As a writer, sometimes you’re guilty of doing stupid things just for an interesting story to tell. Other times, your editor puts you in uncomfortable situations just so that you have stuff to write about.

Which explains why, on one fine Sunday morning, I found myself being pushed into the deep end – literally and figuratively – of the pool. More specifically, the pool at Outram Secondary School, where I was on a supposed “diving date” with Peter Ang Nielsen, 22, one of this year’s CLEO Most Eligible Bachelors and the world’s youngest Doing It Right (DIR) diving instructor with Unified Team Diving.

There’s a reason why I never joined my friends on diving trips, nor felt the need to get an open water certification even though most of my friends have one – I’m absolutely terrified of water. I was never a good swimmer, and that one time I went snorkeling at the fish tank in Adventure Cove, water seeped into my mask and I was convinced that I was going to drown. I ended up panicking and kicking the snorkel off my then-boyfriend, who was trying to rescue me. Not my proudest moment.

“Don’t worry lah, if you drown I’m a certified CPR giver,” Peter texted me the night before.

So back to the pool. Peter is giving me a peek into Unified Team Diving’s Try Dive Programme. The system that they’re using is a bit different from other common certification courses, supposedly because their criterion for dive instructors are stricter and adapted from the strict safety standards of cave diving. You can read more about it here.

“Eh I told you not to drink so much already right! Your back needs to be straight! Why is your core strength non-existent?”

One of the first things we did is to get my posture right. On a good day, I am capable of holding a plank for at least half a minute. But this was on a Sunday morning, and I was running on three hours of sleep because I was out drinking the night before. But there’s a good reason for this – in DIR diving, you’re taught to never ever touch the seabed because you might accidentally destroy the coral, hence the need for this superman, core-strengthening posture.

“So you put this into your mouth, bite on it, and then suck. Does it feel ok?”

Here’s another thing I learnt about diving that day. You actually spit into your mask and lick all the edges around it to prevent it from fogging up. Something to do with enzymes in your saliva. I know this because I told Peter that I was having that problem, and without warning, he took my mask and did an Ah Beng spit into it.


“Yah!! It’s legit!”


Peter keeping a watchful eye on me as I approach the 2.3m end of the pool, making sure that I don’t drown.

I’m not going to lie, being underwater is absolutely terrifying. And when you’re scuba diving, there’s just so many things to keep tabs on – your breathing, your movements, the visibility of your mask and equalizing (or in layman terms, un-popping your ears) when you feel your ears starting to hurt as you go another metre deeper.

But there’s also a certain zen that you get from being underwater. After a whole morning of Diving 101 with Peter, I definitely understood the appeal of strapping an oxygen tank to your back and exploring the deep ocean.

“All you see is pool tiles now, which is not very exciting. But just imagine going underwater and seeing all these beautiful corals, animals that live in another completely different environment, manta rays… Personally I love exploring wreck sites,” Peter told me.

Yay! I made it out alive!

Am I still terrified of the water? It’s hard to tell, because I was confined to a swimming pool and I knew I was in good hands with Peter. But the good news is, I’m in the midst of planning a trip to Sulawesi to try diving in open waters. My friends are currently very pissed at me because I refused to try diving for years, but all it took was a CLEO Bachelor to get me into (and under) the water. Sorry guys.

Diving gear courtesy of Deep 6 Gear.

Gifs: Arthur Lim