February 1, 1998

Scuba popular here, but gear can be pricey

How many scuba divers does it take to screw in a light bulb? They can’t do it; they all die trying.

OK, you know not to take a wall socket with you when you dive. So, what do you bring? Fortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, Boulder is a mecca for divers. Several shops around the county rent and sell gear. Most also lead tours and offer classes ranging from basic certification through instructor level.

Scuba is very popular locally because “Colorado, and especially Boulder, have an active population that enjoys recreational activities in exotic destinations. Diving allows them to escape the winter cold,” according to Steve Weaver, owner of Weaver’s Dive and Travel Center. Every October, the Colorado Scuba Retailer’s Association sponsors the “ExtaSea Expo,” the most successful consumer diving show in the country, Weaver says. Those who are interested should call the shop in September to inquire about dates and location.

Scuba (an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) allows participants to explore environments that are rarely seen by humans and are often swarmed with wildlife. It also offers the opportunity to experience a sensation akin to flying — self-propelling with neutral buoyancy.

Obviously, it’s hazardous to enter a region where the only oxygen available for human use is what you carry and where pressure changes dramatically. Rapid ascents during a dive can cause decompression sickness or “the bends.” Nitrogen narcosis, or “rapture of the deep,” can affect judgment and impair physical ability.

Because of these and other risks, a person can’t legally dive without first gaining proper certification through a series of classes. People with serious lung or heart problems, diabetes, tuberculosis or epilepsy should work carefully with a specialist or, perhaps, find another sport. Healthy adults, however, can certainly enjoy the sport, and adolescents can start lessons at the age of 12.

According to Chris Aamot, of Scuba Joe in Boulder, Scuba is a “toy-intensive” sport. You’ll never have difficulty buying a gift for that certain diving fanatic in your life. Good underwater watches, for example, can be purchased for $300, but the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf will set you back about $2,000.

Want gold? No problem. And if sand comes too close, after every three ticks, the bezel, the ring that encompasses the display, just kicks it away.

Several local shops rent gear. Basic equipment includes a wetsuit, a buoyancy control vest, a regulator, a computer, tanks, a weight with belt, a compass, a mask, fins and a snorkel. A package including the regulator, the vest, the tank, the weight and the wetsuit rents for about $35 per day.

Few people buy their own tanks, because it’s too difficult to travel with them. Commonly purchased gear includes mask, fins and snorkel ($25 to $30 for kids, $120 to $500 for adults). There is, of course, no limit to what one can spend on gear and toys. Prices for a set of the most expensive equipment can total as much as $15,000, including tanks with “rebreathers” that filter exhaled air so that it can be reused, and a NITROX computer with a full readout on the face mask.

For certification, expect to devote two-and-a-half days or six evenings to lessons plus an open water dive session that typically lasts two days. The basic scuba course costs about $110. The certification open-dive runs about $140 at a local reservoir or about $250 in Homestead, Utah (two nights lodging included).

Most divers dream of traveling to the world’s great coral reefs with their abundance of exotic, colorful wildlife. Nevertheless, some local lakes offer fine opportunities. Aurora Reservoir sports a sunken airplane, and Chatfield Reservoir has a fire hydrant and a toilet. Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, N.M., is quite popular despite its 60 degree water. Many locals, however, have come to prefer Homestead mainly because of its year-round temperatures in the 90s.

So why would one dive? Yan de Gialluly, sales manager at Boulder’s Rocky Mountain Diving Center, states quite simply, “It’s all about fun and travel.”

How many scuba divers does it take to screw in a light bulb? They can’t do it; they all die trying.

OK, you know not to take a wall socket with you when you dive. So, what do you bring? Fortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, Boulder is a mecca for divers. Several shops around the county rent and sell gear. Most also lead tours and offer classes ranging from basic certification through instructor level.

Scuba is very popular locally because “Colorado, and especially Boulder, have an active population that enjoys recreational…

Christopher Wood
Christopher Wood is editor and publisher of BizWest, a regional business journal covering Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties. Wood co-founded the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995 and served as publisher of the Boulder County Business Report until the two publications were merged to form BizWest in 2014. From 1990 to 1995, Wood served as reporter and managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. He is a Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder. He has won numerous awards from the Colorado Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and the Alliance of Area Business Publishers.
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