Friday, 22 May 2009

Diving Characters #4: The Koreans

Korea seems to keep a lot of things secret from the world; intercontinental ballistic missiles, human rights abuses, stuff like that. Maybe I'm tarring the South with the North's brush, but I'll generalise anyway. I, and many other divers, believe we should have kept scuba diving secret from them. They're bloody useless at it. I met a Divemaster in Ko Tao last year who told me she charges more to lead Koreans on dives, as their general incompetence puts them, and sometimes others, in danger. Her boss got sick of the extra charges one day, and asked her to escort some Taiwanese on a dive. She hit the roof on the boat when she'd asked which part of Taiwan they were from...Seoul not being part of Taiwan.

They just take a lot more looking after, and you end up swimming along holding onto some part of their equipment to prevent them shooting up to the surface and getting the Bends. Or even worse, dragging someone with them. They are not usually good swimmers, and think that the inflator button on their BCD (a diver puts a little air in this jacket's bladder to offset his own weight, and that of his equipment, to achieve a state of neutral buoyancy underwater...floating apparently weightless and effortlessly) should be used like an elevator button. The correct way is not to touch it once you have achieved this desired state, and use your lungs to move up and down as you swim; inhaling will make you more buoyant, and you rise...exhaling will see you slowly sink. It's a skill which takes some divers a while to master, but it's the most important in diving.

Just one diver bucked this trend; I was very impressed by a young lad called Ben, who'd done his Open Water a month ago. Meeting him at the shop, I thought we may have our hands full that day...we already had a Filipino couple named Karina and Kristian diving with us who were problematic at times; Kristian was always taking photos and ignoring pleas to stick near Karina in a buddy team. Meanwhile Karina was doggy-paddling underwater and using her inflator too much. One occasion she went all the way to the surface, luckily not from too deep.

First dive out, we dived the East Tangat wreck. It's stern lies in around 6m of water, and she angles sharply down at 45° to around 25m. Not a tough dive, she's only small. There's a couple of places to get inside, and it's open and light. Some nice corals and fish life abound, and we set off to check it. Karina is what I have come to term a "Reg Grabber", in other words she is always keeping her regulator in her mouth to ensure it doesn't come out; despite the moulded silicone mouthpiece having pieces for your teeth to grip to prevent this. It's a sign of underconfidence. She was up and down like a Dutch whore's knickers, and crashing into delicate corals...actually using the edge of the wreck as a bannister as we swam. I was relieved when Artur took the two of them and indicated to me I could take Ben off on my own. Easier immediately. Ben was comfortable in the water, great buoyancy control...a pleasure to dive with. I shook his hand after we got out and told him to consider doing the Advanced course as soon as he could. At Barracuda Lake on the next dive, he went one better when Kristian went to take a photo of him. Indicating for Kris to wait, he sat on a rock, took off his mask, popped out his regulator...and grinned for the camera. I was laughing to myself: very confident diver.

So, in the main, don't dive with Koreans. Unless it's a friendly young bespectacled chap called Ben.

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