A two hour lecture on the boat followed and the guys, especially Casper enjoyed the French toast that Lesley dished out, the guys had skipped breakfast so that they could do the breathing exercises on an empty stomach. During the lecture I broke off at one point and introduced the guys to real ocean diving, we all jumped in with only swimming costumes on and made a few descents to the bottom plate at about 7m. It can be quite daunting to jump off a boat in a known shark area with not a single piece of equipment, and not having the 'safety in numbers' sense of security to draw on either. I singled Casper out to do the first plunge by himself, he looked like he was up for anything and he never hesitated. Everybody loved the real contact with the water, and got to feel the true pulse of the ocean, as vulnerable as one really is just then. Bernard who has zero body fat wasn't too keen on this part, but he still got it done.
We went back to shore and had a leisurely lunch at Bertha’s, the Malva pudding and ice cream is real athletes food!
The afternoon session we got down to some good old fashioned CNRRD work, my past students will give a collective smile when they think of how effective the” machine” works. We dropped Mrs. Jones to 7m and I had the team of 5 run the machine for a full hour and a half. There were obvious stoppages in that period but for the most part the team kept the machine up and running like clockwork, I was really impressed with the commitment and work ethic shown by this group.
Here Derek showed his strength which was evident throughout the course, he was solid and a good anchor to work off, that was why I used him to start the machine whenever there was a stoppage. At one point I reduced the operating number to 4 so that everybody could feel how a slight change in tempo could seriously alter the intensity and effect your state. Again Bernard seemed a little uncomfortable, but I knew his time would come, there were subtle signs that he had his strengths which were not yet getting utilized.
At the end of the session, we decided to finish off with a 6 way mask swap at 12m. I joined in and it was absolutely amazing to feel the energy of the group as the masks went around, the collective energy at the bottom really brought an inner smile to me. I created the ‘machine’ exercise in 2003 and it never ceases to amaze me, every time I use it I watch divers transform in front of my eyes. Obviously it is not only the exercise, there is a lot of prep work that needs to be done first, but while they are doing it effectively, in a space of half an hour you can see them developing an important skill which will stay with them for the rest of their diving career. I had a funny little moment here with Matt, he has been growing in his breath-hold over the past two months that he has been working with me, and I have watched him grow in confidence, skill and ability.
Whenever I participate in the deeper mask swaps, I have a habit of not putting my mask back on immediately as it prevents me from seeing what my divers are doing if I am also busy clearing my own mask, once they have all left for the surface, I then replace my mask and come up. On these last two dives Matt was waiting for me to do the clearance and returning with me to the surface, so on this dive I decided to mess with him a little, and when he waited for me after everybody had already left the bottom, I made an elaborate show of relaxing into a long apnea... it took Matt about 3 seconds flat to realize the game was up... we had a good laugh about it the next day.
Then on Sunday morning we met at Blue Rock Quarry. We had a nice easy start with some relaxed stretching before I put the guys into 10m of water to work on their travelling skills. We also did some more duck dive work. Some of you will know how much emphasis I place on the first 6m and the last 6m and the duck dive in particular.
We broke for lunch and watched a few videos of freefalling technique and the guys were all keen to catch a nap so we just chilled for an hour after lunch.
Back in the water I decided to let Bernard dive first, and boy did he come to the party, he strung a really beautiful dive together technically and was really natural. Next up was Casper, his dive was very business- like, I needed to remind him of his head position and to stop kicking for the free fall, aside from that, he was very strong, I think that once he gets a better wetsuit he will be even stronger. Matt's dive was too easy, and I think he was a little put out that I never allowed him to dive deeper, he definitely can go way deeper, and he will soon, but as I pointed out to him, while he is still learning to make good diving decisions, I need to make them for him. Derek was up next, and in his unfazed way, he cruised down like a Sherman tank would if it were a submarine, it really is awesome to see such a big guy move properly and effectively through the water, in his reliable way he executed each individual skill really well and the result was a dive that really brought a smile to my face. It always feels good to see your students buying into your way of doing things and then seeing them do well when they execute the skills properly. Jason was up next, his inexperience showed on the first dive a little, but by his second dive, once he’d got the monkey off his back, he looked relaxed, executed his skills well and strung a great dive together. I think with more water time he is going to grow into a strong diver. The final results of the day was that each of the student divers went down to 30m and they all made it look easy in their own way.
It was really cool how everybody just got in the water and got on with it, every single student applied themselves 100% and they committed to doing things the way I had taught them. I really look forward to working with this group into the future, we have plans to to penetrate the Houtbay and Smitswinkel wrecks when their skills and experience levels are up to scratch.
I would like to thank Lesley Rochat for supporting me with my first course on the Pelican this weekend and Terry Corr for assisting with boating duties.
View a video Matt Stow put together of the weekends course: