a comfortable breath. I signaled that I wanted to surface. The instructor was very nice, said we’d wait a minute, take it slow and try again. I suppose I could and have done it, but at the time all that I wanted was to be on land. I wasn’t outwardly panicking or anything like that, but there was no way I was going to be diving that day. I took my gear off and watched my husband head out to the boat for his 2 tank dive trip.
Another four years passed before my next, and last Resort Course. We were in Australia and had booked a day trip with a dive and snorkel operator out to the Great Barrier Reef. It was a full-day trip with stops at three different reefs. Again, all was well through the classroom portion of the program. I donned my gear and sat on the dive platform with the other students as the instructor got everyone in the water one at a time to descent on the line and do mask and regulator clearing. When I knew that I was next, I started feeling a little nervous but I was convinced that I would do it this time. This could be my only chance to dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Well, in the water I went, and as soon as I was fully submerged, it happened again. Heart racing, regulator too big, mask not right… So, up I went. I did enjoy a nice day of snorkeling, but that wasn’t what I came for.
I finally gave diving another shot two years ago after my husband (finally) got certified. This time, I signed up for a full certification course. Considering my past experiences, which I was completely up-front about with the dive shop, I wasn’t so sure about buying the required equipment needed for the class, but I did. Although it took me 2 ½ pool sessions to master the mask clearing and removal skills, once I got past that all was well. I completed the course work and the pool sessions. Once I mastered the skills, had equipment I was comfortable with and knew how to operate, I was ready and excited to be a diver. My check-out dives were another story, which I’ll save for another day.
The point is, even a two time Resort Course drop-out can be a diver! In the two years since earning my C-Card, I’ve completed 75 dives, been on seven great dive trips and completed my Advanced Open Water certification. Although most resort course participants find them to be a great way to try and experience scuba before signing up for a full certification course, they aren’t for everyone. If you’re Resort Course experience didn’t lead to a successful first dive, don’t let that turn you off. I’m glad I didn’t because now, I couldn’t imagine my life without scuba diving.