BY MARCUS MITCHELL
For many students, the campus pool is a place for weekend luxury and swim practices. But for some, the pool has become their classroom. Once a week, students taking Open Water fill up their oxygen tanks and slide on their flippers before hopping in the pool for diving lessons.
Found in the SpartanWeb course search under the course code MAR 100, Open Water is dedicated to teach the basics of scuba diving and snorkeling. The two-credit course does include a lecture time, but it also features simulated diving as part of a lab.
“I’ve been trying to get into the class for the past few semesters,” junior business management major Gunnar Wagner said. “It’s just something that sounds really fun and the best part is that it still counts as academic credit.”
Open water is taught by adjunct professor Scott Lucci, who also owns the World of Water diving shop across the street from Walmart on West Kennedy. Lucci is a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Master Instructor who has been teaching scuba diving lessons for over 40 years, making him more than qualified to teach college students looking to get their fins wet. However, just because their professor is a Master Instructor, students don’t need to worry about the class being too difficult to handle.
“It actually is an easy A because the course itself is actually written by the organization we train under, the PADI, which is an internationally recognized organization,” Lucci said. “You can start scuba at age 10 and these are college level students here. If they just show up to class and read the book and answer the questions, then this is an easy academic course.”
While not a challenging course, open water does come with fees that students must pay. Students in the open water course are expected to spend around $120 for a “student kit” which includes a textbook, log book, dive planning tables, a planning slate and a video that goes along with the course. There is a lab fee of $150 that covers the scuba gear that Lucci provides for the program which includes air tanks, gauges, buoyancy compensators and other equipment. Masks, fins, snorkels and a10 pound diving weight are not provided and must be purchased by the student if they do not already have them.
Since the class is offered through UT, students may pay for the lab fee through student loans and scholarships, which is crucial for students who want to learn diving but don’t have money available to them. And although not covered in the lab fee, the snorkeling gear can be bought at a discounted price for around $125-$200 at Lucci’s store.
Despite the easy level of the course and the fun subject, diving courses at UT aren’t just a gimmicky senior course. Becoming certified is essential for students wishing to make diving a staple part of their lives in the future.
“As a marine science major, the class provided me an opportunity to acquire skills for my future career,” senior Elizabeth Brown said. “I took all of the courses offered by UT from open water all the way through rescue diver and now I’m working towards my divemaster program.”
The divemaster program cannot be started until a diver has at least 40 logged dives, but for students like Brown who want to take their diving experience to the next level, the UT offered courses are a great way to get started. After taking open water and gaining their certification, students can take advanced open water, which leads to specialty diving programs. Specialty diver part 1 focuses on using enriched air nitrox, buoyancy control and equipment control. In specialty diver part two, students learn boat diving and deep diving techniques. Even if they don’t plan on completing the other courses, becoming a certified diver allows students the chance to take part in the UT scuba club’s diving trips.
“We do various snorkel and dive trips around the Florida area,” scuba club president and sophomore Toni Mancinelli said. “We aren’t a time consuming or demanding club. If you want to join and go to all of our events, awesome. If you just want to join for one event, no problem. The club is a fantastic way for people to get off campus and explore the beautiful area that we live in.”
The scuba club’s next big event is MegaDive, which is at Ginnie Springs from April 2 through the 3 and includes diving, snorkeling and camping. Anyone is allowed to attend, but only the certified divers are allowed to participate in the the night drive portion, according to Mancinelli. The event itself costs $30 for snorkelers and $60 for divers and those prices include a food fee and camping fee. But it does not include the rental gear needed or transportation.
So for students “deep” into finishing their degrees, the diving courses offered by UT are perfect for those looking for both a good time and to keep their GPA “afloat.”