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I Tried It: Scuba Diving

San Diego Magazine Publisher Jim Fitzpatrick checks scuba diving off his bucket list


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Jim Fitzpatrick tries scuba diving. | Photo: Jennifer Siegwart

You Try It!

Open Water Diver Certification Course
Ocean Enterprises
7710 Balboa Avenue, Kearny Mesa
Course starts at $325; private lessons, $595

Scuba diving has long been on my bucket list. Recently I realized, If I am going to do this, I’d better do it soon. I chose Ocean Enterprises in Kearny Mesa to earn my Open Water Diver certification. Founded by Werner Kurn in 1979, they are rated among the top 10 dive centers in the country by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). They do about 700 open water certifications per year, out of more than 1,400 certifications across all skill levels.

I was fortunate to have Denise Cable—director of training and 20-year diver—assigned to my private training. I more than meet the age requirement, so I only needed to show that I could swim 200 yards without stopping.

In four to six hours of classroom instruction, I learn the fundamentals of scuba diving, including how to use the equipment properly, and what to do in the event of something going wrong. Once the classroom work is finished, it’s on to diving. We begin in a pool. I’ve brought my own mask (with prescription lenses), snorkel, fins, boots, and gloves; Ocean Enterprises provides the scuba equipment as part of the course. We do four pool dives, demonstrating proper use of the equipment, ballast control, and emergency procedures. We practice breathing techniques, what to do if you spit out the regulator, and how to remove and replace the weights.

It’s important to know that you never hold your breath. Breathing is required. Focusing on the act of breathing, in and out, calms you. I practice removing water from the inside of my mask, breathing with a snorkel, and sharing a regulator with a dive buddy—essential if I ever make the critical mistake of running out of air.

Those elements accomplished, we head to La Jolla Shores for five ocean dives over a two-day period. Hiking out over the beach and through the surf with that equipment is challenging, but once we’re out to dive depth, it’s wonderful descending about 10 feet and simply floating below the surface. We again practice the procedures we perfected in the pool.

After demonstrating control, we descend to between forty and fifty feet below the surface. This is the true joy of scuba. The serene, tranquil freedom from gravity and the commotion of surface life is both calming and exhilarating. Leopard sharks and seals are in the area. We see stingrays, lobsters, and various fish and plant life. During pool training I’d thought, How could anyone run out of air? Now I understand. Time passes quickly in this environment, and far too soon, it’s time to head back.

I wish I had done this sooner, but I’m happy to check it off my bucket list. Cozumel, here I come!

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