Scuba takes first ocean dive


 
Immersed in a cyclone of bubbles, kelp and orange garibaldi, her nerves began to escalate as she began to sink.  The hum of the regulator had subsided and the little sunlight from above disappeared the deeper she sank. As she reminded herself to breathe slowly, control her speed and take in the underwater scene, these thoughts were interrupted by a rush of icy water into her wetsuit. 

She adjusted to breathing with a regulator and after reaching the ocean floor, awaited the arrival of her teammates.  And so began Lauren Maldonado’s ’08 first dive with the Harvard-Westlake scuba diving team. 

The scuba diving program was created this year by Rod Roddenberry ’92.  Although 96 students expressed interest in the program after Rodenberry advertised in class meetings, 19 students completed the application, and ultimately, eight were chosen. 

“After so many years of continuous school work and the like, I have been looking for some more outdoors activities to become involved in,” Nick Greif ’07 said. “It was just luck that they announced this course while I was foraging around for something to do.”

Havi Mirell ’08 was attracted to the presentation in her junior class meeting. 

“It’s something I’ve never done before, and I decided to try it out,” Mirell said.

The team of three seniors, three juniors and two sophomores meets every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. with Tammy Hatch, a diving instructor, to become certified open water divers. 

The certification will allow them to dive up to 60 feet alone in certain locations. 

The only requirement for enrollment was an untimed swim test and treading water for 10 minutes. 

The course consists of three types of classes: classroom, pool and ocean. Classroom days entail lectures and discussing the “scientific aspects of scuba diving,” Hatch said. 

During pool sessions, the students use their diving equipment to work on “underwater skills in [a] confined water environment,” Hatch said.

“Much of the Open Water Diver program is working on emergency skills for very specific scenarios and it is imperative that the students work on those skills in the pool before diving in the open ocean,” Hatch said.

For the ocean segment, the class traveled to Casino Point at Catalina Island March 25, where they applied the skills they practiced.

Every two weeks the students are assigned 100 pages of reading in the textbook and 15 questions after each chapter. After reviewing all the information, Hatch administers a quiz.

“You have to get a 70 percent or above,” Maldonado said.  “Tammy wants us all to pass, it is impossible to fail because you can keep taking them until you pass.”

Each student was required to buy a basic snorkeling package, including a mask, fins, snorkel, booties, gloves and a hood.  The totals ranged from $400 to almost $1,000 depending on the equipment purchased.

“My mom was shocked that it cost so much,” Maldonado said. “She jokingly said, ‘Happy birthday for the next five years.’”

Lucy Singleton’s ’08 parents understood the cost of the equipment.

“Well-made equipment is worth paying a little extra, especially in a potentially dangerous activity where the equipment plays an important role,” Singleton said.

Many of the students hope to continue diving after completing this course and both Greif and

Maldonado expressed interest in receiving higher certifications.
In addition, the course has led some students to become interested in other subjects and sports. 

Maldonado plans to join the swim team next year after her experiences on the scuba team.

Despite the positive response to the program, it may not be offered next year.

“I believe the administration will be reviewing the course upon its completion to decide if it will be offered next year,” Hatch said.  “I’m really excited about the possibility of teaching even more of the Harvard-Westlake community to scuba dive.” 

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