Updated: Jan 17, 2020
Ten years ago I took a plunge into a world I now can’t get enough of. I had just moved from Chicago, IL, to Sydney Australia to take on a new job. First on my bucket list - and what every one of my friends said I must experience - was SCUBA. Surrounded by countless reefs, stunning oceans and nearly year-round sunshine I got my PADI Open Water in Bondi Beach, and made my first trip to the Great Barrier reef. It was a weird yet wonderful experience that I had never really considered, but knew I had to try.
I’m now in the midst of Divemaster training at Coral Grand Divers on Koh Tao, Thailand. I’m putting myself through all sorts of skills and tests I never thought I would try let alone enjoy. For those considering trying - or finally getting serious with your diving - here are five reasons to consider taking the plunge.
1. Live like a local
Like many world famous dive locations, the underwater world and life on shore merge into one seamless community of passionate ocean enthusiasts here on Koh Tao. Diving is part of the ethos, the culture, and the energy of the island. It’s immediately noticeable as soon as you get off your ferry that countless dive shops await - and so to do countless dive locations and underwater experiences. The cafes, shops, hostels and beach bars are all filled with chatter about which dive site had decent visibility today, and who has just completed their next PADI Course. Even if you’ve just come to Koh Tao for a peaceful retreat from a recent full moon party, it’s hard to resist the lure of the underwater world.
2. Master new skills
Skills are, of course, central to any PADI course. Whether starting out with your PADI Open Water, or continuing with your Advanced Open Water or PADI Rescue Diver certification, you will be introduced to a wealth of new skills to introduce you to, and help you master the underwater world. It’s impossible to forget your first breath underwater; it’s a little bit weird, sometimes a bit scary, but mostly just magical. Like any sport, SCUBA takes practice. As you progress along your PADI journey you’ll find that what may have once been a bit awkward and unnatural starts to feel perfectly normal. You’ll find yourself breathing more calmly, and floating a little more easily underwater. Whether a novice diver or a seasoned professional, there is always more to learn.
3. Achieve weightlessness At some point in our lives we’ve all dreamed of flying, soaring, or simply floating carefree amongst the clouds. With scuba, experiencing weightlessness is not just a dream, but a reality. What begins as instruction in neutral buoyancy and adjusting weight soon turns into a carefree, zero-gravity-esque experience surrounded by the natural underwater world. You’ll learn experience weightlessness as you progress through your PADI career and learn to master the skill with the Peak Performance Buoyancy course. It’s an easy way to realize a lifelong childhood dream many of us have had!
4. Find Zen
Finding time to chill out is no doubt one of the top reasons we come on holiday. Escaping to the island surrounded by beautiful beaches, stunning sunsets and an island cocktail every now and again is an appropriate answer to the stress of our everyday life. But it’s hard to disconnect even when we’re away. Our phones are always within an arm’s length, free wi-fi is available nearly everywhere, and we’re drawn to social media to check in (and show off!) to our friends back home. But under the sea, all that changes. We focus on our breathing. We practice non-verbal communication. We’re in a world that is definitely not ours. And most importantly, there’s no cell phone service. For the 30-60 minutes we find ourselves on a dive we have no choice but to be truly present. Ahhhh zen.
5. Experience a life less ordinary
Last but certainly not least, to experience SCUBA is to experience a life less ordinary, a life that isn’t ours, and a life that should be preserved at all costs. There are countless species of underwater life here on Koh Tao and our role in SCUBA is to observe and enjoy. We find ourselves surrounded by creatures we would never otherwise know, breathing underwater, floating peacefully through a world that many will never experience or enjoy.
There are countless other reasons to try SCUBA diving - to take the plunge for the first time, to learn a new skill, or even go pro. For most of us it is totally and completely different from our default lives on-shore. It’s an escape from the everyday, but also a reminder to live a little bit differently - to remember to keep learning, to try and be present in the everyday, and to preserve and respect the underwater world even when we’re not swimming amongst it.
From my first breath underwater in Bondi Beach Australia, to the daily rigor and pleasure of Divemaster Training here on Koh Tao, I am immersed in a brand new world. One which affords me new challenges and skills every day, one which helps bring some zen in a crazy world, and one which has instilled in me dutiful respect for the preservation of all marine life. I’m excited to see what happens next…
Posted by Ernesto Soriano III, PADI Divemaster in Training