Till recently, Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (Scuba) diving was taken up by only rich and those seeking hard-core adventure. But now a lot of people are going for it.
Scuba diving can be addictive, said Pawan Shourie, Proprietor of Mumbai-headquartered West Coast Adventures (WCA). Shourie, who has started an inland dive-in facility at the Prabodhankar Thackeray Krida Sankul at Vile Parle in the western suburbs of Mumbai, said "nowadays, a majority of those coming to us are non-swimmers. What we are doing is that we are exposing the common man to the recreational scuba diving. Nearly 80% of those coming to us are non-swimmers. The lowest recreational scuba diving depth is 40 metres.”
In rural India, people would dive into a well, a pond, a lake or a river and learn swimming. In urban areas, swimming does not come naturally to people as such environs are not easily available. "Here we are taking non-swimmers to the depths of the Olympic-size swimming pool and making people experience what scuba diving is all about,” he said.
Surrounded by buildings and some greenery, the scuba diving is undertaken in a 50-m pool with a maximum depth of 17 ft. The participant is led from shallow waters to deep water. Maximum recreational depth allowed is 40 metres.
Shourie started West Coast Adventures in 2012 in a bid to organise scuba diving industry in India. He has instructors who are certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and Scuba Schools International (SSI), the two apex bodies of the industry. Two of the instructors at the Vile Parle facility -- Jason Fernandes and Wynelan Luis -- are ace swimmers with great communication skills so that amateurs are comfortable. "We give them a briefing before actually jumping into the pool. We tell everything about equipment, how they work, the safety procedures and the sign language that one needs to communicate,” said Luis.
"Those who do not know swimming will be a bit tense in the first few minutes...but when we stand in shallow water and tell them how to breathe, they overcome the fear...before going to deep waters. We first train them for a few minutes in shallow water,” added Fernandes. The briefing session is exactly the same that one gets when one dives into the sea.
Due to the inaccessibility to the Arabian Sea and the non-diveable waters along the coast, the WCA has started "SCUBA in the CITY” which consists of a host of scuba diving experiences in confined waters. The DSD (Discover Scuba Diving) programme is for about 2 hours, and starts with the instructor or dive master showing basic equipment procedures and swimming techniques before getting into the pool.
The charge per session at the Vile Parle facility is about Rs 3,000 and the rates would vary from Rs 5,000 to Rs 5,500 for diving experience in sea. "In places like Maldives, it may cost nearly Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000,” he said.
"Let me tell you, once you do it....you will start enjoying...it can be addictive....but it is not a disclaimer...often it is considered the laziest sport but actually it is far more interesting and thrilling,” said Shourie. said Shourie. People generally quickly learn the basic art. Under water, one needs to inhale and exhale from the mouth. Once that is done, rest falls in place. Selecting scuba education is a very personal experience.
"This year has been about me channelising my inner adventure seeker and scuba diving was high on the list! But when you are not a swimmer and scared of water beyond your height you wonder if you would ever be able to go scuba diving. The WCA team had the answer to it. A professional team with a personal touch, they ensured that I got the necessary practice before going into 17 feet of water. And when under water they were so calm that I forgot all my concerns and just enjoyed the whole experience,” says Rashmi Shetty, an independent communications specialist.
"It was truly an amazing experience which connects you with yourself at such different levels that I now am looking forward to go with this team into the open seas,” she added.
The skill sets that are taught to an amateur and non-swimmer are breathing techniques, regulator removal and replacement, regulator recovery, mask partial clearing, alternate air source use, buoyancy control, swimming with scuba equipment.
The skills make people confident and prepare them for open-water sessions. "I am a traveler by heart and love the wonders of the ocean which is why I started West Coast Adventures, to discover a world inside an otherwise unexplored world,” Shourie said. Shourie has a centre in Murdeshwara in the Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka and another in Goa. The Mumbai centre is the best facility.Shourie agreed that destinations like Thailand are better as the facilities there are the best. Visibility is very high as the water is clean and that makes experience more satisfactory.
It is estimated that the scuba diving market would grow annually at 40% .
The country has about 70 diving centres of which 50% are in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In India, the profile is diverse and the maximum people coming to Scuba diving is in the age group of 22 to 30, he said.
WCA offers a selection of experiences to choose from; 'Fun Dives’ for certified divers to "Discover Scuba Diving” for someone who is experiencing it for the first time and 'PADI/SSI Courses’, WCA’s scuba diving centres offer personalised options that can be tailored to fit the patron’s holiday plans. A lot of corporate companies are coming in for HR activities.