As a dive instructor and the Greater Cleveland Aquarium’s Dive Safety Coordinator, PADI International Women’s Dive Day is a special time to share what I love. From my perspective, SCUBA diving has great value. It is a lifelong skill and a key to a hidden world. Diving also helps to build confidence, foster new relationships and cultivate a sense of independence.
What else is out there in the two-thirds of our planet covered by water? The sea provides a limitless number of new experiences. As a dive professional who does hundreds of dives a year, you may think I have become immune to the wonder and amazement diving provides, but I am constantly marveling over new sights and new interactions. For example, I was diving with sharks when a large, fully grown female tiger shark swam over to me, looking into my eyes with her massive ones before nudging me out of her way. Interactions like these, while being REALLY COOL, also cause a change in perspective. This mighty creature wasn’t interested in confrontation. We were able to coexist peacefully in her world. Intuitively, I knew she was not seeking to harm me but now I have lived it. I have had experiences many only dream of and from them I have learned to think for myself to form my own opinions. I now relish the times where my comfort level is exceeded by a large shark’s close encounter.
Diving is all about personal growth and development. In challenging you to do things you find uncomfortable and allowing you to struggle until you learn to put all of the pieces together, diving helps you build confidence. When teaching someone how to dive, there inevitably are skills that give each student difficulty. Coaching them through and past these difficulties is rewarding for both me and them. For example, the fundamental SCUBA skill of clearing your mask is not as simple as it might seem for new students. While it’s not a technically tricky skill, it requires mental strength to overcome the discomfort of having water on your face. This breakdown—when our brain tricks our body into panicking—must be controlled from within. This self-governing, self-control aspect of SCUBA diving sets a foundation for learning how to overcome mental obstacles in everyday life.
There is no strict phenotype on who can and cannot become a great diver. Historically, SCUBA diving has been a male-dominated industry. This needs to change. Women can become fantastic divers. Children (ages 10 and older) can become fantastic divers. You don’t have to be an amazing swimmer to become a fantastic diver. You don’t have to be wealthy to become a fantastic diver. You don’t even have to live near an ocean to become a fantastic diver. For SCUBA diving to continue to grow it must become more open and inclusive. For this reason, the Aquarium’s dive team wants to share our experiences, answer your questions, and encourage your participation in learning about SCUBA diving on July 21. Come join us!
– Halle Minshall