Visiting the Deep Blue Sea

“Diving instructor Karl Anderson, left, helps Edward Welter decide what breathing regulator he needs for an upcoming dive. (Photo by Bonnie West) Karl Anderson is in the water business. He doesn’t sell it to drink, he teaches people to get into the drink–by teaching them to dive. Anderson is the director of education for all three Harry Truitt’s Lighthouse Diving Centers, and the new manager at the Tacoma location where he also instructs.Close to ninety percent of our world is underwater, he said. Basically, you aren’t seeing the majority of our world. Diving is your passport to inner space.Anderson has taught diving since 1980, written over 300 articles on the subject, and is a consultant for diving documen-taries being produced by the Discovery channel and CBS. Anderson said his love of the water began with his grandfather, a commercial fisherman who emigrated from Norway. I like the maritime tradition, I just went underwater, he said. I love the amount of marine life that’s there, and I have a real passion for teaching diving and keeping people diving.Two divers who are recent graduates of Anderson’s classes are Courtney and Michael Leiphart of Tacoma. They decided diving was something they could do together when old injuries kept Courtney from joining Michael in snowboarding.This was something we could learn together and enjoy year-round, she said. Plus in the water you’re equals.Leiphart said her parents, who have been divers for 23 years, are looking forward to diving with the couple. In fact, Leiphart said, My Mom was still diving until she was five months pregnant with me.Another student of Anderson’s, Edward Welter, was offered a job with a vessel assist company as soon as his classes were completed.I clean the bottoms of boats and put zinc strips on them, and I’ll assist with raising boats that sink, he said.Welter, a surfer, said he wants to take more diving classes.I want to get into river diving and spear fishing eventually.The diving center also offers classes in advanced open water, altitude, rescue, a underwater scooter pilot course, recreational and advanced recreational diving, and river diving, a course Anderson created.There are also classes in underwater photography, underwater naturalist, and dry suit diving. With instruction, which only takes a few weeks to complete, a diver can enjoy the underwater world a short journey away-in Puget Sound.Between the oceans, lakes and rivers there is incredibly wonderful diving, Anderson said. If a person learns in these waters of the Pacific Northwest, they can dive anywhere in the world.The reason why, he explained, is that in the colder waters of the northwest a diver has to learn to use a hooded wet suit and weights.In warm water they’re in a shorty suit or cut-offs and a tee shirt. When they come up here, where they’ve never gone diving before, they feel claustrophobic in the suits and encumbered.He said statistics show that one in four divers who go from warm to cold water have a difficult time dealing with it. But if they learn to dive up here, they can dive anywhere in the world.Anderson said diving isn’t all that expensive. It’s a sound investment, he said. It’s less expensive than someone who skis actively. If you take care of your equipment it can last you 15 to 20 years. You just rinse the gear off with fresh water after a dive and store it in a dark place. The course, which costs about $200, includes materials, books and diving equipment. Students are responsible for their own mask, fins, snorkel and boots. I’ve certified people from the age of 12 to 78, Anderson said. If you can breathe you can dive. And we have wetsuits to fit anybody, and I mean anybody. We fit one guy recently who was 6’8 tall. Diving can accommodate anybody.He added that people who thought being in a wetsuit would be claustrophobic actually discover a feeling of freedom to soar and glide like a bird underwater.Anderson doesn’t just teach the sport, his wife joins him in a dive at least once a week to catch shrimp and crab.Once you learn to dive there are so many places to go, from Titlow Beach right here in Tacoma to the Edmonds Underwater Park. He said in Edmonds the park has roped out areas with underwater street signs of where to go and what to see. There are even sunken ships there to explore. And the most abundance of underwater life is found only 30 to 50 feet below the surface. Anderson said the feeling a diver gets after a dive is hard to describe. That’s one of the reasons for diving in buddy pairs–not just for safety–it’s to share what you saw on the dive. I’ve never certified a single person that didn’t say, ‘Man, I should have been doing this ten years ago.’To find out about classes at the diving center call 253/627-7617. “