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OH Magazine | Extra Credit: SCUBA
Even as the last days of summer are quickly approaching, fun on the water doesn't have to end any time soon. Whidbey Island Dive Center can help diving hopefuls get into the water whatever season.
If Whidbey is proving all too familiar, cruising under the water is a way to experience the island in an eye-opening way. And the back to school season is the perfect excuse to take the time and learn something new and exciting. Whidbey Island Dive Center's open water diver course is ideal for someone with no previous diving experience. It is offered at the beginning of every month and runs for three weeks.
“We offer classes from just an intro to SCUBA diving all the way up to instructor/trainer situations,” said Pat Beach, store owner and instructor. “People can just come in here and we’ll teach them the very basics of SCUBA diving and take them over to the swimming pool to practice with gear.” Practically no one is too young or too old to dive. Beach said his dive students range from teens to seniors. No matter what the age, those up for the challenge are in for a unique experience not soon to be forgotten. Beach offers the open water course for $295 plus tax, which he said is lower than other centers that charge upwards of $350.
“That’s the cheapest anywhere around," he said.
Class fees cover books, instruction, and open water dives. Students are required to buy their own snorkel, mask, fins and boots, but all other equipment is included in course fees.
"Because we’re in a Navy town we try to keep prices low,” Beach said. Being underwater can be an adrenaline rush — or for people like Pat Beach, it can be the ultimate form of relaxation. Observing the area's abundant sea life is a given and photographing it will make the dives last a lifetime. The center attracts a diverse roster of students with many different dive interest to its doors, Beach said. In addition to the first-hand underwater learning that goes along with SCUBA lessons, future divers should be prepared for homework, tests, and other book work — just like any other class. Only in this class, learning the ins and outs of diving and any and all underwater situations can prove to be a life saver. As Beach points, safety is always priority for divers. When all of the classwork, pool dives, and open water dives are completed, a passing final grade earns students SCUBA diving certification and a pass to some amazing underwater sights.
“It’s a hugely adventuresome feeling, like maybe you’re seeing something no ones ever seen before,” Beach said. “We’re all kind of treasure hunters in that way.” A favorite local spot for divers is the Keystone Jetty near the Keystone ferry terminal, where an artificial reef full of crab, octopus, and abalone makes it a great spot for marine life observation. In addition to the area's underwater sea creatures, divers can see the occasional ship wreck too. There are number of small ship wrecks scattered around the island like the Possession Point Ferry and a barge near the southern tip of Whidbey.
Stop by the Dive Center or visit the shop's site for more info about local dive spots, including hazards to watch out for when you get there. The site and the Dive Center are also links to finding dive partners, as no one should dive alone. While the most popular season for the Whidbey Island Dive Center runs March through June, Beach said the best season to dive is the winter due to better water visibility. The center is open year-round and offers classes monthly. So, when it comes to SCUBA diving in Oak Harbor, it’s never too late to jump into learning and dive into a new experience.