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For Real Fun, Come Down to Their Level: Learning Underwater

Feature Story
Posted on Feb, 22 2012

Northwest Divers, a local scuba diving shop that has been in business for over 45 years offers scuba diving classes through Distance and Continuing Education and the Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Science department at North Dakota State University. Rick Van Raden, owner of Northwest Divers, an instructor and avid diver himself said that he has thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to teach the scuba classes and continue the interest in the activity of scuba diving. Students young and old take the scuba diving course and use their diving skills for the rest of their life leading to many new adventures.

Van Raden describes scuba divers as great people with a passion for life. Perhaps this is why when asked when he started diving he responded with, “eight years young.” He began diving in a pool and did his first ocean dive at the age of 13, after ironically just seeing the movie, Jaws. The thought of jumping into the ocean was terrifying, but Van Raden said, “I slipped below the surface [of the water] and the excitement and beauty of the underwater world took over my thoughts. I will never forget that experience.”

Just how does one take scuba diving classes online and in the geographically bound Fargo-Moorhead area you ask? The scuba diving classes are offered twice a semester as 9-week courses, allowing the classes to stay small with about 8 students in the class; this way instructors can provide specialized instruction based on students’ needs. Students enrolled in the course complete textbook readings and online review session modules on their own time, which gives students the flexibility to complete their work at a time and place that works best for them. Then, near the end of the course, a weekend is designated for students to put that academic information to use while they practice their newly acquired skills in the water. Using local pools, students spend the weekend fully concentrated on scuba diving. Because of the small class size and concentrated weekend spent applying and practicing skills, upon completion of the course Van Raden said, “The ultimate result is that the students learned more about diving, became more proficient with their skill sets and were more enthusiastic at the end because the instructors knew their strengths and areas of growth more quickly and to some depth. Students with unique needs could quickly be matched with instructors to match those needs.” When ready to move on from diving in pools, Van Raden said we have some of the best diving in the world right in our backyard; Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, Lake Superior is just a short distance away, there are plenty of rivers, and water-filled abandoned iron ore mines all provide great places to dive.

Scuba diving can lead to lifelong adventures. Upon completion of the basic scuba diving course many students go on to the Open Water Certification portion of the class to earn their passport-like c-card that allows them to be certified to dive around the world. Many even continue their training and become instructors themselves. Van Raden has traveled around the world to hundreds of different dive locations with each providing a different experience. No two dives are ever the same with each providing different colors, fish, topography, climates, temperatures, and other elements. Different locations also offer different types of diving such as ice diving, wreck diving, night or limited visibility diving, and underwater photography dives just to name a few. 

All of this can be possible if you take the initial plunge and enroll  in the basic course offered through NDSU Distance and Continuing Education. Van Raden’s advice is to “stop thinking about it and do it. It is easier than you think and a lot more fun that you think. The reason people take the class is to have fun. Scuba diving delivers fun.” If you have any questions about the scuba diving classes, give Distance and Continuing Education a call at 701-231-7015 or send us an email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Remember that these classes are offered nearly every semester and at different times so you can choose the time that best fits your class schedule!