When I signed up for my Open Water course almost a decade ago, I did so simply because I wanted to get certified for future trips abroad. I didn’t want to wind up somewhere and miss out on the opportunity to dive because I had never gotten around to it or to spend any precious vacation time doing homework.
A couple colleagues had been certified in Vancouver and a friend was becoming an instructor here after taking his initial training in Thailand and Japan. My dad learned to dive in Vancouver when I was a kid. So, I thought that I might as well give it a shot. I had very little inclination to dive locally beyond the course; I knew next to nothing about what was under that cold, dark water, but I suspected it was nothing like the reefs you see video and photos of from warmer climates.
Well, I was correct in thinking that BC water is nothing like that of the Caribbean or other warmer regions. We have temperate, nutrient rich waters that let our ocean live up to the famous moniker, “the Emerald Sea”, bestowed upon by Jacques Cousteau himself. These nutrients, tiny plants and animals known collectively as “plankton”, feed an abundance and variety of life second to none in the world. I frequently find myself telling people that if you don’t mind that it’s chilly than you’ll probably agree that BC diving is the best in the world.
I realize that so far the word “cold” and several euphemisms for it have come up. I’m not going to lie: this is not the Cayman Islands. Our water is cool all year around. But there are ways to deal with that appropriately. The best way to combat the chill is to learn to dive in a drysuit as opposed to a wetsuit. Diving here can be quite comfortable in the right equipment.
So, I’ve outlined why to dive in BC, but why should you LEARN to dive HERE in Vancouver?
Because it is AWESOME
As I mentioned above, because it is AWESOME. Our marine life is incredible, diverse and pretty unique. If you’re going to learn to dive you might as well see something while you’re at it! Most student divers will observe seastars, sea cucumbers, anemones, sole, greenlings, gobies, sponges and a variety of crabs. Seastars don’t sound like much, but did you know that we have giant Sunflower Stars in Vancouver that are voracious predators and move a lot more quickly than you’d expect a seastar to move? We have some of the largest anemones in the world, Plumose anemones, and they are scattered around the training site along with several other species of anemone. If students are very lucky they may encounter a curious resident seal at Whytecliff Park or glimpse the Red or Giant Pacific Octopus hiding out. The Giant Pacific Octopus is the largest in the world and can grow to enormous proportions, but these creatures are rarely seen in the open during the day and don’t worry, they are well fed by all the crabs in the area. If you haven’t already figured it out, marine life is just bigger in BC. Come see for yourself.
Learn more skills up front, saving money!
Start off your dive training by learning in a drysuit. Drysuits add a level of complexity to buoyancy control and other basic skills; however, if you begin your diving experience in a drysuit it becomes second nature very quickly. Learning to dive in a drysuit after you’ve logged a number of dives in a wetsuit is entirely possible, but can be a little frustrating. Going from a drysuit to a wetsuit, however, is a breeze. Here in Canada, and IDC is no exception, most facilities offer the option of taking your Open Water certification in a drysuit. This upgrade is not available in most parts of the globe. It also happens to be one of the most cost effective ways to attain drysuit training available. Instead of paying for a specialty course that includes 2 ocean dives down the road which will cost 2-3x as much, you can learn right away and get 4 ocean dives in a drysuit under your belt immediately. In other words, this will save you time, effort and money in the long run if you choose to dive in BC. I know I am glad that I got it out of the way early on. Hoping off a boat with a 3mm shorty on is nice and easy, but my drysuit and the diving it allows me to do hold a special place in my heart.
More comprehensive training is usually offered
Quality over quantity. In Canada, in general, and at IDC in particular, you will find longer, more comprehensive training offered than you will in many warm water destinations. Here we do not fall into the “resort course” trap for a variety of reasons. First of all, our conditions are a little more demanding than a white sand beach and glassy, clear, warm, turquoise waters so we have to prepare our students accordingly. Secondly, the vacation mentality just doesn’t make sense here.
We know that a large percentage of our students and divers live nearby; we aren’t sending them on their way never to be seen again after the course is over. We want them to love diving as much as we do and we want them to love diving in BC in particular. The best way to do that is to give new divers or divers new to our waters the best experience we can, with the most applicable and well-rounded set of skills that we can. Divers that are confident in their skills will enjoy diving more, so we want to create confident divers. This may take longer for some than others so we offer continued support beyond the Open Water course in the form of fun dives and continuing education for those that want more guidance. We’re also happy to get out diving with new, passionate divers as well as the old salts. We love the sport and the gear and what inhabits the oceans in our part of the world, so if you want or need to discuss specific concerns or interests regarding diving we are eager to do so.
In other words, we aren’t here to pump out endless numbers of marginally trained divers. We are interested in creating competent, confident, enthusiastic divers that feel they have a connection with the hobby and with our facility.
Learn here, dive anywhere!
“If you can dive here, you can dive pretty much anywhere.” How often have I heard this phrase? How often have I repeated it myself? The answer is too many to count. Yes, temperate water diving is a little more challenging than a lot of warm water alternatives and we’ve already discussed some of the reasons that it is worth the extra effort, but it’s not beyond the abilities of most people. And it is true: if you can dive here, you can dive pretty much anywhere. Not only that, but diving in most other locations will be EASY.
I mentioned that after diving in a drysuit that diving in a wetsuit is simple but it is more than that. While we have some excellent boat diving and charters available to us, we do a lot of shore diving. This means we get used to hauling our gear around. It’s not light, but this becomes easier quite quickly. Shore diving means we need to take tides and currents into account, so we pay more attention and learn to plan our dives more carefully than many that have the luxury of having a boat come pick them up wherever they end up, in calm seas. Because we often have to get back to where we’re going, we emphasize not only planning, but careful observation during our dives and tend to keep our limits in mind.
Because visibility can be reduced here and the commonality of night diving (due to long nights in the winter and the fact most of us aren’t on vacation so many work days), buddy skills and contact is greatly emphasized compared to some of the less demanding destinations. Don’t be fooled though, even if you can see your buddy 100ft/30m away from you doesn’t mean that will do you much good should you encounter an emergency. Divers trained in BC to be good buddies are far safer than those that practice “same ocean, same day” buddy skills.
That means that rental equipment must be in better condition than a lot of what you’ll find in rental departments in some places around the globe. It also means that cold water divers gain a greater appreciation for their equipment and grow more familiar with it. They are more likely to be able to identify equipment problems before getting in the water or while on the dive and thus better prepared to prevent any problems associated with scuba gear before they happen and are usually better prepared to properly cope with the problems should they arise even at the Open Water level.
Yes, if you can dive here, you can pretty much dive anywhere. We frequently hear from recently certified divers that make their way to the tropics for vacation that they are shocked at how comfortable and competent they felt compared to others with significantly more experience or training in warm water.
We also aren’t interested in churning out instructors. We want our staff and instructors to genuinely want to be involved in the local diving industry. We look for passion, dedication and safety in those that teach for us. Many locations capitalize on the monetary benefits of instructor training and thus often have a crew of novice, untested instructors, usually with little practical diving or teaching experience. In colder climates instructors tend to be a little more dedicated and at IDC we like to maintain an experienced crew with a sprinkling of fresh enthusiasm. We are not opposed to new instructors. Many take their training very seriously and can come to us with a professional and safety-conscious attitude. Nor do we doubt that many new instructors may be long time divers with a wealth of personal experience to contribute.
Cost is comparably less expensive
Cost. Believe it or not Vancouver is one of the least expensive places in the world to be certified. Often places may appear cheaper and then add on several hidden costs to their courses, including certification fees, boat fees, park fees, the cost of materials, etc.
At IDC there are no hidden fees when learning to dive. Students get everything they need, including rental equipment, textbooks, other assorted learning materials, instruction and logbooks. The ability to access several great dive sites from shore within a 30 minute drive from the city also keeps costs down. Scuba Diving is one more exciting way that our amazing British Columbian backyard has given us the opportunity to explore more with relative ease.
If you have your own reasons to let others know why they should learn to scuba dive in Vancouver we would love to hear them.