With my fin tips hanging over the boat’s edge, I complete my final check, firmly hold my mask in place, and take a giant stride, plunging into the ocean. Senses heightened, I feel the temperate tropical waters surround me and the initial splash of water gives way to a silent world of blue. I drift slowly, descending through the water, pretending I’m free falling from the sky, but at a slow-motion speed until I come to rest on the beach-like sandy bottom.
Looking around I see little mounds of white, fine sand, home to some fish or creature, while dozens of garden eels peak their heads out of hiding, swaying like seagrass as far as the eye can see. I’m soon surrounded by a school of hundreds of horse-eye jacks shimmering silver in the Sun’s penetrating rays. Fish pass within inches of me… hundreds of them and each unafraid.
The peaceful silence around me goes unbroken. I have brought no bubbles or hissing to mark me as an intruder. I remain a guest, but less intrusive. I am free to move among the marine life as never before.
I’m not rising on an inhale and falling on an exhale. I feel part of it, part of the underwater world. The closest I've ever felt. I succumb to the urge to pull off my fins and booties, pushing my toes into the velvety sand. A sense of connection washes over me; I fall back and slowly sink down to a seated position, taking it all in. Looking up I see the silhouette of the boat above, the water so calm I can see the boat’s handrails and masts rising high out of the water. My focus returns to the rich seascape all around me; I’m surrounded by a peaceful and beautiful world.
I've entered the realm of rebreather diving, and I am fascinated.
The experience of diving with a rebreather is quite different than an open circuit scuba system. No demand regulator is required. A diver breathes as if relaxing at home in your favorite chair. It’s that easy. No bubbles…no noise as you exhale, just the natural sounds of the underwater world around you.
Full immersion into this world has not been achievable before the introduction of rebreathers. Only fleeting visits while using noisy scuba or commercial diving gear have been possible. On this dive, it’s completely quiet. I have little concern for the pressure of the gas I’m breathing or the amount of time I spend exploring. Before I know it, nearly 3 hours have passed. I’m embraced by a peaceful world of beauty, one that could easily be described as “Heaven on Earth.”
Rebreather diving is the future of diving. Today’s rebreather encompasses decades of science and technology and are now being manufactured by larger scuba gear manufacturers such as Hollis and Poseidon. The mechanics are simple; you breathe to and from external lungs. Each exhale is pushed through a closed loop, being replenished with the perfect amount of oxygen for your current depth, and is scrubbed of the exhaled carbon dioxide. This provides a fresh breath of gas on your next inhale. The closed loop and re-circulation of your breath is the reason for such low gas consumption and lack of bubbles. A small cylinder or cylinders can last for hours.
It’s odd at first, but the deeper you go, the less gas you consume, which is the opposite from scuba diving. Rebreather diving provides the perfect amount of oxygen at all times given your depth, which explains the abnormally high amount of allowable bottom times on your dives. You’re simply absorbing less nitrogen throughout the dive. All are reasons the future and evolution of scuba diving are evident.
In addition to the manufacturers, we've seen the scuba diving industry as a whole, including training agencies like PADI (the largest of them all), embrace the technology by creating rebreather training programs and educational tools that are now offered through various qualifying PADI Dive Centers such as Seal Sports in Mandeville, Louisiana.
The prerequisites to become a recreational rebreather diver are minimal and include being certified as an Advanced Open Water Diver and Enriched Air Diver, PADIs most frequently acquired specialty certification, making it widely available to anyone interested. There is no need for deep diver training and all the various Tec Rec courses, saving you hundreds if not thousands of dollars in training costs, and the majority of us have no desire to go any deeper than the recreational limits of 130 feet anyway. A Rebreather Diver Certification is now easy for anyone to obtain making the experience of rebreather diving much closer to a reality than you think.
With the rebreather, I feel part of it all, a submersed observer of our breathtaking oceans and their inhabitants. My continuous hours spent surrounded by the untamed beauty and vibrant marine life has changed something within me on a spiritual level. It is my greatest wish to share this experience with all who desire to explore and know something greater than words can express.
Rob Kohl, Owner Seal Sports
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