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Diver down — When Sound Dive Center says its business is underwater, that’s a good thing
Bea Ranum had always been curious of what was down under. So last year the East Bremerton woman and her two teenage children signed up for a scuba diving class together.
“My kids needed something that was fun to do,” Ranum said last week. “I always wanted to dive and they liked the idea of it.”
Now Ranum has been diving for a year and has been an assistant instructor for six months at Sound Dive Center in Bremerton. She is currently assisting with the basic open water class, which is in the midst of its program, and is designed for beginners to learn the basics of diving and to receive a National Association of Underwater Instructors certificate upon successful completion of the program.
The basic open water class is offered every month to those at least 10 years and older.
Ranum said she enjoys diving because it is calm and peaceful. Divers also don’t necessarily have to be good swimmers, she added, saying that she is not a very strong swimmer.
Good swimmers or not, people are interested in diving for a variety of reasons.
Adrian Smith, the instructor of the basic open water class, said that his students range from those that want to become commercial geoduck divers to those who want to learn because they plan to vacation somewhere tropical. Currently he has three former Navy personnel that registered separately and want to learn to dive recreationally, Smith said.
Naomi Word, a 27-year-old of Poulsbo, said she always thought that diving sounded like fun. With an upcoming trip to Cancun, Mexico planned, she and her husband decided to take the class and learn.
“I finally decided to pull the trigger and do it,” Word said, adding that she is scared to actually go out and dive because of the coordination and breathing aspects to it.
Her fear is certainly not abnormal.
Smith — who has been diving for nearly 23 years — first dove in a lake in the mountains of Alberta, Canada. It wasn’t a calming experience at the start.
“It was terrifying. It was murky. I couldn’t see anything,” he said. He added that many divers, especially beginners, tend to psych themselves out because there may be a “fear of the unknown.”
‘It’s tranquil down there’
The basic open water class is a 3-week program that meets two nights a week. There is an in-class portion at the center’s Bremerton facility as well as practicing with the dive equipment at a local pool.
The cost is $275 per person with an additional $75 for books and $25 for the certification card. The certification is for life, said Smith, adding that those who do not dive for more than a year may consider taking a refresher course.
The center also offers other classes in addition to the basic class including advanced open water, nitrox diving, dry suit certification and search and rescue. Whereas the advanced open water class teaches people to dive down to 130 feet, at night and how to dive in current, the basic class teaches diving down to 60 feet and during daylight.
And diving can be for anyone who has the will to try it.
Smith said that he knows a diver who has Type I diabetes and she takes off her insulin pump when she dives and puts it back on when she is out of the water.
Heartbeat, a nonprofit that serves wounded members from all branches of the military and their families, has a program called Scuba Warriors that teaches diving as a form of therapy. Smith said many people involved in the program come from Fort Lewis.
“It gives them another outlet,” said Smith, adding that many of the military members may be experiencing post traumatic stress disorder.
The calming experience that Scuba Warriors teaches their “wounded warriors” is something that Smith experiences every time he dives.
“For me, it’s a very relaxing, calming place. It’s tranquil down there,” he said.
Locally, Smith said his favorite places to dive include Les Davis in Tacoma, Point Whitney on Hood Canal and Harper Pier in South Kitsap. Aside from his nearby favorites, he enjoys diving at Chuuk Lagoon in Micronesia, which is about an hour’s flight from Guam, Smith said.
For Kitsap divers, Smith said that Harper Pier is a popular spot for beginners because it’s a shallow dive that isn’t more than 30 feet. There are two shipwrecks down below that can be seen as well as lots of crab, schools of juvenile salmon and piling perch, he said. The pier is about a 30-minute drive south of Bremerton.
The Seabeck Marina is another area that is good for new divers, Smith said. He added that because of the sunken debris that took down the marina in the 1990s, there is lots of marine life to see, such as ling cod.
Joe Jenkins, 32, said he is taking the basic open water class because his boss is into scuba diving and he wants to be certified as well.
“I want to go spear some fish,” the Port Orchard resident said.
For advanced divers, Smith said Les Davis and near the Warren Avenue Bridge are frequented spots.
“They are deeper, more current affected and require more advanced certification,” he said.
Ranum, who has only dove locally, said she has no favorite locations.
“Just anywhere I can blow bubbles I’m happy,” she said.
Sound Dive Center