Today is a pretty great anniversary for me.
This is the 10th anniversary since the day I completed my PADI Discover Scuba Diving Experience back in Palmdale, California on May 3rd, 2010. In the last ten years I have gone from never even having snorkeled before, to becoming a scuba diver, a public safety diver, a divemaster, a PADI Scuba Instructor, and a trip leader! I have been so lucky! I’ve met some really good folks, and by pure dumb luck I’ve had a lot of opportunities to experience new things underwater, increase my knowledge, and I have gotten to see some pretty amazing things.
But right now, I am thinking about that day I hopped into the pool and took my first breath while underwater. I think back on so much about that day. That first sensation of breathing underwater, how it was like every dream I had ever had about being able to breathe underwater, and how silly I felt that I finally understood how to equalize the pressure of my ears (and how simple it was) so I could just be at the bottom of the pool in comfort. If I close my eyes I can still feel that warm water around me, and sitting down on the bottom of the 12 foot deep pool. Even after 10 years I can remember just how frikkin’ cool it was!
I came up from the bottom of the swimming pool that day at the (now closed) Sport Chalet knowing that I was going to become a scuba diver. I had to figure out how to pay for it, of course and at the time I had no idea, but ya know what…it was important to me and I found a way (thanks MasterCard 💳.)
My PADI Open Water Scuba Diver class was a couple of weeks of awesomeness. I remember beating feet out of work on several weeknights, ’cause it was time to go to scuba class, baby! I remember the very first class, walking out to the pool deck and seeing what looked at the time to be this rat’s nest of hoses (not I know it was just a regulator, BCD, tank) and assorted other gear. Class was fun, but wasn’t dead easy. During one of our confined water sessions it took me a full 20 MINUTES to remove and replace my BCD at the surface. I remember thinking to myself “Thank god I’m done, at least I’ll never have to do THAT again!” (I’m a whole lot better at it these days.)
I finished Open Water in the next month, pieced together an entire scuba kit, and found myself a dive buddy who was as crazy about diving as I was. I could call Brian at 6pm on a Friday and say “Hey dude, wanna go diving tomorrow and he’d say ‘sure! I just need to go get my tanks filled.” And before you knew it, I was enjoying the dozens (if not hundreds) of shore diving sites around Southern California. We went diving off state parks, off Redondo Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes, Newport Beach, and we even tried an old dam up in the Antelope Valley. We even started our own website (of course).
My instructor was a great guy and he actually became the model of the kind of instructor I would want to be someday. He was funny guy, had lots of fun in and out of the water, was deadly serious about the things he needed to be, and perhaps most importantly, he really knew his stuff.
I met some other amazing people out there as I was learning how to dive and improving my skills. I had a few great instructors out in California, and I also met Ken Kollwitz who runs Channel Islands Dive Adventures was the very role model of how a dive professional should be.
After I moved out here to Maryland I did some volunteer work for my local Volunteer Fire Department, and Fletch and Christine Ferguson were great mentors. Under their tutelage I became a Dry Suit Diver, Public Safety Diver, Ice Diver, Wreck Diver, and a whole bunch of other certifications. I has opportunities to try many different kinds of diving. Of course, Fletch was my course director who prepared me for my Instructor Development Course.
I now run a little website called Dive With Frank (if you’re reading this you’ve probably heard of it,) and I am lucky enough to get to introduce new people to this scuba diving thing I love so much. During a normal year I get to teach all sorts of classes and lead trips for Columbia Scuba in addition to any other diving opportunities that may fall into my lap.
Even in the middle of this pandemic I’m finding ways to continue to teach people about scuba diving online.
So when you get an email from me and at the bottom I say “I really love this stuff”, make no mistake…I really do. Learning to scuba dive really changed my life. My free time, my vacations, and the definitely the place I retire are all going to take the idea of “so how’s the scuba diving there?” into account.
Thank you to everyone who has mentored me, and helped to keep me safe out there. I will continue to pay it forward.
Let’s all stay safe and healthy and I can’t wait to get back into the water!