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Steve Lunetta: An ode to diving

Posted: August 19, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 19, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

Scuba diving. The word SCUBA itself is an acronym for "self contained breathing apparatus" — a reference to the gizmo that makes breathing underwater a possibility.

For years, we have seen scuba divers in movies and television. James Bond rising out of the surf in scuba gear only to peel off his wetsuit to find a tuxedo underneath for the dinner party on his agenda.

The terrifying scene in Jaws where Hooper is in scuba gear in the shark cage only to have Bruce the Great White Mechanical Shark tear it to shreads.

Even in the most recent Star Trek movie, we see Kirk and Bones diving down to the submerged Enterprise with just a simple, high-tech breathing regulator in their mouths.

I suppose the glamour of scuba is partially what attracted us — also the adventure of seeing what lies beneath the waves. Add in a little danger.

Let’s also not forget the slimming effect of the wetsuit on a middle-aged body.

Recently, my two oldest boys and I decided to become certified divers.

But how does one begin?

Our good friends over at Sport Chalet on The Old Road have the answer. They are a PADI 5-star diving training center. That means they know what they’re doing.

We slapped down our money and started the process. Sport Chalet has a cadre of excellent and experienced dive instructors.

Our lead instructors, Bob and Karl, had about 100 years experience between them. I think Karl dove with Jacques Cousteau and Bob was on the Nautilus. Yeah, the one with Captain Nemo.

Scuba diving is an exercise in controlled fear. You are asked to do unnatural and scary things. Like believing that Obamacare will really be good for our country.

Forcing yourself to breathe underwater is the first big step.

The first rule in scuba diving is to never hold your breath. That is because compressed gas in your lungs will expand as you rise to the surface causing your lungs to explode. Oh, goody.

Next, they will ask you to throw away your regulator (that’s the thing you breathe with) then go find it. While you are dying.

"No problem" says Karl "just sweep your arm down and you’ll find it."

As panic starts to set in, I sweep the arm and ... there it is! The regulator! I live!

Other drills have us remove our masks underwater, breathe off someone else’s backup regulator, and swim to the surface while mimicking loss of air (the dreaded CESA). All exercises in fear management.

The gear is also quite entertaining. By the time you don a wetsuit, gloves, boots, fins, bouyancy compensator, tank, octopus, two regulators, dive computer, lead weight, hood, snorkel, and prescription goggles (I am totally blind), I weigh about an extra 70 pounds.

The feeling of claustrophobia is nearly overwhelming. All of this gear makes you feel like you cannot move and that it will contribute to your demise. A hideous demise, at that.

But the excellent classroom training kicks in and you remember how the equipment works. With experience and time in the water, the claustrophobia recedes and you begin to work in concert with the gear. The gear is your friend.

Once the pool training was finished, we did our first ocean dives. Aboard the dive boat Cee-Ray, we traveled to Catalina and anchored off the coast. All of our hard work was about to pay off.

Stepping off the deck of the boat, I fell into a world that I can hardly describe. A world where sunlight is filtered into greens and blues that shimmer off plants and animals that are never seen at the surface.

Seeing these things on television is one thing, but to see them up close and touch them is something entirely different. The lobster on your plate at a restaurant is the same beast that peers at you from a crevice in a rock. He still looks tasty.

We completed our exercises and drills and returned to the dive boat where our instructors anointed us certified divers. We had accomplished something that helped us to master our fears, expand our world view, and make us stronger people.

If this is something that is on your Bucket List, go over and see the good folks at Sport Chalet. They will help you see a whole new world!

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita but wishes our city was on the ocean. Well, with global warming, he won’t need to wait long. He can be reached at slunetta63@yahoo.com.

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