There’s a moment that defines your first scuba diving experience. It’s when you let your head sink below the water’s surface, as you fully disobey your gut instincts that tell you not to breathe underwater. “You must be breathing and error is not optional, so never hold your breath!” Dean McConnachie, General Manager of the Dive Academy, cautioned us.

My photographer and videographer, Justin, and I went scuba diving for the first time with Dive Academy in their Explore Scuba class. The class took place in a 20-metre heated indoor swimming pool at Appleby college, a 5-minute drive from the main dive shop.

It was just about a month before that Dean had invited us to try the Explore Scuba class. We were at the Outdoor Adventure Show 2016 and engaged him in a conversation about scuba diving’s role in underwater conservation practices.

dive academy outdoor adventure show

Debra and Justin interviewing Dean at the Outdoor Adventure Show (Photo: Ben Lindo)

“Often when we go to a particular reef, we realize that there’s nowhere near as much fish life as there was.” 

“Many people are familiar with Rob Stewart’s work, called Shark Water, written by a Canadian photographer and filmmaker,” according to Dean. The shark populations are decimated which directly affects the fish populations, so as a result of paying attention to it, reporting on it, and trying to be conservative, our impact on the reef becomes very important.”

Inspired by our discussion on how divers can mitigate and raise awareness of issues like overfishing and ship pollution, Justin and I anticipated joining the worldwide community of responsible divers we had just learned about.

Only weeks later, our instructors Dean and his partner Paula were fitting us with buoyancy compensators, which are vests made of heavy-duty nylon that strap on like knapsacks, with a heavy steel oxygen tank attached to each of our backs attached to a breather device placed securely in our mouths, goggles that plugged our noses shut, and fins attached to our feet to translate our kicks into smooth movements.


Debra getting ready to scuba dive (Photo: Dive Academy)

To add some fun, Paula offered to help us capture underwater moments with some of the gadgets from Dean’s extensive underwater camera collection. I’m not just talking about GoPros, but also DSLRs with airtight encasements to capture high quality photos and videos below the surface – definitely an underwater photographer’s dream come true.


Underwater camera display at Outdoor Adventure Show (Photo: Ben Lindo)

With a 2 instructors to 4 students ratio, we felt like our safety was a priority, also given the lesson took place in a contained space at the pool with a lifeguard on duty as well. Our instructors were easy going, and reassuring, with a “you can do this” kind of attitude, providing really great encouragement along the way.

Ready to Dive

As I warmed up in the shallow-end, sitting on the pool’s bottom surface, getting used to blowing bubbles for minutes-on end, Justin quickly adapted to the challenge and swam to the deep-end less than an hour into the lesson. I could see him giving me the “A-Okay” sign with his hands, meaning everything was good.


Justin giving the ‘everything is good’ sign (Photo: Dive Academy)

The experience of breathing underwater was magical. I felt like I was in a calm place, balanced, and only heard the sound of bubbles rumbling upwards from my tank to the surface. There was absolutely nothing else to worry about, but remembering to breathe in and out, rhythmically and consistently.


Justin experiencing the magic of being underwater (Photo: Dive Academy)

Dean ended our lesson by encouraging us to imagine underwater adventures, such as exploring the sites of old shipwrecks that are lying on the water’s bottom surface. He explained that these are the kinds of things that you can experience and touch while scuba diving, and that they are incredibly magical, such as swimming alongside fish, and sometimes, even sharks.

* All expenses for this trip were provided for by the Owner, so please keep this in mind, however, I did tell Dean beforehand I was going to write honestly about our experience.

About The Dive Academy
The Dive Academy has been around for over six years, servicing customers with scuba lessons, scuba products, and travel opportunities to help them experience marine life. The main shop is located just under an hour’s drive outside Toronto, Ontario, accessible by the QEW highway. Scuba Diving Lessons start at $25/session per person.

For more information on scuba diving lessons and SSI (Scuba Schools International) Open Water Diving Certification, visit

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