Guess what!?! Two weeks later, I am back in Key Largo! This time I am working on my Diving for Debris and Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialty certifications. I am so excited to share with you my experience of diving and training with Rainbow Reef Dive Center....again!
The first day consisted of training for our Peak Performance Buoyancy PADI Speciality certification. As always, we start in the classroom! The purpose of learning Peak Performance Buoyancy is to master excellent buoyancy control, which defines skilled scuba divers and allows you to swim close to marine life without damaging or hurting the ocean’s precious environment. Once we discussed the benefits to this course I headed to Rainbow Reef Dive Center to get on the boat to head out to our diving location.
I set up my gear and then my PADI instructor Maddie Cholnoky talked through the skills I was going to complete under water. The skills included putting a little bit of air in our BCD and sitting in criss cross applesauce and hovered above the ocean floor for 1 min. For the last skill on this dive we had to swim through a hula hoop to demonstrate buoyancy control and situational awareness. One of my diving buddies was the first one up and she swam through it perfectly. I was thinking to myself “that looks so easy” and planned out how I was going to swim through the hoop like my buddy did. I swam through it a little too high and the hula hoop got stuck on my air tank as I kept swimming! Everyone including me was dying laughing!! Our instructor signaled to try again, so the group swam through the hoop a second time for good practice. This time I swam through the hoop perfectly, but my other diving buddy did the same thing I did the first time and the hoop caught on this tank. I laughed even harder at him!! Our next skill was called “kiss a rock”. Our instructor Maddie found a rock without growth on it and gracefully demonstrated the skill first before we took on the challenge. The goal is to touch your regulator to the rock by exhaling and coming off of it by inhaling. What we had to accomplish was to swim towards the rock and then, as we got close, carefully angle our bodies at 45 degrees until the air regulator in our mouth gently touches the rock. Using only the power of micromanaging the volume of our inhale breath, we then slowly pull back from the rock and back to a horizontal swimming position. This was for us to practice using our lungs for buoyancy control. Maddie completed the exercise with the skill of a manta ray hovering over the ocean floor with complete control. My diving buddy was first to go, although he was anything but graceful! His approach started ok, but he moved toward the rock at a pace that made me feel like I was watching a slow motion car crash. His speed was only stopped by the regulator in his mouth crashing into the rock. While I was laughing I thought to myself, owwwww that must have really hurt!! This skill was harder than I thought, but I ended up getting it! After completing all of the skills and the 2 dives for this specialty we ascended and headed back to the boat.
The second day was a fun dive day! We completed a deep shipwreck where my maximum depth was 85 feet. The shipwreck was The USS Spiegel Grove, which is 510 ft long and 84 feet wide. The USS Spiegel Grove is a retired U.S. Navy Landing Ship Dock sunk in 2002 to create an artificial reef in the Florida Keys. It's now on its way to becoming an entire reef ecosystem, creating a protective environment for thriving marine life! The shipwreck was absolutely stunning with beautiful fish surrounding the ship. The biggest fish I saw while diving here was a 6 foot barracuda. Also, we did a few light to light swim-throughs of the ship’s openings. It was so unreal to be swimming through a sunken ship. One of my favorite things about diving is admiring the beauty that not many people get to experience in their lifetime. It is a surreal experience. I soak up every single second I am underwater.
Our last day we completed our Dive Against Debris Specialty. It is very rewarding to know that the dive I was doing was helping our oceans in a positive way. It is important to get properly certified in diving for debris though to ensure you are contributing in a safe way, both to yourself as a diver and to the marine environment. Using my knowledge from the classroom portion of the Dive Against Debris course I headed to the reef to jump in the water and take my part in the action to clean up our ocean! The tools we needed to complete this dive were a cutting tool, gloves, and a biodegradable bag to collect the debris. My diving buddies started out with the cutting tool, while I carried the biodegradable bag. We all descended down and began swimming while looking for debris. The first marine debris we came across was a clay tile laying on top of a coral reef. It was likely chipped off a fishing boat or a type of fishing trap. After looking for sharp edges, Maddie carefully picked it up with gloves on and I held out the bag for her to put the clay tile in. We then returned to further navigating the site looking for more debris. It didn’t take long. We soon encountered monofilament fishing lines, which unfortunately are commonly found harming coral reefs in this area. Using the skills we practiced in the classroom earlier, we carefully used the scissors to cut through the fishing line without damaging any coral or other living organisms. Success! In the last few minutes of our dive, we found a MASSIVE monofilament fishing line entangling a large section of coral reef, which required two people to precisely cut through starting at opposite sides. In total we removed 12 pieces of debris from the ocean, monofilament fishing lines, a fishing hook, and a clay tile in under 45 minutes. It felt so good to take part in the action of removing debris from the ocean! After returning back to Rainbow Reef Dive Center we logged our data into the Project Aware app to be seen on the Project Aware Action Map on their website. This experience was such a great way to end the trip!!
I want to say a huge thank you to Maddie Cholnoky and Jake Holzapfel from Rainbow Reef Dive Center for making our dive experience as the best it could possibly be. I learned so much and am looking forward to coming back soon to complete more Dive Against Debris and other dives!
Thanks for helping me #purifytheblue!