The thing I love about diving is that you never stop learning. If you think you know it all, you're wrong. Just when you're taking a nice relaxing dive for granted, you can be tested; the training is all on the job, every immersion.
A friend from London visited me, and she'd done some diving in Thailand before heading out to see me here in Coron; she's got the diving bug pretty bad. We'd done a couple of easy wrecks before heading for the Akitsushima, a slightly deeper ship. All went well for the first few minutes, I kept checking over my shoulder to see Lisa (not her real name, but she feels embarrassed about the incident, despite me telling her not to be: these things can happen to anyone) and the Slovenian fella I was guiding were behind me. Suddenly Lisa was swimming towards me frantically, pointing to her regulator, shaking her head and whimpering. She was wide-eyed, and tried to ascend. I had to react quickly to stop her going straight up, and didn't want to get her to switch to her reserve regulator, as she was panicking; maybe this would make her worse? On the surface she told me she'd had water coming in, and had panicked. I could have reacted differently, in retrospect, but the main thing is to make sure a diver is safe. Lisa swore she'd never dive gain, she'd been so terrified. H convinced her to do the second dive though, and Lisa's since fallen in love with diving again after visiting Boracay. I was just relieved a mate was OK.
The job can be stressful at times: you're constantly having to calculate how quickly a diver is consuming air, and figuring out if they are mentally prepared for a tight swim through a propeller shaft. It's a challenging environment at the best of times. And sometimes you make the wrong decision.
I've worked freelance this season, and was out with another dive operation with three divers: one Finnish DM, and two novices from the same country. The DM had told me he was a technical diver and wreck specialist, so when one of the younger lads burned through his air I indicated I'd take him up and the other could stay a few more minutes around the stern shotline. I was soon to rue this decision. I'd imagined that, as a professional diver, the DM would keep an eye on the inexperienced lad. Not that it was his job, it was my responsibility, but all the same. They didn't stay together coming up, and the young lad was soon floating up to the surface far too quickly. I swam rapidly towards him and brought him down to a safe level and made him stay a few minutes longer to try to compensate for his rapid ascent. The lesson learned?: Don't expect a fellow pro to do your job for you.
I had a nasty incident with a bad air fill on another dive, while guiding an old Frenchman named Nardy. Akitsushima was beginning to become something of a bogey dive by now. As I dropped into the gloom, sunlight disappearing behind me, the air tasted a little metallic. Not wanting to abort the dive for the sake of the customer, I decided to see how it went. At 32 metres, my blood was pounding in my head, and I experienced similar effects to those at 60m on Apo Reef. I grabbed hold of the wreck and indicated to Nardy that we had to go back up. Quite a horrible morning. The lesson from this one was to check your air is breathable before going down below. Thankfully the Bad Ju-Ju didn't start once we'd got inside the wreck itself: that would have been a nightmare. Bad trip inside a sunken ship? No thanks...