UK students jump in to learning experience with Scuba lessons

Debbi Ballard, left, and Nikole Ordway, both of Wilton Manors, swim underwater as they practice speaking through special full dive masks enabled with sound to communicate with one another while diving offshore of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, June 22, 2009. Debbi is a Jewish cantor who performs wedding ceremonies, and only a week prior gained scuba certification to perform underwater weddings. (Carey Wagner/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/MCT)

By Brian Shlonsky

Fins, snorkels and oxygen tanks helped a group of UK students dive to the depths of a university pool and take their first breaths underwater.

New Horizons Dive Center in Lexington held a free scuba dive training session Monday night in the Lancaster Aquatic Center, where UK students learned some scuba basics such as stabilizing air pressure in the body, underwater hand signals and how to clear their masks if filled with water.

“We expected about 25 students, but we got almost double that and were about at our capacity,” said Tori Philipp, a marketing and management junior who is interning with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. “It’s really great because if these people take an interest and tell more students, they can get certified and future interns can set up dives for students at local quarries.”

Participants received about 15 minutes of classroom time before hopping in the water for the remainder of the hour to receive hands-on training.

“I was nervous at first, but it ended up being a blast,” elementary education sophomore Kristen Martin said.

Students started in the shallow part of the pool and were trained by scuba dive instructors and dive masters. They became familiar with the gear and practiced breathing techniques before working their way to deeper parts of the pool.

“We were limited on space since there is only so much shallow water available for us to utilize,” Philipp said. “Diving is awkward at first, so you can’t just be thrown into deep water where you can’t stand.”

New Horizons has a certified dive instructor teach the class KHP 117 (SCUBA) each semester at UK, and some students who attended the training went to spark their interest.

“I wanted to see what scuba was like before I signed up for the class,” elementary education sophomore Julie Hale said. “It’s definitely a course I think I would enjoy.”

New Horizons plans to hold more scuba training sessions in the future for UK students.

“We wanted to do something to get students interested in scuba diving and boost the program,” said Lavon Land, owner of New Horizons Dive Center.

“Only 10 percent of the world’s oceans have actually been mapped,” Land said. “With the current economy, jobs will need to open up in new places, and this could be one of those outlets.”

More information on becoming a certified open water diver can be found at