Jen Gilock Talks About Learning to Scuba Dive in Vancouver, Washington

Thunder Reef Divers Scuba Class
Thunder Reef Divers in Vancouver offers scuba lessons from beginner through instructor level. Photo courtesy: Thunder Reef Divers

Ever dreamed of breathing underwater, floating weightless while seeing amazing creatures in their natural habitat? Thunder Reef Divers in Vancouver can help you get in touch with your inner mermaid or merman.

Vancouver may not be the first place you think of for scuba lessons, but our state is home to world-class diving.

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Shop manager Jen Gillock (far right) pictured with her son and dive travel buddy Melissa. Photo courtesy: Thunder Reef Divers

Jen Gilock, shop manager at Thunder Reef Divers, says her favorite place to dive in the Pacific Northwest is Sund Rock. “I have a long list of great places to dive in the Northwest, but if you want guaranteed octopus and wolfeels, Sund Rock is the place to go,” she says. “We are lucky to live close to some of the best diving in the world: the Puget Sound, Hood Canal and Southern Canada. There is so much to see and explore our local diving is packed full of wonderful critters.” she said.

“My son Mason got me into scuba diving,” Jen says. “He certified here at Thunder Reef when he was ten. He needed a dive buddy and since I was driving him to the dive sites, I decided to get certified. It totally changed my life!”

Kids can start scuba diving as young as ten. Thunder Reef offers both pool programs and open water certification in addition to being authorized to issue the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Scuba Diving Merit Badge.

At Thunder Reef you can try scuba in their heated pool and earn your scuba diving certification in just a few weekends.

Scuba Certification

A scuba certification is a bit like a driver’s license. Your scuba certification card tells dive shops around the world, “This person has the skills and knowledge to dive safely.” A beginner certification is called “Open Water Diver,” and the course can be completed in either three to four days (as a private class), or over three weekends.

There are three steps to becoming a certified diver:

  1. Thunder Reef Divers Drysuit Divers
    For divers concerned about being cold, drysuit rental and training are available. Photo courtesy: Thunder Reef Divers

    Classroom or online training – students review the Open Water Diver manual (or online course) and watch videos to learn scuba fundamentals and important safety concepts.

  2. Pool – an instructor demonstrates basic scuba skills such as how to assemble your gear and how to successfully cope with problems like getting water out of your mask and how to avoid running out of air (it’s the same way you prevent running out of gas – check your gauge!).
  3. Open Water – after mastering scuba skills in the pool, the instructor takes the group to open water. The dives are typically somewhere in the south Puget Sound area.

Students perform skills they learned in the pool during four dives over two days. Upon successful completion, the students become certified divers.

Concerned about cold water? Thunder Reef provides thick wetsuits, but drysuit rentals are available for those who get cold easily. If the thought of cold water diving makes your toes curl, ask about their referral program, Start Local, Finish Tropical.

Jen Gillock: 3 Misconceptions About Scuba Diving

•Sharks. They don’t bother divers unless perhaps you’re spearfishing.
•I can’t swim. If you can do some basic swimming strokes and tread water for a bit, you’ll be fine. You don’t need to be an olympic swimmer to dive.
•It’s cold and there’s nothing to see. With modern scuba gear you will stay comfortable and warm. Many people are surprised how much there is to see in our local waters.

“A warm water referral is a great option for many people,” Jen says. “Students start their scuba training at home and do their confined water training in our heated pool. Then they can travel to a tropical destination, Hawai’i, Mexico, etc., to finish their open water dives. Referrals allow you can spend more of your vacation time fun diving rather than in a classroom and hotel pool. If you’re not sure where to go, we have group trips to amazing scuba destinations all over the world.”

“Malaysia now tops my list for tropical destinations,” Jen adds. “We were fortunate enough to dive Sipadan where the diving is amazing. I remember when we surfaced on one of the dives my dive buddy Melissa exclaimed ‘Did that just happen?!’ We saw so many incredible things, we just couldn’t believe it.”

A Chance to Dip Your Toes

If you’re not sure whether you’ll like scuba diving, sign up for a Discover Scuba session. You’ll get to try on scuba gear and an instructor will show you some basic skills in Thunder Reef’s heated pool. Over the 2-2 ½ hour session, you’ll have the chance to swim around and find out if scuba diving is for you

Thunder Reef offers a Discover Scuba program once a month (check their online calendar for upcoming dates). Groups of four or more can schedule a private session.

Thunder Reef is located off Hwy 99 just south of the I-5 and I-205 interchange at 12104 NE Hwy 99, Vancouver, WA 98686. Connect with them via the Thunder Reef Divers website or on Facebook.

Thunder Reef Divers octopus
Fun fact: the correct way to describe more than one octopus is octopuses (not octopi). Photo courtesy: Thunder Reef Divers
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