By Tom Simmons, Broadreach
I was 13 years old when I knew I wanted to become a scuba diver. After five hours of snorkeling over a reef in Hawaii, I knew my life was headed underwater. Five years later, I was at the bottom of a local swimming pool practicing the skills necessary to earn my Open Water certification. Since then, I have spent much of my adult life sharing my passion for diving with students and diving some of the world’s best sites with Broadreach.
The first summer I worked for Broadreach, we were anchored at Ille Fourche on the morning of our final program day. We had just come up from what I thought was our last dive. As we were putting our gear away and readying the boat for our sail back to St. Martin, one of the students spotted a dolphin. We quickly reassembled our dive gear and hopped into the water. For the next 30 minutes, we knelt in 20 feet of water and watched two dolphins frolic above us. To date, it remains the most amazing experience of my diving career.
A diver practicing advance diving skills during a wreck dive.
Several summers later, I took students on a discover scuba experience in St. Lucia. The local dive shop told me there were resident seahorses on the reef, but I never thought I would actually see one of these elusive creatures. When one of my students pointed to some sea grass, I swam over to see what all the fuss was about. It wasn’t until I really looked that I saw the only seahorse I have ever seen. For several minutes, we all quietly watched this rare, amazing creature — knowing the male seahorse carries the babies to term in his pouch, after which they emerge fully developed. Talk about unique!
The first time I saw a scalloped hammerhead, I was with one student. The rest of the group had chosen to dive with the other two instructors, and I still feel sad they missed out on seeing that amazing creature. Another of my Broadreach groups fell in love with the indescribably cute, baby trunkfish (aka. The Most Adorable Fish in the Sea). We made it our mission to find one on every dive. Although we completely failed at that mission, we sure had fun trying. From the Spanish dancer, the coolest of the cool, nudibranch family, to the common blue striped grunt, the underwater world is a veritable treasure chest of discovery. These underwater encounters, like so many others I have experienced, reinforce my passion for diving.
Students learning diving skills in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean.
For me, being a diver is akin to being a member of an exclusive, not-so-secret club. It is like having the winning lottery ticket and not telling anyone. Because as divers, we know what others do not. We know what it feels like to float above a reef and “fly” through water. We know the anxiety and exhilaration that comes with seeing our first shark and each one afterwards. And, we know the indescribable serenity and calmness that comes with a mask, fins and a tank. For you see, my friends, we are the lucky ones.
I share these memories because they exemplify everything awesome about diving. Diving is about the unknown and the mysterious and the magical. As the summer approaches, I am beginning to get butterflies in my stomach that tell me it is time to get back underwater. I don’t know where my summer will take me, but I do know some of it will be spent underwater. I also know diving will help me to slow down a bit, really look at what is in front of me, and enjoy the world around me. If diving is in your summer plans, may your waters be blue and your visibility endless. For you, my friends, are the lucky ones holding the winning lottery ticket. Welcome to the club!
Tom Simmons is a staff member for Broadreach, an adventure-based study abroad program for middle school, high school and college students. This story was originally published on Broadreach and is republished with permission here.
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