Jun 5, 2014

Water covers 70% of the world: don’t miss out!

A medley of images from the story (l-r): Gran Cenote, the Channel Islands
by Richard Salas of ASK Photography, and Grenada's Underwater Sculpture Garden.
Somersault off the boat, into the blue. Drift down to the wreck or the reef. Or maybe towards some rock formations, sculpted long before a cavern flooded. The slightest kick sends your shadow gliding across the bottom. A whisper of  breath buoys you up, chasing a flash of color. Immersed, you hover, freed from the gravity and worries of the surface...

Today somewhere between 1.2 and 2.1 million Americans regularly make a splash (the data is muddier than an estuary, but divers love to guess at their numbers, especially over mugs of local beer). From quarries to lakes and the open ocean, they face the marine wilderness and all of its untamed creatures. For Laura James, an underwater videographer and conservation advocate, nothing sums up that beauty like giant Pacific octopuses with their three hearts, copper-rich blood, ability to learn and wicked sense of humor. “They are a vivid reminder how alien the undersea world is and ultimately how little we know about it,” she says.

Man-sized cod approach—and even
Eskimo kiss— divers at this beautifully clear
spot on the Ribbon Reefs, Australia.
We’re only starting to learn how our bodies benefit from submerging in the sea too. Scuba strengthens the legs, glutes, core and back, as divers maneuver through a medium hundreds of times more dense than air. Not to mention the gym-rat-worthy workout of hauling gear, especially the heavy weight belts and extra air tanks of cold-water descents. Janna Nichols, a marine-life instructor and grandmother of eight, laughs:  “My lady diver friends and I are all pushing our mid-fifties, the age where doctors recommend load-bearing exercise to prevent osteoporosis. As we’re trudging into the water, we always joke about that. Because we’re each hauling around 100 pounds: a good chunk of weight!”

Squished fingers, burst eardrums and decompression sickness (“the bends”)—among other accidents–do take their toll, of course. But at roughly 1,300 injuries each year, the sport remains almost twice as safe as horseshoe pitching.

Ready to dive in? Try one of these world-class dive sites.

Read the full 16-page story in "Visa Black Card Magazine."

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