A new diver has joined the long list of PADI certified divers this past week. There must have been a couple of dozen divers who earned their certification on Cozumel during that time. I’m sure all of us who are divers remember the day when we finished our skills in the open water and were told the PADI card would come in the mail soon, but in the meantime, let’s go diving!
I remember, also, that it wasn’t a terribly hard process: learn to breathe, don’t panic, stay with your buddy, ascend slowly, swim with your legs and flippers and don’t move your arms around like you’re conducting an orchestra.
But, a new diver from San Francisco, Daewon, has to use his arms. Since his snowboarding accident seven years ago, his arms propel his wheelchair and now they propel him underwater. At least when the famous Cozumel currents aren’t doing the work for him.
For him, the certification process was made easy by the owner, Renee “Apple” Applegate, and the dive instructors at Dive Paradise. The company has been working with a Denver area dive shop, A-1 Scuba, and Craig Hospital for a couple of years to introduce and train paraplegics and quadraplegics to the wonderful world of scuba. That connection brought Daewon to their door.
It was impressive to watch Alfonso and Israel patiently help Daewon into the Hotel Barracuda and No Name Bar pool for his first sessions, then ease him down the steps for his ocean dives. The entry and exit are, obviously the most challenging aspects for him. Once he is in the water, his powerful arms pull his body along. Even the instructors primarily used their arms to demonstrate the most effective strokes for him and to get a sense of how the current might affect his endurance. I rarely saw them use the fins during his dives.
Those of us who live here and dive often on Palancar, Columbia and Eagle Ray wall wouldn’t expect to see much on a shore dive from Hotel Barracuda and the No Name bar. But, after spotting two sea horses and watching a spotted eagle ray glide north, maybe we should rethink shore dives?
Perhaps the initial reaction is to say, “Wow, that is impressive.” But, to Daewon, it’s just another sport that he has added to hand cycling and mono skiing.