Indianapolis scuba lessons offer insight into an underwater world
Witnessing a scuba diving class, even just a few feet underwater at the Hendricks County Regional Health YMCA pool, opens a porthole into an eerie world of little weight and less sound.
Before going under, Darryl Koch, an instructor for Avon’s Midwest Scuba Center, guides several students through a number of important basics, such as hand signals, tank regulators and pre-dive checklists. Koch, a white-haired, vigorous man who says he got into diving late in life, then continues the training entirely nonverbally.
Midwest Scuba manager Thomas Kepler says while Indianapolis may not seem like a prime scuba location, avid divers can find quite a few excellent spots within a reasonable drive, including several quarries around the state.
For beginning divers, he says the first real step is the open water course certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). The three-week program teaches equipment, procedures and safety skills and qualifies participants to dive up to 130 feet.
Training involves three phases: academic study, pool work, and two days of open water training. Certification at Midwest Scuba costs $385 and includes everything except rental equipment fees on the open water dive. The minimum age is 10 years old.
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For those who want to get their feet wet – so to speak – without committing so much time and money, they can try Kepler’s Discover Scuba course, which gives them a basic outline and one pool session with the scuba gear for $50 (which can be applied to certification if they decide they’d like to continue.)
“If people are interested and want to know more, I’d advise them to try the Discover Scuba,” Kepler says. “That would answer a lot of their questions. Sometimes people are nervous and sometimes they’re not. I just did two last night, and one woman was very nervous going in, but at the end she was very excited and decided to sign up for a class.”
Divers who immerse themselves in the full hobby can select from a wide range of experiences ahead of them.
“Diving is very soothing and relaxing,” Kepler says. “You don’t have anyone talking to you. All you hear are air bubbles and maybe fish chomping on coral. It’s also pretty good exercise – you burn a lot of calories. You’re weightless underwater. It’s almost like what an astronaut experiences. You get to see all the beauty of the different fish and corals.”
Different motivations and interests drive all divers. Assistant instructor Wayne Ottinger says he prefers cold-water dives. “I think that’s a little less common among divers, but it’s great if you want to do research on shipwrecks,” he says. “In the Great Lakes, you can check out wrecks that are 100, 200 years old and still largely intact. They’d be long gone if they were in warm water.”
Koch says he prefers the warm waters of the Caribbean. “Nothing beats being out there looking at the coral reefs with 150 feet of visibility,” he says. “There’s so much to see out there in the water, and I’ll never be able to see it all.”