Tiny Bubbles Scuba School: Introductory Dive

Visibility: 60 feet.
Maximum Depth: 32 feet.
Duration: 48 minutes.
Wild Life: Over a dozen sea turtles and countless fish.
Not bad for my first ocean scuba dive.

About a year ago, at the grand opening of Umalu at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa on Maui, I had the good fortune of meeting Tim “Timmerz” Rollo, owner and dive instructor of Tiny Bubbles Scuba School, an SDI and PADI facility located at the Ka’anapali Beach Club just north of Black Rock on the west side of Maui. Having never been scuba diving before, I found it fascinating to listen to the enthusiastic way Tim described the adventure of scuba diving and the passion he conveyed while describing the experience of introducing scuba diving to new students.

Fast forward about a year later: Tim contacted me to see if I was still interested in learning how to scuba dive. With a few more scuba dive instructors on staff, Tim finally had the available time to meet with me about adding Tiny Bubbles Scuba School to 808 Reviews. We agreed that he would permit me to attend a full SDI Open Water Scuba Diver Certification course and I would create a series of articles about the experience and post them on 808 Reviews. Our first meeting would take place the following week at Tiny Bubbles Scuba School.

The Tiny Bubbles Scuba School makes its home at the pool side towel shack of the Ka’anapali Beach Club. For those of you familiar with Maui, that’s just off the “Low Road” in Honokowai. It’s very easy to find and I had no problem arriving on time. Tim gave me a quick tour of the facility, answered a few question I had about the cleaning process of the gear (it turns out they use Sterisol Germicide to keep the regulators in sanitized condition), and showed me which puka (storage shelf) to use for storing my gear while we were on the scuba dive.

After I stashed my backpack in my puka, we walked outside to Tim’s “office”, an umbrella shaded picnic table situated between the Scuba Shack and the beach. Tim explained how the training would take place, and briefed me on what to expect from the experience. We went over the liability waivers, a “General Liability Release and Express Assumption of Risk”, and a Medical History questionnaire. TIny Bubbles Scuba School is very diligent about making sure every one of their students is physically able and fit for diving. Because of the physical requirements of diving under water, it is extremely important that new divers have no physical challenges that could potentially harm them or diminish the amount of fun they might have. I filled out and signed both forms. Once the paperwork was completed, Tim began the class.

Rest assured, scuba diving doesn’t require one be in perfect physical shape. As long as you can breathe on your own, you can pretty much scuba dive. It helps if you can carry your own scuba tank from the pool to the beach, but Tim and his instructors have been known, under special circumstances, to carry tanks for students unable to do so. Of course, if you have any type of heart condition, breathing problems, back trouble, or if you’re pregnant, scuba diving may not be right for you. If you’re not sure, call Tiny Bubbles Scuba before you schedule your lesson and they will be happy to let you know if you need to bring a note (waiver) from your doctor.

The class was made up of three distinct parts: the class instruction, the pool dive, and the ocean dive. Tim used a flip book and some pictures to cover expectations, discuss the dive area, and explain basic hand signals. When scuba diving, the “thumbs up” sign doesn’t mean everything is good. For that, we use the “OK” sign or in Hawaii, the “Shaka”. When scuba diving, “thumbs up” means go to the surface.
The number one rule for scuba diving is “breathe”. So true in life, even truer underwater. It is very important, very critical, to breathe continuously when scuba diving. If you hold your breath, while you ascend under water, the air in your lungs will expand. This is not good. So, remember to breathe. Calm easy breaths. It’s easier than you may think.

Tiny Bubbles Scuba School limits the class size to maintain a Student/Instructor ratio of 4 to 1. SDI allows a ratio of 6 to 1, but Tiny Bubbles Scuba prefers the smaller size; it’s safer and also complies with PADI certification. For certain classes, depending on the specific needs of the students, Tim will increase the number of instructors or make private instruction available. Making sure that each scuba student learns how to safely swim underwater and enjoy the experience is Tim, and Tiny Bubbles Scuba School’s primary motivation.

For the SDI certification, there are four ocean dives that must be completed. The ocean dive that makes up the second half of this class counts as the first one.

With the paperwork out of the way and the classroom portion of the scuba class completed, it was time to “get tanked” and get in the water. As excited as I was to get started, I knew it was important to pay attention to my instructor and take my time. Tim helped me find a proper fitting mask and set of fins. He gave me a wetsuit to try on; it fit perfectly. A wetsuit needs a snug fit in order for the water near your skin to warm up. If the fit is too loose, the water has no time to warm your body and you might as well swim with it. If the fit is too tight, you won’t be able to move around when you’re swimming. The perfect fit is snug with room to move.

The pool at the Ka’anapali Beach Club is a salinated pool with means there is no chlorine. It somehow seemed much more appropriate for scuba diving. Under Tim’s instruction, and after I was comfortable in my web suit, I climbed the steps into the pool. The water was cool and clear. Tim showed me the best way to get a comfortable fit with my mask and how to put on my fins in the water. Even though we had covered them during the classroom part of the class, he reminded me of the tasks I needed to master before we could scuba dive in the ocean.

The tasks included:
1. Clearing or equalizing the pressure of your ears,
2. Clearing water from your face mask,
3. Removing the mouthpiece (and regulator) while under water and clearing the line before breathing again, and
4. Removing and releasing the mouthpiece while under water and clearing the line before breathing again.

While steps 3 and 4 may sound difficult, they are surprisingly easy, when approached in a calm and easy manner. That’s where the quality of your scuba instructor becomes very important. Tim explained, in very fine detail, what to expect when taking the mouthpiece out of my mouth while under water. And more importantly, what to do to clear the water out of the hose before breathing again.

Clearing your mouth piece is easy. You just say the word “two” into the mouthpiece. Now, some people are more comfortable saying “To” or even “Too”. They all work, it’s a matter of personal preference.

Tim asked me if I was ready to demonstrate the four tasks so that we could proceed with our ocean scuba dive. I was a little nervous, but I told him I was ready. Mask in place, I put the regulator in my mouth and followed TIm’s lead under the surface of the water.

Tim showed me the first task and then signaled that it was my turn. I plugged my nose and blew out. If the air pressure in my ears was uncomfortable, this would have equalized the pressure and eased the discomfort. Even though, at this depth, there was not a lot of pressure, this skill would be very important later in the dive.

Next, Tim cleared the water from his mask and signaled for me to do the same. I held the top of my mask to my forehead while I blew air out of my nose. If there had been water in my mask, this action would have caused the water to escape from the bottom of the mask, replaced by the air from my nose. If there is water in your mask, it makes it very difficult to see.

The next two tasks were a little scary; they involved holding one’s breath while taking the mouthpiece out. Following Tim’s example, I took a deep breath and held it while I removed the mouthpiece for a few seconds. I placed it back in, yelled, “Too” and began breathing again. It was easier than I thought, and I quickly learned how hard it is to smile with the regulator in my mouth.

The final task was to remove the mouthpiece, let go of it, find it again, and replace it into my mouth. With the confidence of completing the other three tasks, I took a deep breath and let go of my mouthpiece. Remembering Tim’s instruction, I reached behind me with my right hand until it came in contact with the apparatus. I quickly found the mouthpiece, placed it into my mouth, cleared it “Too”, and began breathing again.

Tim signaled for me to surface and we popped up out of the water. Tim congratulated me, told me I did great, and shook my hand. It felt great! I was learning how to scuba dive and the excitement of what I was doing was beginning to grow. Now it was time to put our knowledge to use.

We submerged and I followed Tim as he swam under the water towards the deep end of the pool. We swam a lap under water, watching the other swimmers near the surface. It was totally cool to be under water. I remembered, before I started Scuba diving, holding my breath in order to be able to reach the bottom of the pool. It felt pretty good to not have to hold my breath and still be able to cruise around.

I must admit that when we reached the bottom of the deep end of the pool, I freaked out just a little bit. Nothing major, just the realization that I was in the deep end of the pool and breathing under water! I had to “get out of my head” and just relax. Breathe. Breathe. I continued following Tim until we returned to the shallow end.

We surfaced, Tim congratulated me, and I smiled. . . a lot. I was quite excited and quite proud of myself. I didn’t realize that scuba diving was going to be this easy and this much fun. I could wait to get into the ocean.

Tim helped me remove my tanks. We would be using other tanks (with more air pressure, which means a longer dive) for the ocean dive. I removed my mask and fins, but left the wet suit on and we got out of the pool.

The new tanks were filled to 3,000 psi, and were a little heavier than I expected — about 40 pounds. Tim helped me put the gear on and handed me my fins and mask. He advised me to drink a few more cups of water, since I had mentioned that my mouth was dry after breathing under water. The compressed air is dry and it would be more comfortable to be more hydrated.

Once we were all set, we headed down to the beach. It’s a short walk from the pool to the dive spot. My excitement easily offset the weight of the tanks. Tim explained exactly what to expect once we entered the water. He definitely made sure I was well prepared and ready for the dive. Once in the water, we pressed the button to fill our buoyancy vests. Tim reminded me to lean back and let the vest do the work. I put on my fins easily with the assistance of the vest. Next, I put my mask in place, and we were ready to go.

We needed to swim to our dive spot which was little bit farther out. Still on our backs we kicked gently to propel ourselves along the surface of the water. Tim reminded me to keep my eyes on the buildings on shore. This ensured that we would be going in the right direction, and also kept our faces away from the splashing water. Not that splashing water is necessarily a bad thing, it’s just harder to breathe with water in your mouth.

After about five minutes, we arrived at the dive site and we were ready to go. Tim instructed me to place the regulator in my mouth, hold the release button to deflate our vests, and get under the water.

Once under, it was hard for me to sink further and get some real depth. Because I was a little nervous, my breathing was a little shallow. This caused my lungs to be a filled with air and this, in turn, made me float. Even with the weight of the tanks and a 14 pound weight belt, it seemed impossible for me to sink. Luckily, and by luck I mean being prepared for opportunities that present themselves, Tim had a few extra weights in his vest. He transferred the weights into the pockets of my vest. With the extra two pounds, and being a little more relaxed, I started to sink. Slowing my breath caused me to sink a little more. This made me relax and, you guessed it, sink even more. Nice.

I followed Tim around the reef and loved it. I looked around, side to side, up and down. I had snorkeled in this area before and it was nothing like this. Being this close, within feet of the reef, was amazing. From the surface, when snorkeling, the reef and marine life are not nearly as detailed. But from here. . . from here the colors were brighter, the images clearer, the marine life, well, it seemed more alive.

One of the most exciting parts of this experience was being up close with the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles aka the honu. In the years I’ve been on Maui, I have seen hundreds of honu while snorkeling, boating, and walking on the beach. None of these compare with being 30 feet under water and close enough to touch them. Of course, we didn’t touch them — there’s a huge fine. It’s also not a good idea, in general, to touch wild animals. We observed them from a distance, awed by their serenity and grace. I followed Tim’s lead as he signaled me to move close enough so he could take some pictures with his underwater camera.

I followed Tim; that was all I needed to do. I kept an eye on Tim and just enjoy my surroundings. It was incredibly peaceful. No television, no traffic noise. Just the tranquility of the ocean. From time to time, as we swam up or down, the water pressure in my ears needed to be adjusted to make them more comfortable. Even though I had practiced in the pool, it was a little more difficult to do in the ocean. It took me about three times before I was successful. Happily, by the end of the dive, equalizing the pressure had become very easy.

The first few times I cleared my ears, the movement of pinching my nose caused some water to leak into my mask. This provided the perfect opportunity to practice removing the water from my mask. I pressed on the top of my mask holding it to my face while I blew air from my nose. The increase in air volume pressurized the water out the bottom of the mask. The mask rode a little higher on my face and I had to reposition the mask, but the water was gone and I could see clearly again.

Tim must have noticed me as I was adjusting my mask and signaled for me to follow him to the surface. Once there, he asked me how my mask was feeling. His genuine concern for my comfort was true sign of what makes him such a great teacher and dive instructor. We made a minor adjustment to the mask, but truth be told, the little bit of water that trickled into my mask was not a big deal. I told this to Tim and as long as I was fine with it, so was he.

We submerged again and returned to the bottom of the ocean. This time, my breathing was more relaxed, and it was much easier for me to sink. I was thoroughly immersed (pun intended) in my surroundings. I lost track of time. lost track of position and was extremely glad that Tim was there. We continued our dive, taking pictures with the underwater life. I touched the bottom of the ocean 30 feet below the surface. Picking up the sand 30 feet below the surface was in incredible experience, “way better” than touching the rough bottom of the swimming pool.

Before too long, Tim signaled me to show him the dive meter that showed how much air was left in my tank. He looked at the meter and signaled me that it was time to surface. We had been underwater for more than three quarters of an hour. Amazing how quickly the time flew. We returned to the surface and inflated our vests. I lowered my mask to around my neck, so I wouldn’t drop it in the water, and followed Tim back to shore.

Out of the water, the weight of my tank was very noticeable and it took me a while to get used to being on land again. I was tired, but barely felt it. I was still in awe of the underwater experience. It’s hard to remember walking back to the Tiny Bubbles Scuba School scuba shack, but the dive itself is still vivid in my mind. There are three dives left for my certification, and I very much looking forward to the experience.

Tiny Bubbles Scuba
3350 L. Honoapiilani Rd. #214-481
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808)870-0878 phone
(808)442-0744 fax
www.tinybubblesscuba.com
info@tinybubblesscuba.com

Tiny Bubbles Scuba
About Maury Hoffman |Things to Do on Maui | Restaurant and Activity Reviews

Senior Editor of 808 Reviews and freelance travel writer, Maury Hoffman lives on Maui with his familiy, iPad, iPhone, and other gadgets. His writing proficiency is directly related to the quality of his morning coffee. He prefers Peet's Coffee, but also enjoys Living Java.

Tiny Bubbles Scuba