Friday, 1 May 2009

Here's How - Stephen Weir multi-story feature, published April 2009

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TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SCUBA DIVING IF YOU INTEND ON BECOMING AN UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHER

More people have taken pictures from inside the International Space Station than have dove down and taken photographs of the wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald. Lake bottoms, rivers beds and the ocean floor are truly the final frontiers.

If you use scuba gear to take pictures you must be a certified diver (there many levels and types of certification). It is estimated that there are about half a million people in this country who are active scuba divers … a growing number of them own cameras.

So, what does one need to know to join the growing rank of Canadians who live to spend time breathing air from an aluminum cylinder?

1. Age. Some scuba training agencies begin teaching students at the age of 10. Last year, Bert Killade, the self-styled “Last Pirate of the Caribbean”, died at the age of 94. Killade claimed to have been the oldest active sport diver.
2. Ability. You should know how to swim and be comfortable in the water. There are agencies that help non-swimmers with disabilities (from blindness to paraplegia) experience scuba.
3. Fitness. Divers come in all shapes, sizes and weight. However, a certain level of fitness is required to become a sport diver. You should be fit enough to get in and out of the water wearing a full scuba diving gear and be able to maneuver underwater.
4. Health. People that have severe health conditions or are taking certain medications may not qualify and should have a physical before taking lessons. There are a number of medical conditions, from epilepsy to severe asthma, that preclude diving.
5. How. Dive shops, scuba clubs, schools, pools and resorts around the world offer regulated scuba classes. Courses involve both classroom and in-water (usually a pool) instruction. You can take a weekend intensive training course, most however last one to two months and are taught on a weekly basis. New divers must complete up to six outdoor dives to receive certification.
6. How (part 2): The most popular agency is the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI). Other agencies include: National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), American Canadian Underwater Certifications, Inc. (ACUC), British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) Scuba Schools International, (SSI), World Underwater Federation (CMAS), and the Quebec Underwater Federation (FQAS).

7. When. Courses are offered year round anywhere there is a pool nearby. In winter many students take their course work here and take their open water tests at resort destinations.
8. Why. There are health risks associated with diving. Scuba schools give new divers the information and skills they need to avoid problems. Health risks range from decompression sickness, to lung expansion injuries to inner ear damage.
9. How Much. Scuba classes are affordable. Dive gear is not. Scuba classes in Toronto and Vancouver are less than $500 per person. A complete diver outfit, from flippers to wet suit, to tank will cost about $3,000.00.
10. Where. Divers seek out locations where the visibility is good underwater and there are things to see. Both the Pacific Coast and the Eastern Coast offer world class diving. Shipwreck sites in the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes are wildly popular. Canadian dive spots are typically cold-water sites and special suits may be needed to stay warm. Many Canadians avoid the cold by restricting their diving to tropical locations.

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