With summer's end just around the corner, it feels like the season is making a final push to oppress Bend with high temperatures. Still, there are plenty of ways to beat the heat, from air-conditioned buildings to floating the Deschutes to stalking an ice cream truck. One extreme alternative, though, allows Bendites to not only submerge themselves in cool, refreshing waters, but also explore an entirely different world.
Scuba diving provides an underwater escape for both the recreational adventurer as well as the professional diver. Here in Bend, Central Oregon Diving removes the intimidation of learning scuba diving by offering classes, equipment and diving opportunities around the world.
To get started, though, new divers are trained in Bend. "The water's great right now! At this time of the year, I think the water surface averages in the low '70s. It's very pleasant," says Sarah Clark, a Central Oregon Diving member. Clark organizes several dives throughout the year, including certification dives.
She's currently preparing for an upcoming weekend dive at Cultus Lake from Sept. 10-11, which will be slightly different from Central Oregon Diving's other events.
The Rubber Ducky Scavenger Hunt is a customer appreciation event that also includes raffle prizes and a potluck. "It'll be a great chance for the classes to hang out, meet other divers, plan future dives. It'll be fun," says Clark.
Diving to New Depths
The September dives will cap a five-day course for the latest class of scuba divers, but it's definitely not the last class Central Oregon Diving will graduate this year.
"(Scuba diving is) a year-round thing," Clark said. "It doesn't really slow down, it stays constant because in the winter people say, 'I want to go someplace with sun and palm trees.'"
Central Oregon Diving accommodates new and experienced divers with monthly classes at both Cultus Lake and Lake Billy Chinook.
Clark says scuba diving in Central Oregon is inherently a challenging experience thanks to the elevation; scuba dives that start at 1,000 feet or higher above sea level are called "altitude dives." Clark explained that altitude dives essentially make a diver feel like she is swimming deeper than she actually is. Specifically, altitude dives affect a diver's decompression rate, otherwise known as the amount of time it takes for her body to readjust to air pressure at surface level. Since air pressure is lower at higher altitudes, a diver factors her decompression rate at a "theoretical" depth, instead of her actual depth. For example, diving 100 feet at 5,000 feet elevation is equivalent to diving 120 feet at sea level.
"Pretty much every dive here is an altitude dive," Clark said. "So when we certify people here, they have more tools and training because they've dived at altitude, so they can dive anywhere."
And she really means anywhere. Central Oregon Diving has organized trips to Belize, Palau and Cancun, among other eclectic locations. Clark said they are currently planning a December trip to Little Cayman, along with an excursion to Cozumel next year.
While traveling to scuba dive is exciting, Clark said Bend has plenty of amazing dive spots, too. "We have a lot of beautiful high lakes that you can only get to in the summer. There's not a lot of fish, but there is a lot of clarity," she said.
Clark added that it's a great family sport (Central Oregon Diving offers children's classes), and that scuba diving is great physical and mental exercise.
"It really is a calm, controlled, slow-moving sport. If you're doing things too quickly, you're not thinking," she said. "It is the most relaxing, comforting and coolest thing for me. It's better than therapy. Everything we do is loud and fast and noisy, so if I can get away from that for a few minutes, it's awesome."
Central Oregon Diving
157 NE Greenwood Ave., Bend