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Class Glides Through An Underwater Experience
A weightless world greeted those who participated in the 'Introduction to Scuba Diving' class at the Escalon community pool.

The class on Saturday, July 17 was the second of three being offered this summer at the local pool and included a dozen participants that experienced similar weightlessness to NASA's astronaut training. Michael Dodge, owner of Aquatic Discount Scuba of Escalon and a Master Diver Trainer, said it is the closest experience to space as a person can get.

Isaiah Valdez, 9, came from Modesto for the experience and said he was excited for his first time scuba diving.

"It's a great chance for us to give back to the community," Dodge mentioned of hosting the class.

Having seen neighboring communities such as Manteca and Ripon hold similar courses, the city approached Dodge, who resides in Escalon, to offer a class here. The cost is only $10 and the profits go to the Recreation Department.

Of the two-hour class, the first 15 minutes are dedicated to teaching participants how to breathe underwater with the scuba equipment, clear their masks and use the regulator. After, they utilize the new skills in the pool for about an hour.

Depending on the class size, Dodge said three or four Dive Masters, or instructors, help break up participants into groups of four to five to learn the techniques. In addition to the introductory skills, experienced divers are encouraged to attend and brush up on their skills, said Dodge.

A buoyancy course is set up in the deep end, which allows divers to practice their buoyancy. Rings are set up at different heights to allow divers to practice staying neutrally buoyant. This means divers can swim up or down without problems, which in the ocean protects the coral from being destroyed from a diver's bounce, Dodge explained.

"We actually get quite a few who come to practice their skills," he added.

Divers who wish to continue on with diving can become certified for $300. This requires five lecture courses, five pool sessions and four ocean dives.

The open water certification is a lifetime certification. However, divers can do more and get specialty training.

"This instruction provides training to be better in certain areas," Dodge explained.

For example, divers can specialize in night dives, wrecks, and taking underwater pictures or videos.

Dodge, who has had the opportunity to dive all over the world including all of Hawaii, Australia, Honduras and the Caribbean, said he enjoys seeing people get hooked from one pool class.

"I like to see people get excited about it," he said.

Participant Jason Anderson, 15, agreed that the experience was "pretty cool."

For information about the August scuba session, contact the Recreation Department at 691-7305.