Under the sea

by Tim O’Bryhim | Photography: courtesy of Adventure Sports

Human beings dream of flying. Who hasn't imagined soaring through the clouds? It is a desire that will never be achieved in the air. Thanks to scuba gear, however, you can come close. This secret thrill is shared by the thousand or so active scuba divers in the Wichita area. And it's a secret that anyone can be let in on.

Like any hobby or sport, scuba diving has its own special lingo. If you were to hang around the Doo-Dah Dive Club, the most prominent diving organization in Wichita, you would likely hear people throw around terms like Buoyancy Control Device and dive computer. Yes, you can take a computer underwater. But before you strap your laptop to your swimming trunks, you'll want to educate yourself.

Rob Blake, service manager at Adventure Sports in Wichita, estimates that the cost of taking up sport diving is comparable to taking up golf. A sport diver will explore fresh or saltwater down to 130 feet, though typically staying between 30 and 80 feet. More accomplished divers interested in diving in underwater caves or below 130 feet are known as technical divers. This takes more advanced training and more complex gear with backup systems. The vast majority of divers never pursue this route.

Taking up sport diving requires a certification. I's about 20 to 25 hours of training, says Blake.

Adventure Sports and other scuba dive companies use Oronogo Lake in Missouri as a training ground for new divers. You will likely end up there if you take scuba lessons. This old lead and zinc mine eventually filled up with spring and rain water and now offers a controlled environment down to depths of 230 feet that allows scuba newbies to learn their new craft.

Places like Oronogo are where new divers will learn how to best use the aforementioned Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) and their dive computer. The BCD is used to add or release air to allow you to remain at a certain depth or ascend and descend. The dive computer is used to measure the time and depth of the dive. Now you can throw around these fancy terms yourself.

When you scuba dive, you are breathing pure, filtered and dried compressed air. You'll either be wearing a wet suit or a dry suit. A wet suit allows water between the neoprene rubber suit and your body. That water becomes warm, thus keeping the diver warm. A dry suit, as you might guess, does not allow any water in between the suit and the body. Thus, it keeps you warm by keeping you dry.

Most people interested in scuba are more likely to think of warm, crystal clear waters in tropical places than lakes in Missouri. Since the buddy system is integral to sport diving, it makes sense that scuba divers often travel in groups together to diving destinations around the world.

Organized trips to Cozumel, the Bahamas, Belize, and Fuji set out from Wichita on a regular basis, says Blake.

It was on one of those trips that Blake encountered the sort of thing that makes scuba diving such an enjoyable activity.

It was a so-so dive off Cozumel. We heard dolphins somewhere in the vicinity. Then, all of a sudden I turned around and they were staring us in the face, blowing bubbles. Then, just like that, they swam off.

Who wouldn't want to fly through the water with dolphins?

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