Rimbey junior/senior high school students have recently returned to Ponoka Aquaplex to conduct their scuba diving training, something they have been doing for the last five years.
Principal Tim Lekas said the optional program is a program inspired by the Eckville principal who was a dive master. The first year of the program six students took the course and training was conducted in Victoria, B.C. But sending kids to Victoria was not the best of options. The cost was high, the water was cold and for a little bit more money, students could take a trip to Costa Rica to complete the training.
This year, they do travel to Costa Rica in March during school break to finish their scuba diving certification.
“They have to do some open-water dives to get their certification,” said Lekas.
Training the students in Ponoka has been the ideal choice: the deep pool and salt water offers kids a chance to get some serious practice in: instructors use weights and keep a close eye on students while they receive their training.
Once Costa Rica was added as a destination to the training program, the roster of the class has grown, but expanding the course may not be ideal either. Lekas feels they can handle no more than 20 kids as they would need more instructors to attend with students.
“We want to have a lot of supervisors when we’re diving,” explained Lekas.
Usually there are six to seven local divers, Lekas and two other Rimbey instructors when students get certified in open water scuba diving.
“We have a lot of experience with our 20 divers. We want it to be as a safe as possible,” he added.
Student Matthew Froehlick is working on his advanced open water certification. He has been scuba diving for two years. During the training session, Froehlick could be seen exploring every part of the deep pool at the Aquaplex. “It’s just so nice and calm under the water.”
The training they have received from master diver Denise Boniface has been a benefit to students, explained Lekas. “She instructs other dive masters.”
“Before we go in the water, Denise always prepares us really well,” added Froehlick.
She provides students with much needed skills by teaching how water pressure can affect the eardrums under water and how to equalize the pressure by plugging your nose, explained Froehlick. He has since been on a cruise with his family and used his first stage open water certification.
The experience for students is becoming memorable and Lekas said they usually talk about the training and their certification trip during graduation. He enjoys the program too. “Rimbey, I think, is the scuba diving capital of Alberta right now because probably per capita we have more divers in the community.”
More than 100 divers have been certified in the last five years, said Lekas. The school helps subsidize the program up to $1,000. Students pay $1,700, which includes all their training and the all-inclusive trip to Costa Rica.