SLO Ocean Currents can lead the way
“Learning to dive has been the best experience of our lives,” Meredith and John Fennacy said, “Our only regret is we didn’t do it sooner!” The Fennancys from Morro Bay were on a diving vacation in Fiji organized by SLO Ocean Currents. Owner Anthony Reynolds and his staff have a dive shop on Higuera Street in the complex across from the DMV. From there they offer Scuba classes, organize diving expeditions, and rent and sell all the gear one needs in order to enjoy the underwater world.
Meredith and John posted photos of their dives in Fiji on Facebook. “Anthony and his staff have gone above and beyond for us,” they said, “They have answered every question, held every nervous hand, and sent us out into the wonderful underwater world of diving with confidence.”
You can’t help but want to try this sport when listening to Reynolds talk about it. Pretty much anybody can learn to scuba dive. Only folks with heart conditions may be restricted, but Reynolds has everyone fill out a medical questionnaire and, if necessary, get a doctor’s approval. “Just recently we taught a 69 year old man to dive,” he commented.
A beginner starts out with a lecture and a first session in a pool. “We use the city pool,” Reynolds said, “and we also do lessons in private pools.” The first session gets someone familiar with breathing through the regulator in the shallow end of the pool. If the trainee doesn’t know how to swim then swimming lessons are taught as it is necessary to be able to swim with any kind of stroke for 200 yards. The course teaches one how to dive safely. Reynolds and his staff belong to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors and this is the organization that sets the standards in training.
“After becoming familiar with the equipment we go on to the second lesson which involves another lecture and then learning a set of skills,” Reynolds said. The skills involve how to clear the regulator should it be removed from your mouth and get water in it. The next skill to learn is how to deal with water in your mask and clear it. How to stay buoyant is another skill set. Buoyancy is attained by balancing one’s weight. It’s necessary to be weighted in order to float properly in the water. “We use a buoyancy compensation device that is a vest that fills with air,” Reynolds explained, “the air can be let out or into the vest to achieve one’s proper balance in the water.”
After the pool lessons people graduate to a course called Discovering Scuba Diving in the Ocean. This can occur locally out at Port San Luis or in Morro Bay or people can go on a trip to a tropical destination and do this part with a diving guide that is there. “Or we take them out to the Channel Islands and do four dives in that location and after that they are certified divers.”
While certification is a goal, you can go diving without being certified. Perhaps you are on vacation in Cozumel. You can take a pool lesson with a local diving company and then they will take you out in the ocean.
“In the advanced level of lessons we teach people how to read the underwater compass,” Reynolds said. For people who go diving locally this is a necessity as you do need to be able to get around and make your way back to the diving boat. “This is not so necessary when diving in tropical locations as a guide is always with you,” Reynolds said.
SLO Ocean Currents organizes diving vacations for their clients. “We also host two to three international diving trips a year,” Reynolds said. Borneo, Curacao, Aruba, Cozumel, and Fiji are just some of the places they go. “We try to also tie these trips in with some type of cultural event in the area.”
Reynolds finds that 80% of women come into the activity concerned most about trusting the equipment. “Women are thinkers,” he said, “Guys are doers. This is a thinking sport.” So after their pool lessons women feel confident with the equipment and do better than the men. “By the second week of diving in the ocean, women overtake the guys,” Reynolds said. This is probably a good thing for couples so the guys don’t have to worry about being nagged about going diving if their wives go with them.
Reynolds uses a variety of boats to venture to the Channel Islands which are one of the company’s favorite dive spots. The boats are fairly large, from 65 to 95 feet, and hold up to 30 or 40 people. All meals are provided and sleeping arrangements are on bunk beds with privacy curtains. Non-diving companions can go along and enjoy the ride and amenities. One of the boats even has a hot tub. Trip cost is very reasonable.
Some trips are geared primarily for photographers and others are for spear fishing. One of the most popular diving expeditions is when they go out to get lobsters. They also participate in environmental fish counts and do underwater clean-ups.
Free social dives are held monthly for certified divers and they even have an underwater pumpkin carving contest in the Fall. The shop does rentals, repairs and the classes. Classes run at $325 and they recommend renting equipment at first but if you want to you can outfit yourself for approximately $2000. This includes wet suits, regulators, fins, etc. You don’t need the tanks as these are always available at your diving destinations.
“From finding us the best equipment to booking our dive destinations, SLO Ocean Currents oversees it all. We recommend it for everyone!” said John and Meredith Fennacy.
— Ruth Ann Angus