We like to post articles about fun and adventurous activities people can do outdoors in the Florida panhandle… but it is very hot out there this time of year. What sort of outdoor adventure can you have when the temperatures are running in the 90s and the humidity in the 80% range?
Many of us have our favorite swimming holes – local rivers, springs, estuaries, or the Gulf itself, but what about SCUBA? I recently talked to a local dive charter and they said the current weather pattern is not a problem for them. The seas are relatively calm – easy to get offshore, you are underwater – so not so hot, and afternoon rains washes the gear off. Sounds like a good adventure on a hot summer day.
But SCUBA is not for everyone. My wife tried and did not care for it. It certainly makes some folks nervous. Underwater seems confining to many. There is a lot of equipment you have to wear, and that can be bothersome. There are creatures out there, some of them rather large. And then there is the risk, many see SCUBA as a dangerous activity – and it can be. This is why they require a course for certification… to address all of these issues.
During the course they will put you in a swimming pool with the gear and see how comfortable you are. Honestly, I remember the first time I tried the tank. My brain was telling me “DO NOT INHALE… YOU ARE NOT A FISH”. But eventually I did, and MAN was that cool. As you become more comfortable you can swim some. All of this is done at the shallow end so if it is not working for you – you are fine. The equipment really is not that cumbersome while in the water. Swimming slow laps, getting use the breathing on the equipment, clearing your mask if water gets in, they teach you everything you need to know to be relaxed while underwater.
There are skills you will need to learn while in the pool, and then the there is the classroom sessions. Much of it deals with the danger issue of diving – what could go wrong. As Jacques Cousteau once said, it is not going down that is the problem, it is coming back. We are all aware of the pressure changes that occur as you descend into the ocean. There is air pressure on your body at sea level – about 15 p.s.i. We do not notice this because our body compensates for it. However, as you descend into the water the pressure increases 15 p.s.i. every 33 feet you descend. You will feel this and are taught how to compensate for it. Once on the bottom, you will find all sorts of structures, fish, sometimes even sea turtles. You swim around trying to take it all in, but the entire you are down the pressure is pushing gases into your body. When it is time to return, you must do this the correct way – “gas off” as they say. Again, local instructors will explain all of this in class and you will have a chance to practice in the pool.
Then there is the open water dive.
You get a chance to test your skills in the open Gulf.
Again, this makes some a bit nervous. It is one thing in the safety of a swimming pool. It is another in the wild blue. There are jellyfish, fish, bigger fish, waves, can’t see the bottom yet, pirates, who knows what is running through your mind. But you are with friends. Everyone is going through the same experience and you have master divers at your side. It is all good. You eventually reach the bottom and see a world that is truly amazing.
Again, SCUBA is not for everyone, but it is a fun activity on these hot summer days. Something to consider trying. There are many great dive instructors along the Florida panhandle, and one near you. If SCUBA is too much – consider snorkeling, it can be a rewarding activity as well.
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