Two men, four fins and a square metre of space

All of the trainees in the Class of 2013 were progressing well and we were feeling pretty confident with the progress we were making. That was until we reached theory lesson five!

In theory lesson five, amongst other things, we looked at the different ways to enter and exit the water. It was at this point we learned about the backwards roll entry off a small boat. Now when I signed up for my Ocean Diver course, I can’t remember gymnastic ability being one of the necessary competences. This thought also went through the mind of some of my co-trainees and it wasn’t long before a question was raised…

This underwater diving lark is disorientating enough, why would you want to compound matters through entering the water upside down and a bringing on a bout of self-induced tumbling dizziness??

‘Don’t worry’ said Roy, ‘It’s as easy as falling off a log.’

The concerned looks on our faces, told Roy he hadn’t been very convincing, and it was at this point a plan was hatched…

A few weeks later Kirsteen revealed that arrangements had been made for a small inflatable boat to be brought along to one of our pool training sessions. We were going to practice backward roll entries into the water – or falling off logs as Roy continued to insist on calling it.

Sunday 8th December. We arrived for our last pool session of 2013, and as promised, there was the boat – all polished and shiny (supposedly to make sure that any contaminants did not enter the pool water, however a more likely story is that our instructors wanted to make the boat as slippery as possible for their own personal amusement).

We kitted up and were allocated our buddy pairings. The plan was to:

  1. Enter the water from the side of the pool using a stride entry
  2. Descend, have a swim around and then fin up to the boat
  3. Take our kit off and put it into the boat
  4. Climb into the boat
  5. Get our kit back on
  6. Carry out buddy checks
  7. Enter the water using the much feared backward roll entry off the boat

Just 30 After a slick demonstration by experienced divers Matthew Roberts and Matthew Watson, Howard and Danny were the first pair up. The rest of us were ushered away to the other end of the pool to make sure that we couldn’t see the carnage that would ensue. I don’t know what happened on the boat with Danny and Howard, as what happens on the boat stays on the boat, but I do know that it was a long time before they re-entered the water. They seemed to have survived and looked none the worse for their experience, but they were not giving much away.

Phil and I were next up. We were sent to opposite sides of the boat. Phil was first to take his kit off and enter the boat. Frustratingly for me I was still in the water at the other side of the boat, I couldn’t see what was happening, but Phil seemed to get into it quickly.

It was my turn. Getting the kit off was ok, and I managed to get it into the boat with some help. Now it was time to get in. A couple of bounces in the water and I pushed up. It wasn’t pretty. Arms and legs everywhere and I ended up in a crumpled pile inside the boat – somewhat ironically like a fish out of water. It was at this stage I realised how small it was. Now Phil and I are fine figures of men, and it seemed like this boat was too small for one of us, never mind two. The next five minutes were the most exhausting five minutes I have had in ages. We fought for foot and fin space, both standing on each other’s time after time, whilst we both wrestled manfully to get our kit on. There was no room to move at all and we just kept banging into each other. We must have looked as though we had come straight out of a Laurel and Hardy sketch.

Eventually, we were ready and after our buddy checks the time had come for us to make our backwards roll entry. On the count of three we both fell backwards in perfect synchronicity off opposite sides of the boat. The feeling was great, and I bobbed back up to the surface beaming after a perfect 360 backwards roll. Roy was right after all – as simple as falling off a log. It was exhilarating.

Our final pairing to face the boat was Tracey and Maggie. My chivalrous nature prevents me from sharing details about their entries onto the boat, but their re-entries into the water were perfect and they resurfaced smiling.

That was it, all six of us had made it, and we had loved it. Ok, trying the same maneuver at sea might not be quite so easy, but at least we have had some experience that will help us to overcome any nerves that we might encounter before a real dive.

Thanks to Roy and Kirsteen for organising this for us – maybe a bit less polish on the sides of the boat next time though.

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