In 2016 I made the plunge and signed up for my first scuba diving class. While I’ve always been a child of the water, I never could have imagined that soon I’d be a hopelessly obsessed scuba diver.
My first open water class was both a terrifying and exhilarating experience. A week later I was diving a new site with a new friend, renting my first set of gear, and having my first ever scuba photos taken. From this point on, everything changed. I promptly returned to the dive shop and booked myself in for the next class, Advanced Open Water. But, why stop there? I was told that I could do the class in a drysuit if I did a drysuit checkout, and that I could add a Night Specialty. 3 days and 9 dives. I was psyched.
Within a month I was back in the water for my Advanced class, those mixed emotions of awe, terror, and exhilaration all bubbling together. Scuba diving was an entry into a new world. It took away the past, made me stop worrying about the future, and grounded me wholly in the present. There was simply nothing like it.
My instructor at the time, could see I was hooked and he said, “This is what us instructors live for, someone like you for whom diving changes everything.”
And, there was no doubt about it, everything had changed. From that point on, I took up on every opportunity I could. I signed up for the next Rescue course, I took the underwater navigator and search and recovery specialty, I joined a group heading up to charter a boat out of Tacoma. Where previously I had spent my weekends pondering exercise and wishing I could travel, now I spent just about every waking hour thinking about diving, plotting my next diving adventure.
Then, when my instructor recommended I read “Shadow Divers,” I discovered yet another realm of diving that seemed both terrifying and alluring. The world of technical diving. Deep wreck diving. Cave diving. Rebreather diving. While I didn’t foresee jumping on this bandwagon any time soon, I was in love. I read every scuba diving book I could lay my hands on. The possibilities for the future seemed endless, awesome, hair-raising, and life changing.
Since that fateful first class I have pursued as much training as possible. While nothing beats experience, obtaining the quick hacks that training offers, is a way to expedite learning and make diving safer.
In 2017 I completed my Divemaster training. Where many a tropical destination will certify their divemasters in a few weeks, our program laid the course out over a much longer period. This gave us many more opportunities to learn and help out with pool sessions and checkouts, and forced us to perfect our skills such that when it came time to demonstrate them, we’d be in excellent shape. To this day I am astonished that a divemaster can be churned out in only a few weeks. How could you possibly have the experience needed to safely lead others? Certainly not in Pacific Northwest conditions.
This year has so far been another whirlwind of learning. In January I became a certified Oregon Coast Aquarium volunteer diver. In June, after a rigorous two-month-long course of Scientific Diver training at OSU, a certified Scientific Diver, and this month, a technical diver, having completed my Decompression Procedures and Advanced Nitrox classes. While I have certainly been the driving force behind my achievements, I have had a huge amount of help from people within my community, another aspect of diving that really makes this activity special.
In the near future I look forward to pursuing my instructor training, and further technical diver training. All that’s left to do in the meantime is practice!