Now is good time to go scuba diving in York.
Seriously, this isn’t a satire piece.
Despite the fall weather and the somewhat landlocked nature of southcentral Pennsylvania, there are plenty of opportunities for those who are ready to do some diving.
York Divers, located on South George Street, offers year-round classes and “try it” sessions. So, you’re in luck if you’re looking to get certified by Professional Association of Diving Instructors so you can dive around the world, or if you just want to see what it’s like to be able to breathe under water.
So, I, a creature of strict land living, put on an oxygen tank and took the plunge.
If you decide that you want to get certified, York Divers has a five-week course to get you ready for open water diving.
You’ll meet with the staff one day a week for the five weeks, during which you’ll be doing some classroom learning followed by pool lessons at YMCA facilities in York, Hanover or Shrewsbury.
“I can’t say enough about the staff here,” York Divers owner Sherri Ierley said. “They do a great job at making sure you enjoy diving while learning. Because if you don’t have a good first experience, you aren’t going to want to come back. This staff is so patient and willing to make sure you have a good time.”
Once you’ve completed your five classes, you must complete an open water dive to finish the course. York Divers have their open water dives in Woodsboro, Md, but you can perform your final dive anywhere in the country after completing your five initial classes.
Once you receive your PADI certification, you can dive anywhere in the world and no renewal courses or fees are required.
Once you are ready to get in the water, the staff will teach you the basic skills you will need to safely dive in open water.
My instructor, Dive Master Wayne Mallquist, taught me common hand signals that divers use to communicate underwater.
“With a ‘discover scuba’, it’s very easy,” Mallquist said. “We walk you through everything step-by-step. We’ll show you how to set up the gear, how to use the gear and then it’s as easy as remembering to breathe.”
For a first timer, it was initially awkward to be underwater and taking breaths of oxygen, but it eventually became more natural.
We took a lap around the shallow pool so I could get comfortable with my flippers and adjusting the air in my flotation vest. Eventually I graduated to the deeper pool and learned how to handle underwater pressure.
Mallquist also taught me some emergency skills, like learning how to clear a flooded mask while under water.
Even if I never become a full-time diver, it was fun to learn some basic terminology and abilities.
The only things you’ll need for your first diving adventure are a goggle mask, flippers and a snorkel.
All of the other equipment such as breathing apparatus, oxygen tank and vest will be provided during the course.
Most diving facilities rent equipment, but if you want to buy your own gear, a very basic setup can run anywhere between $300-$600.
There is a checklist of health conditions on York Divers’ website that each participant must fill out. If any of those conditions apply to you, you will need clearance from a physician. Diabetes and asthma are two of the main conditions that can potentially disqualify a person.
If you’re looking for a unique get-together, I’m guessing not many of your friends have been to a scuba party. York Divers offers group events where you and your friends can spend the day socializing underwater. The cost for each person is normally under $50.
“We can do birthday parties, functions for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, any kind of youth group that is looking for something fun to do,” Ierley said.
York Divers is also a handicapped scuba facility and offers adaptive scuba courses.
“There’s a huge advantage to getting people with disabilities into the water, from both a mental and physical perspective,” Ierley said.
To get certified, the total cost of the course is normally under $1,000. Keep in mind that the certification is for life and no other fees are required to be eligible to dive in open water. You do, however, have to complete a recorded dive approximately once a year. That can be done through a simple pool dive with York Divers or you can tag along with an open water trip.
After experiencing scuba diving myself for the first time, I learned that there’s something very tranquil about being underwater. There’s also something to be said for not having to worry about coming up for air, even if it’s in a shallow swimming pool.
“It’s just really relaxing,” Mallquist said. “No matter what happens throughout the day, you can get in the water and everything seems to just go away.”
Ierley has been on dives around the world and said scuba diving has led her to not only beautiful waters, but also to some of her best friends.
“We also like to be where the sharks are, so we go to so many places and we’re not afraid to be around the wildlife,” Ierley said. “But really, it’s the social aspect. I’ve met so many people since I started doing this. It’s just incredible.”
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