Diving into a new sport

“Teaching the art of diving since 1978,” the Blue H20 Sports Inc. was back in Fort Frances last week to train a new batch of scuba diving enthusiasts.
The Northern Ontario unit of the Port Coquitlam-based company was offering a scuba diving course here for the fifth year. The other units operate across northern British Columbia, the Prairies, and southern Ontario.
Teaching four “levels” of scuba diving (Open, Advanced, Rescue, and Dive Master), the “schools” are able to accommodate divers of various skill levels.
All 11 of the students here were taking the “Open” level course, coming to the sport as beginners. It was split into afternoon and evening sessions.
But instructor Harvey Andrews said he did not mind having all the beginners. “These are the ones we like . . . . It means people are getting into the sport,” he noted.
The five-day course taught all the scuba basics, eventually leading up to diving in open water. On Wednesday, the students learned to breathe with a respirator in the Sportsplex pool, as well as learning safety procedures such as “buddy breathing” and the “tired diver tow.”
Then last Thursday, the class went out to Pither’s Point Park and practiced swimming with their tanks in fresh water.
“Suiting up” immediately was followed by the “buddy check,” where divers check the straps, buckles, release valves, and BCDs (buoyancy compensator devices) of their diving partners since it is difficult for a diver to check the considerable amount of equipment on their backs once they’re suited up.
After suiting up, the class performed safety procedures, followed by some diving time using their respirators.
Friday was much the same routine as Thursday, when the divers polished up their skills in preparation for the written exam Saturday. The exam would be preceded by the divers’ first open water dive at Bad Vermilion Lake near Mine Centre.
“It’s a good course. Everyone else in my family has taken it,” said Heather Johnson, 14, adding she had gone scuba diving before but wanted to get her “Open” level certificate.
On Friday, the class did not seem too nervous about their test, being fairly confident of what they had learned. “It’s going to be okay,” said Johnson.
Dean Wallace, another of the course instructors, also seemed confident in the new divers.
“At first, everyone has the same problems–mask clearing, getting used to the respirator–but by the end of the week, you can’t keep them out of the water,” he said.
The bad points of the course were wet suits and murky water.
“These are not very comfortable,” student Adam Cumming said after he found out how very hot the suits got after just a few minutes in the sun.
“Visibility was terrible,” noted fellow student Rich Magel after the group explored around the docks at Pither’s Point. But the class tolerated the murky water since they looked forward to the clear waters of Bad Vermilion.
The weekend turned out very well for the class. Not only was there warm weather–and clear water filled with fish to swim in–but all the students passed the course.
Johnson was happy to have passed, and said she would recommend it to anyone. “It was fun and interesting,” she noted.
Jay Cuthbertson, who helped out Andrews and Wallace, also recommended the course highly.
“You get to learn all the necessary skills,” said Cuthbertson, who has trained with H20 Sports for several summers, passing the first three levels of training.
“It’s a lot of fun and really informative,” added the aspiring “dive master.”