The rewards of becoming a scuba diver

Why did I become a scuba diver? Initially it was just an item on my bucket list but since then it’s become more than a hobby, it's become a way of life. I’ve learned to LOVE and crave the experience of breathing and BEING underwater so much so that I became a cave and technical diver and entered the profession to teach others to scuba dive. If scuba diving is something you’ve thought about but haven’t taken the plunge yet, here are some of the many rewards and benefits of being a scuba diver. 

1. Challenge yourself to grow

At first, breathing underwater through a regulator feels unnatural for some people. I was one of those people and I wasn’t 100% comfortable being underwater. I always tell my students that when I first learned to scuba dive, I would hold on to my dive buddy’s arm with vice grip strength because I was always a bit fearful. As I got more experience and more training, my confidence grew and it started to get easier and more like breathing and being above water. It has become like second nature now to be underwater. With each level of training, each new experience and repetition of skills in new environments, I found that my circle of comfort kept increasing. I knew I really wanted it so I just kept working at it. I kept working at it to the point where I decided to become an instructor to keep sharing that love of diving. 

It’s been incredibly rewarding knowing what I’ve overcome -  that I went from being fearful to being more confident underwater while growing my skills and I see the same thing happen in many of my students. You'll find that the measurable results in your mindset and physical wellness from scuba diving can also have had a positive impact in other areas of your life.

By growing your circle of comfort and expanding it out with scuba diving, you'll realize that you're capable of so much more and that anything is possible!

Grace Marquez ready to dive her rebreather and also with Open water students
LEFT: I never thought I'd ever dive a rebreather but here we are! Doing some tech diving in Bon Echo Provincial Park. RIGHT: Training a group of open water students.

2. Stress release and mental wellness

Being underwater is incredibly peaceful. Even if the surface is a bit rough (figuratively and literally), as soon as you slip past that waterline, any and all troubles really do fade away with each exhale. The paced, relaxed breathing can help lower your blood pressure and heart rate and reduce the stress hormones in your blood. Controlled breathing can also cause physiological changes to improve your immune system. It’s as if the bubbles of your exhales just take your stress away with it. It’s the reason why so many of my dive friends go diving after work. The results are immediate and when you come up from a dive, you’ll feel the positive benefits for hours afterwards. this often seeps into your sleep and it's common to sleep soundly after a day of diving. 

View from underwater of the surface above with trees, shoreline and sky

View from below looking at the world above through the water line like a looking glass

3. Improved fitness 

Scuba diving is a great form of exercise.  Being a diver does require some level of fitness especially in being able to carry your gear (though there’s always help around and ways to adapt to what you need). You’ll learn to control your breathing and you’ll use muscles you never even knew you had. It requires both cardiovascular fitness and strength, as divers use their legs to kick and their arms to control their buoyancy. Additionally, diving in colder water can increase metabolism and burn more calories. I joke around that the cost of a new drysuit is the main reason I try to keep my weight stable but diving helps me stay active and fit. 

Selfie with diver pulling gear behind him in a cart along a path

Ninja stealth selfie photo while Larry hauls our tanks 0.65km over a mostly bumpy trail to dive Jug Hole 

4. Bonding and camaraderie 

This has been one of the things for which I’ve been incredibly grateful - meeting new people from all walks of life. Some of my closest friends are my dive buddies. These are people that I likely would never have met were it not for diving. As a diver, I’ve met such an amazing array of people and my circle of friends has grown. 

The dive community is a tight-knit and welcoming group of individuals who share a passion for the underwater world. Sharing laughs, experiences, and relying on each other to keep each other safe underwater cultivates some really deep and meaningful friendships above the water. It’s a great way to connect with other people and the sense of camaraderie and support within the dive community is pretty special.

With friends on dive boats in Tobermory and Rimouski

LEFT: With friends celebrating Toby's birthday in Tobermory.   RIGHT: Diving the Empress of Ireland wreck with friends in Rimouski, Quebec.

5. Unlock the world and see a different perspective

Since I became a scuba diver, my travels have gone off the beaten path to some unique places. Diving has intrigued me to travel to places I probably never would have visited - such as Truk Lagoon in Micronesia and the remote Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands (to dive the nuclear ghost fleet) recently. I’ve experienced different cultures and locales and enriched my life with different perspectives and ways to view the world. 

And seeing these different perspectives also happens locally! I’ve visited so many more places in my home province of Ontario and within Canada without ever getting on a plane - all because of diving. I’ve enjoyed seeing the French river and always make a point to stop at the French River Trading Post on my way to dive the Northwind wreck off Manitoulin Island. There is a rich aboriginal culture in that area.

In Eastern Quebec, we enjoyed the locally fished lobster and the rich marine heritage at the Point-au-Père Empress of Ireland museum while diving the Empress of Ireland wreck in Rimouski.  I’ve grown to think of Conception Bay Newfoundland as my home-away-from home while diving the WW2 Bell Island wrecks with Ocean Quest Adventures each summer. I’ve seen so much more of my home country because of diving. 

Diving will open up so much more of the world to you especially if you travel with a group through your local dive shop. You’ll know already that you have certain things in common with other divers because of that shared love.

Truk Lagoon above and below the water
LEFT: View of Blue Lagoon Dive resort in Truk Lagoon from the sand bar. MIDDLE: Diving the San Francisco Maru with the "light" tanks on her deck. RIGHT: Quick stop on Eten Island was just enough time to chat with some local kids. 
Cave diving in France and then exploring a thousand year old mill

LEFT: Cave Diving in the Lot France. RIGHT: Enjoying a stop after our dive at a local mill still grinding flour in the ancient tradition.

6. Discovery and adventure 

Water covers 71% of the world’s surface. It’s the last frontier on planet earth and yet roughly only 2.5% of the world’s population are scuba divers. Diving enables you to see so much more of our incredible world. Become a scuba diver and you’ll gain access to a world that’s unique and special and truly magical. Every dive is an adventure and even the simplest dive to a frequented spot can yield simple joys in being surrounded by fish, finding some discarded treasure and enjoying being right in the middle of a beautiful waterscape.

Diving the Typo wreck in Lake Huron
Diving the wreck of the Typo that's been at the bottom of the cold waters of Lake Huron for over 123 years! Photo by Matt Mandziuk. Sea lions in the sea of cortez

Diving with sea lions in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez, Mexico

7. Learn about more than diving

Even if you're not a history buff, you'll find that diving will peak your curiousity about the sites you're seeing underwater. I've learned more about the history of the Great Lakes, World War 2 and Canada through diving than I ever did in school. Learning about the history of each dive site makes the experience richer. Some stories are right out of historical novels while others seem to be right out of a Hollywood movie.

Over the years, I've also learned about geology, various marine mammals, speleology, weather patterns, marine life, constellations, physics, mechanics, photography, fishing, nautical archaeology, boating, ROVs (remote operated vehicles), how to safely fire a handgun, cooking Loukomadies (a greek donut), various countries and customs, skydiving, self-defence techniques, how to shuck a scallop, beekeeping, manatees, the mark of good quality honey, how to make homemade pasta noodles, how to make your own supplements and drones to name just a few of the random things! 

I've learned about these things from first hand experience through the diving itself and through the amazing people I've met along the way. The learning is amplified when you're a scuba diver!

Rick Stanley of Ocean Quest demonstrating how to make homemade pasta noodlesRick Stanley of Ocean Quest Adventures demonstrating how to make homemade pasta noodles

8. Gets you outside and outdoors enjoying nature

Diving has allowed me to stay far more connected with nature -  rain or shine. You learn about weather and wind patterns particularly if you do a lot of boat diving. You learn to read the water even from shore. You appreciate just being outdoors whether it's the breeze on a boat, the walk through the woods to get to a river dive site, or catching the sun setting on the beach where you're waiting to enter for a night dive. 

Being outdoors for this sport helps with stress relief and restores mental energy. the fresh air is away from tight indoor spaces where viruses tend to thrive. The sunshine not only gives us beneficial Vitamin D from its rays, it's a natural antiseptic and can kill mold, viruses and bacteria on your skin. The deeper breathing when outdoors helps in boosting serotonin levels associated with happiness and optimism. 

I've found that even if we're unable to dive due to rough weather, just being outdoors, coupled with the camaraderie still gives a great mental boost.

Two paddlers in kayaks above two manatees at Ichetucknee state park

Taking a mid week rest day from cave diving to do some paddling on the Ichetucknee river when we spotted a mama and her baby manatee.

9. Awareness of water quality and conservation

When you’re a scuba diver you see and experience the water quality first hand! You'll learn to understand the water sources for the various dive sites and the impact that humans can have on water quality. 

You'll find yourself picking up trash you find underwater and you'll be much more mindful of what you consume because so much trash ends up in the water.  

You'll naturally want to conserve and protect the water that gives us so much enjoyment through scuba diving and become much more aware of the many organizations and initiatives around this!

Grace Marquez holding a bag of collected trash during a clean up dive

Holding up a bag of trash collected during a PADI Aware Dive Against Debris clean up dive

10. Inspiration

I’ve been an artist my whole life but it wasn’t until I started scuba diving and painting the scenes I see underwater that my art really found its purpose. There’s magic and wonder underwater and I love painting these scenes so that others can experience it second hand. Whether it’s a reef, wreck or underwater cave, I love exploring them and painting them. My art appeals to scuba divers and non-divers alike because of the beauty, story and sense of adventure in each painting. 

I've seen the same thing happen with other friends who are carpenters, plumbers, and teachers for example, who started sculpting, drawing and painting once they became divers. It's such and incredible world underwater that it has the ability to wake dormant creative talents inside each of us. It makes us brave enough to want to express what we experience while diving. 

Photo of USS Saratoga bridge and painting of the same bridge

LEFT: During a dive on the USS Saratoga.  RIGHT: My painting in the "AFTERLIFE" series inspired by the dives on the USS Saratoga.

Ready to try scuba diving?

If you love discovering new places, meeting people from all walks of life, want to experience the rewards of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, want to strengthen yourself mentally and physically, enjoy the connection to nature and the sense of community, diving is an incredible activity to achieve all of this and more.

Give scuba diving a try and see how you feel after a dive - you may just find yourself wanting to embrace the "dive life" to feel like that all the time!