Explore the unseen beauty of the Emerald Coast through scuba diving

Posted: 08/01/2011 in all marine news

Pat Flynn – 

Exploring the vast depths of the ocean is a treat that only a scuba diver can know. The ability to breath underwater is something people have taken advantage of from the days of Jacques Cousteau. That tradition carries on here on the Emerald Coast.

Diving is something that appears expensive from the outside looking in, but when done carefully it can be rewarding and not become another way to overspend.

To start diving, you must do one thing:

“You have to be certified in order to dive,” said Heather Bailey, owner and operator of The Scuba Shop in Fort Walton Beach. “If you’re not certified you can do a ‘discover scuba,’ where you get exposed to it. It’s like a three- or four-hour excursion. There are a few requirements, a few medical ones, and have to be 10 or older.”

Getting certified is necessary and can be done at most dive shops, usually for between $200 and $300. A lot of places offer deals with groups or equipment rentals that can save money.

It’s in these certification classes and dives where novice divers learn the finer points of proper safety precautions and are put in some uncomfortable situations at depths they might not be accustomed to.

Acquiring scuba equipment is where things can get a bit tricky. There are certain pieces a diver must have: mask, snorkel, fins and boots.

The cost of the equipment can add up quickly, so make sure diving is something you’re going to do more than twice a year before breaking the bank on all the gear. Rentals might be the way to go. Putting your equipment together piece by piece over a longer period of time is common.

But make no mistake, the juice is worth the squeeze.

“We have so much marine life in our waters,” Bailey said. “We have the bay which is a big spot for fresh and salt water combining which makes for a multiplication of fish. We have such a variety from little bitty cleaning shrimp to huge goliath grouper.”

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