Under the surface, it’s quiet. The cool turquoise press of the water slows your movements. Like meditation, you are conscious of every breath. Every motion is methodical: inflate and deflate your vest, keep track of your air and pressure gauges. Systematic checks performed while surrounded by a fantastical aquascape of plants and fish and sunken vessels. A scientific inquiry wrapped in a vision of Atlantis.
Don’t bother buying a plane ticket, just rent some gear and take a drive.
You don’t have to leave the heart of it all to experience this submerged world, and Columbus Scuba wants to take you there.
The scene is a campsite, echoing with excitement. They’re going to be here all weekend, and you can feel the anticipation buzzing in the air. Camping chairs and picnic tables filled with piles of food. Trailers and cars and tents, oh my! And people –dozens of people– of all shapes, sizes and colors. They mill around, carrying gear and tanks of air. Golf carts shuttle people about. A pattern emerges. Dry people are busy, wet people are smiling. It’s all about the dive.
The open water checkout dive weekends in Gilboa Quarry are a Columbus Scuba summer mainstay. To achieve a scuba certification, students must complete their skill set in the contained underwater environment that the walls of the flooded quarry provide.
Owners Andy and Melissa Silverman have a passion for diving, and they want others to catch their wave. Should you join their close knit but welcoming scuba family, diving options abound, and you won’t have to take a day off work to get in some time to take a plunge.
The salty sapphire waters of Bahamian islands are not the only place where people can explore submerged worlds with the assistance of a self contained underwater breathing apparatus. There are numerous diving opportunities around the buckeye state, in quarries, rivers, and lakes great and small. There are opportunities to see wildlife, and “underwater attractions.” These are pieces of machinery and vehicles that have been gutted of their fuselage and sunk beneath the water to provide habitat for animals, and a playground for adventurous humans. Gilboa Quarry outside of Findlay hosts planes, motorcycles, and a school bus where habituated fish feeding results in “zealous fish” warnings to new divers entering the water for the first time. We called it the “troutnado,” and it was glorious.
If you’re in the mood for some underwater billiards, just scoot on over to the Circleville Dive Center, where you can try your hand at being a freshwater shark. North Point Quarry in Newark is home to hundreds of prehistoric oddities known as paddlefish. Google them and be amazed.
If scuba sounds like too deep a dive for you landlubbers, know that instruction begins in a pool. In the shallow end. Instructors acquaint you with the mechanisms of equipment, and you begin by getting comfortable in a place where, worst case scenario… you can simply stand up, catch your breath, and start over. I’ve been quoted as saying that water is my kryptonite. Ive never been a strong swimmer, and an early formative experience with the movie Jaws and the California beaches of my childhood left me terrified of deep water. But with a “Discover Scuba” lesson under the patient guidance of an instructor, I learned the ropes of buoyancy, and how to work the intimidating mechanics of Jacques Cousteau’s brainchild. Armed with this knowledge, I left the lesson more comfortable under water than I had ever been. I found myself watching coral reef documentaries, and developing a curiosity about aquatic life that my fish tank just couldn’t sate.
When i found myself at Gilboa quarry, fully dressed in heavy gear, a huge air tank on my back, my terror had turned to excited nerves. In the water, you work your way into the depths by a series of platforms. 13 feet under the surface no longer seemed scary to me. From there, we set off into the quarry, past trees and plants. Brightly colored fish swim by lazily, unafraid of people in their safe little cove. Out of the mist, the skeletons of sunken trucks appear, along with other familiar shapes like boats and motorcycles. They are encrusted with underwater life, algae and mosses cling to their frames, and fish dart in and out of the doors and windows. The metal beasts have been claimed by nature, beautifully.
We emerged from the water after what seemed to be only a few minutes. Time does fly when you’re having fun. Or maybe it swims.
In addition to scuba certification, and a plethora of classes and certificates you can achieve, Columbus Scuba plays host to a literal world of adventures outside of the outerbelt. Throughout the year, they organize dive trips to destinations with some of the most coveted underwater experiences on our blue planet. From Bonaire in the Bahamas, to an Indonesian getaway, you can travel to foreign destinations with your friends and family from the capital city. Keeping it local has never looked so good.
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