The Collegian
Thursday, February 29, 2024

Take the plunge with UR’s scuba divers

<p>Sophomore Emily Lekas (third from the right) at a scuba diving trip to Raibow River in Dunellon, Florida. Photo Courtesy of Lekas.&nbsp;</p>

Sophomore Emily Lekas (third from the right) at a scuba diving trip to Raibow River in Dunellon, Florida. Photo Courtesy of Lekas. 

The feeling of weightlessness underwater, the freedom of movement and the unmatched moments while coming face-to-face with marine life are aspects of scuba diving that keep sophomore Emily Lekas jumping back into the deep end.

After becoming a certified scuba diver this past summer in preparation to do underwater research while studying abroad in the Turks and Caicos Islands next semester, Lekas wanted a way to continue diving while at school. That’s when she posted a flyer in Tyler Haynes Commons looking for other divers to help form a campus scuba diving club. 

While Lekas said she was unsure of the responses she would receive, there is now a group of seven students who meet regularly to share scuba diving pictures and experiences.

“I’m still pretty new to scuba diving, but I thought it would be cool if we just had a community of people who could meet up to share stories of crazy wildlife experiences and wisdom or any lessons they've learned from their experiences so far,” Lekas said. 

Coming from Arkansas, where it was hard to find other scuba divers, avid diver and first-year Tucker Radtke was one of the first students to join the group.

“I would show people at home some of the pictures that I took when diving or tell them about diving, but they didn't really have anything to relate to,” Radtke said. “But it’s been cool to find a group here just sharing pictures and sharing stories of where we’ve gone to go dive.”

The group is filling out a club application with the goal of becoming a registered student organization by next semester, Radtke said. 

In addition to meeting and sharing scuba diving experiences, Lekas plans to work with local dive shops and use club funding to supply gear for group diving trips. While there are Richmond-area cold-water lakes and quarries the students could explore, Lekas said she also hoped to get divers together to visit sites like shipwrecks off the South Carolina coast. 

The group’s focus includes finding ways to teach new divers basic swim techniques and how to use scuba equipment so they can become certified for dive trips, sophomore Rob Seifrit said.

For those who want to try scuba diving in a pool or closed environment before getting certified, Seifrit recommends taking an introductory scuba diving course. But for people who want to go on scuba diving trips, an open water diver certification is strongly encouraged for safety purposes. With an open water certification, divers can choose to pursue specialty certifications like night diving or an advanced open water diver certification to work toward becoming a professional diver, Seifrit said.

As someone who has been scuba diving for five years, Seifrit said he’s excited to help make the sport more accessible to students who are interested but may not have the resources.

“I’ve always found scuba diving is way more accessible and less technical of a sport than people think,” Seifrit said. “But, I think this is a cool opportunity to spread the activity with other college students and make it really affordable.”

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