Scuba diving school: Look deep within yourself

John Shirley, Jr.

Former Lake Superior Divers Supply and School student diving someplace that is definitely not near Duluth. (Photos from company website, used by permission)

The depths of the waters are a foreign domain to most of us. Most of us never travel into this territory very far and for very long. It is mysterious, hidden and is only safely traversed by those properly equipped, trained and initiated into this select knighthood of the waters.

Only these few can travel into this kingdom and enjoy the accomplishment of knowing you have the power to “slip the surly bonds of earth” and pass into this quiet and peaceful world.

To begin your journey, you must first have the desire. You must also be able to look deep and find your inner knight of the waters.

You might feel that you are not fit, too old or even kind of scared of water. If you have the will you can overcome your limitations that are of this world and be ready to become part of another world just beneath the surface.

When Lake Superior Divers Supply and School manager Nancy Rochon first attended diving school in her 40s she wasn’t sure she would complete the program. She had the desire but was finding it hard to get her body to act like this new species of a high-pressure-tank-assisted fish person.

“I think I drank half the pool the first night,” Nancy said.

Nancy mentions usually the challenge lie mostly in your head. You must stay calm and breathe evenly in a new way that is quite natural in this new environment.

This necessity of a calm mindset sets scuba diving apart from many sports which reward more of an aggressive “woo-hoo” adrenaline-pounding state of mind. Lots of commitment and home practice help too.

“So after the first night, I went home and I filled up my bathtub because I couldn’t clear my mask or snorkel,” Nancy said.  

During this practice session, Nancy was rewiring the pathways in her brain and finding her inner fish-person-water-knight.

“I was talking to myself in the tub and continuously breathing through my mouth instead of my nose,” Nancy said.

Nancy spent a lot of time practicing in this microcosm of those great depths out there. She became well-acquainted with a small part of water and felt more and more at home in all water.

“So, I practiced and practiced, put my head underwater, took my mask off, put it on and cleared it,” said Nancy.  “The following week I went back to class and showed them I could do that and they said “’You went home and practiced.’”

Nancy has worked at Lake Superior Divers Supply and School in Lincoln Park for about 19 years. Currently, the only scuba shop in Duluth, the store has been in business for about 60 years. They fill tanks, rent equipment and, of course, teach scuba diving.

Learning scuba diving there is a two-phase process. During phase 1, students meet once a week for six weeks for classroom and pool instruction.

During phase 2 a person trains in open water. This part takes two days. This part can be done in this area or away.

Many people who completed phase 1 get a referral from the school to complete their training on a trip someplace like the Caribbean.

Becoming a water knight is not as cost-prohibitive as medieval knights who had to own their own war horses and armor etc. This is again because in this watery kingdom the powers of the mind allow one to reign supreme. 

A modest investment of time and money gives you skills that no one can rob from you nor can the taxman garnish it away from your sight.

Once scuba diving is part of you, with a little refreshing (as long as physically able) you will be able to enjoy it many years into the future.  

If you happen to not be that well off and still have the training, someday can show up to the tropics with your certification, hard-saved money, rent some equipment and see the wonders of a coral reef with fish of a seemingly infinite range of colors.

The rich man who never took the class or never conquered his fears of water will not be rented equipment without a certification. The best he can do is stare out at the water, see your rising bubbles and wonder what it is like to play with dolphins on their “turf.”