Everyone Should Scuba Dive!

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The Oceans. A magnificent creation that has fascinated mankind since the dawn of time. Many people enjoy the beach and find the waves crashing against the shore almost therapeutic. Some people at the beach go snorkeling to explore the hidden beauty that lies under the waves, and while many people are amazed at the fish and coral that can be seen while snorkeling, it can get better. A lot better.

A diver asending in Cozumel, Mexico

There is much more hidden under the blue waves than most people experience while snorkeling. The shallow water that people snorkel in is a great first step to exploring the ocean. And while marine life can be abundant in shallower water, much of that is smaller, juvenile fauna. There is less flora, or coral, in shallower waters.  The larger reefs are in deeper water, usually beginning at 35 feet, which is too deep for most people to snorkel in. In these deeper reefs marine life flourishes, as schools of a thousand fish can be seen. Fully mature adult fauna, with a wide variety of color and species, are waiting to be explored. While scuba diving, I have seen fish that have every color of the rainbow in front of my eyes, three feet away from me. A turtle swam with me for twenty minutes, as it was eating sponges and curious about me and my dive buddy. There are underwater coral mountains that are surrounded by life above you, below you, and right in front of you. Snorkeling does not come close to showing just how amazing the ocean actually is.

This is where scuba diving excels. Scuba stands for Self-Contained, Underwater, Breathing, Apparatus, and it is equipment that allows you to explore the underwater world in ways that you could not before. Scuba diving requires a good bit of gear, starting with a tank that holds the diver’s air. A regulator, which connects to the tank, controls the flow of air from the tank and is how the diver breathes. The buoyancy control device, or BCD, is a vest that holds the tank and regulator and can be inflated to control your buoyancy.  These items, along with a mask, fins, and snorkel, are the basic scuba gear. 

Full set of scuba gear.

Being scuba certified from a trusted dive agency lets a diver safely witness the awe of the deep blue. Getting certified opens up many future experiences, which may include diving on a World War Two ship, seeing a turtle snacking on sponges, swimming through an ancient cave system, watching sharks sleep, and much more. Scuba diving is not limited to just the ocean, as lots of freshwater diving is available, but saltwater is my favorite.  Everyone should get scuba certified, as too many people are missing out on the true beauty that is tucked away under the waves. 

There is no better feeling than breathing your first breath out of the regulator. As the boat slows to a halt, you make sure the air valve is open, put weights on, pull the BCD over your shoulders, have the regulator in hand, and slip the mask and fins on, and you’re ready to dive. 

“The pool is open!” a divemaster will yell, letting you know that it is o.k. to splash.

As you sit up on the edge of the boat about to do your first backroll into the underwater world, nerves run through your body, one filled with excitement and an eagerness to explore. You lean back and fall into the water and take your first breaths submerged. Once you gather your bearings and descend to the dive site, you feel like an astronaut, weightless. Hovering in the water the inner child in you comes out, and all you want to do is explore the great waters around you.  In my opinion, there is no better feeling. 

A blenny hiding in coral.

Diving can be spiritual, the sheer amount of beauty that you can see down there floating, in what feels like zero gravity, is unlike anything else. With literally thousands of fish in front of your eyes, different sizes, colors, and species, it is almost perfect there. It is hard to not feel more connected to nature, and closer to God. Reefs can be hidden gems, tucked away from most of mankind. When I see those perfect underwater mountains full of life, a perfectly coexisting ecosystem the way nature is intended to be, I find it hard to not be spiritually moved. Diving is a great way to take a step toward deepening your faith, spirituality, and religious beliefs.

Diving makes you feel like a young child again.  With an overwhelming amount to explore underwater, I always feel like I’m on some type of underwater expedition.  As a young child, I would watch the television show Jonathan Bird’s Blue World, a show that presented the underwater world with great accuracy, and I was eager to start diving as soon as I became 10 years old (the minimum age required by most dive agencies). My fathers’ generation was enticed into the sport by The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, a show led by the man who created scuba diving as it is now. My grandfather’s generation was fascinated with the black and white television show Sea Hunt, which followed an ex-Navy diver as he explored underwater mysteries, fought off bad guys, and saved lives, all while underwater. These shows really do create the expedition feeling when you dive. I am always searching for some special creature to find hiding in a crevice, whether it is an octopus hiding under a notch in a coral head, toadfish locked away in a nook of a World War Two vessel, or lionfish seeking shelter in a support beam for a train bridge. I am always excited about what I see whenever I turn my head.

A lionfish hiding in a train support beam.

Wreck diving is one of my favorite types of diving because I am constantly exploring. As you start the dive on the bridge of the ship and work your way down to the main deck, bow, starboard, etc., you can’t help but wonder what it was like when the ship floated and what was happening when it sank. When you are on the side of the boat you realize how big it actually is, as you are surrounded with steel walls that have been taken over by the sea, with abundant marine life all around. I find it fascinating how the ocean can swallow up a foreign object and make it home to so many creatures. Exploration is one of the reasons that I love scuba diving.

The Red Sea in Panama City Beach, Florida.

Another reason everyone should dive is that it creates awareness of how important it is to keep our waters clean. As a diver, I hate it when I see and pick up trash that doesn’t belong there. Many of the dive sites that we have today are only thriving with life because of conservation acts and people caring enough to throw their trash into a trash can, instead of the water. When a non-diver hears about the garbage patches in the ocean that are killing the ecosystem, they do not fully understand the impact that is being made to the ocean. When you Scuba dive you feel like you are a fish in the ocean, enclosed into their ecosystem you feel bad seeing pollution ruining the otherwise perfect creation. As you grow to love diving more and more, it hurts to think that we humans could be destroying something we love so much. Diving increases your appreciation for the ocean, and any other bodies of water you may dive in.

Trash found on a shore dive in Cozumel, Mexico.

Diving is a great family sport. Why enjoy the fun all by yourself when you can bring friends and loved ones with you. It is a well-known rule that solo diving can be dangerous without the proper special training, so it is an essential step for safety to have a dive buddy. Although you do not need one to get certified, and can almost always find a dive buddy when needed, having a  friend, family member, or partner as a dive buddy is something I would recommend. My father and I are dive buddies, we have been through every step of the journey together, from the first splash to seeing an octopus for the first time, to when we saw a rare albino nurse shark, we witnessed it all together. Countless memories have been made as we packed up our dive bags, and hit the road to take a dive trip. Diving is a great bonding experience, and always gives you something to discuss with your dive buddy, if it is asking how they did on-air consumption, or if they saw the juvenile angelfish you saw, it always leads to good conversation. And if you do not want to talk, or are afraid of arguing, it is avoidable by being underwater with a regulator in your mouth.

Rare albino nurse shark taken by Thomas Witthauer

Diving is a great experience. You get to see the world like no other way! Obtaining an Open Water Certification, commonly referred to as your C-card, opens up doors to a whole new underwater realm. Getting certified is not as hard as you think, in Knoxville, there are a few local dive shops that offer courses where you can get certified in just a couple of weekends. Although I love ocean diving, there are a few flooded quarries near Knoxville that are great for dive training, and just having fun. Alpha Divers is the local dive shop I love to do business with. Not only do you get expert class instruction from them, but you also have a great time as you get to know them more and more. The diving community is one of the best ones out there, as there is so much support for new divers, and divers tend to be friendly people in general.

Picture of Philadelphia Quarry, Tennessee.

Diving is a great hobby, one that I recommend to everyone. No matter how old you are, do not limit yourself from diving, as almost everyone can dive. Diving can be spiritual, as it can bring you closer to nature and God who created it all. Diving makes you feel like a child as you explore every dive site with curiosity. Diving creates awareness and love for our waters as we try to preserve this beautiful creation. Finally, diving is a great sport to make memories with friends and loved ones. It can strengthen relationships, or make new ones. Scuba diving is amazing and everyone should try it. Take Leap of faith, and you may end up getting hooked.