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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

COVID-19 restrictions on scuba divers

Making use of SCUBA equipment out of water

By Jason James

There is one local certified scuba shop, Gone Diving, that must focus on providing service for first responders and other organizations needing air tanks, as they are an essential service.

Wyatt Keysor, an employee at Gone Diving explained what restrictions are placed on the shop.

“While the one shop in Bellingham which is currently certified to fill tanks and service gear (Gone Diving) is open in a limited manner as we are an essential service and are a necessary company to support first responders and other organizations which require tanks of pressurized air, all forms of nonessential diving activities (gear rentals and purchases which require entrance into the store itself) are currently on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions,” Keysor said in an email.

The amount of diving has been reduced because of the limited certified tank fill stations in Bellingham.

“If you have all of your own gear and access to a certified tank fill station, you can dive during quarantine. However, the restrictions that are currently in place definitely are limiting the access for divers to attain the necessary gear and services for many of their activities,” Keysor said in an email.

However closed for nonessential services, Gone Diving continues to provide scuba lessons.

Charlynn Andrews, owner and operator of Gone Diving since 2005, explained which classes are open.

“Since the governor has shut down business, we are unable to offer anything in person. Private one on one classes are available,” Andrews said in an email.

The online classes available at Gone Diving can help a diver become certified for basic diving. 

“Once you have your gear, you can sign up for and take the necessary class which includes online lessons, in person book lessons, pool dives, and two days of open water dives in fresh and saltwater,” Keysor said in an email.

Danielle Lambert, a Bellingham scuba diver, was certified by Gone Diving in June 2019.

“After a training course that teaches safety and basic physics of diving, you start with the pool sessions,” Lambert said in an email. “For two weeks I got used to the equipment and got used to breathing underwater. During that time we practice potentially life-saving procedures such as running out of air procedures and swimming without a mask.”

Once you become scuba certified, divers can experience unique spots that Bellingham holds.

“As far as scuba diving in Bellingham, it’s beautiful! The waters are relatively calm which makes it easy and safer to get out into the surf. The water is pretty cold so I personally stay out of these waters after October and wait until it warms up again. But I always see jellyfish,” Lambert said in an email.

Cameron Budnick, a certified divemaster with around 150 dives, totaling over three days underwater, has experienced sights only Bellingham has produced.

“A buddy and I found a really cool spot last spring that’s just a little south of Teddy Bear Cove, and when we dove it, we saw hundreds and hundreds of lion’s mane nudibranch fighting for space on the eelgrass – only place I’ve ever seen that,” Budnick said in an email.

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