March 27, 2023
By Chelsea Meier, Creative Partner, S.A.F.E. SCUBA
(HILLSBORO, PORTLAND, OREGON, UNITED STATES) –
Beneath the tranquil blue water of the ocean, there’s a bustling world filled with marine life, coral, and wonder. Those who are disabled may not believe that this world is accessible to them but with S.A.F.E. Scuba, it is.
S.A.F.E. Scuba is a non-profit organization, based in Hillsboro, Oregon, that trains both divers with disabilities and dive buddies who will accompany them on their adventures. Through their adaptive diving programs, they strive to give those with disabilities the chance to gain the confidence, independence, freedom, and self-esteem that come with the sport of scuba diving. Through adaptive diving, those with disabilities can explore new depths and gain a sense of freedom in the open water.
The underwater world provides something different for each person, for some it is the peace and quiet to silence the hum of everyday life and for others, it is the feeling of weightlessness. For some, it provides pain relief they cannot find anywhere else. Adaptive diving is available to a range of people with physical challenges such as amputees, paraplegics, and quadriplegics as well as people with cognitive conditions including PTSD and autism.
Tracy, an Adaptive Diver living with ALS, describes her experience as though she is “flying” and feels the physical and psychological benefits of diving each time she goes. “When I’m SCUBA diving there is no gravity so I can stretch out my arms and legs. It almost feels like you’re flying, which is amazing! Pain dissipates because you don’t have that gravity. During the dive, I can move things I can’t normally move. When I get out there is a sense of empowerment and euphoria, like a runner’s high. There is also the psychological high of getting together with my dive buddies after the dive to talk about what we saw. You’re part of the group in a way that you’re just not, normally. It’s special; it’s a good feeling.” She continues, “People at S.A.F.E. Scuba are kind, compassionate, and confident and can help all kinds of people who are disabled. I hope that the adaptive buddies feel a really special kind of pride for the joy they give others. They make a significant improvement in my quality of life.”
Bert, an Advanced Trained Diver, shares his experience as a trained Buddy Diver. “My favorite part of teaching is seeing the students respond to the thing I love, SCUBA diving, and Adaptive Diving is like that on steroids. Becoming a Buddy Diver is unlike anything I have experienced as a diver or dive instructor before. From the training to the buddy and adaptive divers, it’s a fantastic experience. The people you work with are kind, caring people and the adaptive divers are so appreciative. You get so much more out of it than you ever put in.” He elaborates, “It’s an absolute privilege getting to dive with Tracy. It’s always an amazing experience! She’s like a magnet to marine life, we’ve seen eagle rays and turtles slowly pass by us instead of quickly swimming away. It’s like they want to stop and see what we’re all about.” S.A.F.E. Scuba has hosted adaptive dive trips around the world from Cozumel to Roatan, buddying up with as many as four adaptive divers at a time. Today, S.A.F.E. Scuba is composed of 36 buddy divers and has trained 7 adaptive divers, and regularly fundraises for classes and trip costs for adaptive divers.
To learn more about S.A.F.E. Scuba, please visit safescuba.org