Sunday, March 19, 2000

Scubafest to raise interest in sport


Latest equipment, lessons offered

BY RANDY McNUTT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Steve McKee was afraid of the water until he started dating a scuba diver.

        “Now I'm a certified diver,” said the former Clermont County extension agent. “I decided that I might as well join her.”

        Diving was the word Saturday at Scubafest 2000, which will be held again 9 a.m.-4 p.m. today at Kings Island Resort, near the amusement park.

GETTING STARTED
  To get into scuba diving, contact the Gavia Scuba Club's Web site at www.gavia.com. The group meets at 7:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at Remington's Road House, near Ohio 4 and Crescentville Road in Fairfield.
  Diving certification requires about 40 hours of classroom instruction, five pool sessions and five open-motor dives, club president Bill Libecap said.
  Classes, training fees, books and other materials cost about $500. Tanks and other diving equipment may be rented for about $50 or purchased for about $1,000 to $1,200, said Craig Springer of Scuba Unlimited in Blue Ash.
        The show features 39 vendors from as far as Australia, as well as the latest diving equipment. There are displays of items retrieved from the ocean floor and other watery places, diving lessons in the motel pool, marine slide shows and various demonstrations.

        “We're trying to improve the awareness of scuba diving in the Cincinnati area,” said Bill Libecap, president of the Gavia Scuba Club of Greater Cincinnati. “We're a small group (100 members) of independent divers who decided 10 years ago to organize.

        “We're trying to get more women involved. Scuba has been basically a men's sport, but actually it's a brain sport, not a macho one. Equipment is designed for men, so often things don't fit women. What does fit is not as well-made as it should be. But we're trying to change that.”

        Gavia is the scientific name for a family of birds that swim and dive. The club's mascot is the Gavia Immer, the common loon of North America.

        For incurable landlubbers, scuba diving involves strapping on metal oxygen tanks and face masks and diving, often in the ocean. People of any age may participate, though the youngest age for a regular diver is limited to 16, club members say.

        “This is a good opportunity for us to welcome new people and to get together to look at the latest pieces of equipment, such as the Rebreather, which recirculates air and lets you avoid the heavy tanks,” said Mike Biggs, the club's vice president.

        Jeff and Anita Lapp of Scott County, Ind., brought their daughters, 8 and 10, to learn about scuba diving.

        “I dive some, so I want the girls to learn, too,” Mr. Lapp said. “It's a worthwhile sport.”

        Mr. Libecap, a Deer Park resident and the club president, started five years ago, while on a Caribbean cruise. “I enjoyed snorkeling, so I thought scuba was a natural progression,” he said.

        Scubafest's slogan, “A Whale of a Weekend,” is taken seriously by diver Mark Blum, who came all the way from California to show 3-D slides that he shot of undersea creatures. His show is called “Beneath the Sea in 3-D.”

        “My hobby grew into a book, then another book, and suddenly I was giving shows frequently,” he said. “But I still have my real job. I just do this on the side.”

        The scuba show is expected to attract 2,000-3,000 people this weekend. Mr. Libecap said he hopes to explain the benefits of being a club member, including having access to the latest knowledge and fellowship with other divers.

        “Once you become a certified diver, you're certified for life,” he said. “There really is no upper age limit, but scuba diving can be a somewhat dangerous sport without the proper training.”

       



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