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September 28, 2011

Diving Out with Pulse

Learning to Scuba Dive in Wichita

Heather Bohrer

by Cory Theobald
Pulse Team Member

When I was in high school I had the opportunity to spend several weeks in Australia, and while I was there I got to see the Great Barrier Reef. We spent a day out on the reef, and while I did get to see some incredible sights while snorkeling, I’ve always wished I’d gotten certified to scuba dive before the trip. So, this summer I decided to go with a friend to get certified, so that the next time an opportunity like that came along, I wouldn’t be kicking myself afterwards for having let it slip by.

Scuba diving is a highly safe activity, so long as you know what you’re doing. If you try to dive without proper training, you can get into trouble quickly. There are a number of organizations worldwide that train and certify scuba divers, but the largest is the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). PADI has some of the best training available, and its certifications are recognized worldwide. At this point you might be wondering where to earn a certification; Kansas doesn’t exactly have a lot of beachfront property. Well, believe it or not, the Wichita area has not one, not two, but three dive shops, all of which offer PADI certification: Adventure Sports (where I went), Pro Ski and Scuba, and Amber Waves Diving Co. in Augusta.

So, now that I was ready, what did it take to get certified? First, the bad news, there’s homework. Before the first scuba class I had go through a course book and a video that tells what is involved in diving. It covered all the basics from equipment, to hazards, to dive planning, and even basic underwater navigation. Once that was done it was time for class, where the instructor (who in my case happened to be KSN meteorologist Dave Freeman, kinda cool, no?) reviewed what we’d learned in order to make sure we fully understand it.

Now, it was finally time to get in the water. So off we headed… to the pool. Our first dives were “confined water” dives. The pool offers the best environment to learn in without worrying about things like current, temperature, or low visibility. Our first two days were spent in the pool learning what it was like to breath underwater, how to use our equipment, what to do in an emergency, and all the basic skills we’d need before we took on open water.

So, now that our pool work was done, we were ready for “open water”. However there was still that pesky “no ocean” problem I mentioned before. But, just because there isn’t an ocean, it doesn’t mean there isn’t water. It’s just a short drive to Joplin, MO and you can find an old zinc mine (said to have been the largest of its kind in the world) that has been flooded to create a 14 acre lake reaching over 200 feet deep. At the lake we practiced many of the same skills as during our pool dives, but this time we were more than twice as deep and dealing with all the issues (current, temperature, visibility) that the pool didn’t have. At the end of our last exercise, our instructor held up a sign (we were still underwater), it read “U R a scuba diver”.

Now, after just two weekends, and a few hours underwater, I am a certified Open Water Diver. This is just the beginning, though. There are still more levels I can try for, from Advanced Open Water Diver, to Rescue Diver, all the way to Master Scuba Diver, or I could even take the “professional” track and become a Divemaster or an instructor. Plus, with a scuba certification, I can go almost anywhere in the world and explore what’s hidden just below the surface, from reefs to wrecks.

So, if you’ve ever considered learning to dive, I would encourage you to do it. And, if you’re never considered it, maybe you will now.

about the author:
Cory Theobald grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, and earned a degree in aerospace engineering from Case Western Reserve University. He then moved to Wichita to work for Spirit AeroSystems, where he is currently employed as a design engineer. He enjoys skiing, softball, quality craft beer, and fencing; a sport he picked up in college. He is also an avid reader, with Douglas Adams topping his list of favorite authors.

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