Registered Student Organization Designated Divers braves cold Michigan waters

October 7, 2018 - Comment

On a gusty fall afternoon, in the village of Bear Lake, Mich., five Central Michigan University students prepared for an underwater adventure.  The group, members of the Registered Student Organization Designated Divers, were practicing scuba techniques for their upcoming spring break trip to the island of Bonaire, in the Caribbean Ocean. Designated Divers President Travis


On a gusty fall afternoon, in the village of Bear Lake, Mich., five Central Michigan University students prepared for an underwater adventure. 

The group, members of the Registered Student Organization Designated Divers, were practicing scuba techniques for their upcoming spring break trip to the island of Bonaire, in the Caribbean Ocean. Designated Divers President Travis Smith said the annual trip means everything because it’s the only opportunity during the school year for the group to get quality scuba time together in a scuba-friendly environment. 

“Since we’re in Michigan, it’s difficult to get actual scuba time in because of the weather,” Smith said, “We try to get as many dives during the fall and spring semesters as we can before our spring break trip.”

The group will brave any conditions to do so. The day of their Bear Lake dive, the temperature read 55 degrees, but the scuba divers insisted they stayed warm with the aid of their wetsuits.

Designated Divers will dive in temperatures much warmer in Bonaire, where the average March temperature is 87 degrees. Faculty Adviser Jerry DiMaria said it’s a night and day difference between diving in Michigan and diving in ocean waters.

“You are much freer in warmer waters to adventure as you do not need as much gear on and you can clearly see in front you, whereas in Michigan the waters can be cold and murky,” DiMaria said.

This is Designated Divers’ third year as a student organization. The group was founded by former president and 2017 Central Michigan University graduate Ulysses Johnson.. Last fall, Traverse City senior Travis Smith took over as President, while Mount Pleasant junior Kathryn DiMaria took over Vice President. 

The DiMarias became involved with scuba diving about five years ago. Jerry became enamored with the sport after his first dive, but he needed someone to share this passion with him. His daughter, Kathryn, tried the sport and found a passion for it, as well.

“I was slightly scared at first, but once I started seeing all the fish and underwater animals — just the underwater world in general — I fell in love,” Kathryn said.

Designated Divers continues to grow, with 30 members this year. The organization is still trying to recruit members, and set a table at MainStage for the first time this year. Smith said there was plenty of interest at MainStage, but once people found out how much it cost to get certified and the cost of scuba gear gear, it usually turned them off.

“Scuba is definitely a financial investment,” Smith said, “but once you get certified and have your own gear you always have a fun activity you can do for the rest of your life.”

Designated Divers members who can’t afford to purchase their own equipment aren’t out of luck. Underwater Antics, a scuba store located off M-20 in Midland, Mich., will allow certified divers to rent their equipment. Co-owners Tim Middleton and Cheryl Roggenbuck have been doing business with Designated Divers for the past two years.

Novice scuba divers don’t need to worry about feeling out of place, as more than half of Designated Divers’ members have less than two years of scuba experience. At their Thursday night meetings, the group goes over scuba advice, safety reminders and tips on how to stay mindful during dives.

Members of Designated Divers each have their own purpose for being involved with scuba diving. For many, it’s to have the opportunity to explore a world humans aren’t familiar with. Others, like Marquette junior Cera Shelafoe, want to educate themselves.

“I’m going to school for marine biology, so it’s important to be able to go underwater,” Shelafoe said, “I’m hoping to gain more skills and experience with the Designated Divers so I can make myself stand out when applying to marine biology programs.”

While Designated Divers may not be able to dive during winter, the bonds between members keep everyone connected as the group prepares for sunshine in the Caribbean. 

“The best part about this group is the community,” Kathryn said, “We all may share a common interest, but Designated Divers is just full of really good people.”

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