Summer is for sports, and Colorado loves its sports, but not all sports are as well known. For example, scuba. Scuba diving enables people to enjoy the thrilling experience of being immersed under the water, exploring the features beneath the surface, and spending time with loved ones while embarking on exciting adventures. This modern sport reflects an innovative human achievement of surpassing limits and overcoming barriers. Throughout history, the environment and sights beneath the water were mysterious and inaccessible to all but the bravest humans. During World War II scuba equipment was developed for military purposes, and in the ensuing decades the scuba gear became available to the public for recreational diving. Now humans can strap on the appropriate gear, dive into the water, and actually see firsthand the amazing contents that the waterworld contains.
Colorado’s Passion for Scuba Diving
The people of Colorado naturally gravitated towards this exciting outdoor sport, even if it’s not discussed as much as hiking and rock climbing. Though the state is revered for its massive mountains, Colorado is also a haven for scuba diving enthusiasts who enjoy exploring the lakes scattered throughout the state or the oceans encompassing the planet.
As a result, Colorado actually has the most certified scuba divers per capita than any other state. *mind blown* The Rocky Mountain State is also frequently ranked as one of the top landlocked states for scuba diving due to the prevalence of freshwater lakes and the abundance of scuba instructors.
An Outdoor Adventure For the Colorado Lifestyle
Many appealing benefits of scuba diving might explain the popularity of the sport among Coloradans. The thrilling experience of breathing under the water and swimming beneath the surface provides an exhilarating rush that is highly conducive for the outdoor lifestyles and adventurous passions of Colorado residents.
“I think scuba diving is popular in Colorado because we have such an active population with such adventurous people here,” said Greg Eddy, a co-owner of Flatirons Scuba & Travel in Broomfield. Flatirons Scuba has been providing open dive sessions, Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certifications, and group scuba trips since 1997. In addition to offering scuba certifications for beginners (this means you), the company also provides advanced certifications for prospective scuba instructors and rescue divers.
“It keeps me doing something adventurous,” touts Eddy. “It’s always a new experience every time you go diving. Even locations I’ve been for years, I can still find things or animals I haven’t seen before, and the topography always changes.”
Eddy also believes the popularity of the sport derives from the soothing and cathartic experience that accompanies being immersed in the serene and tranquil underwater environment. “It’s really calming,” he explained. “There’s almost no noise except for the bubbles, I find it really relaxing and peaceful, and so it’s nice to be underwater and the only thing you hear is the fish and your bubbles.”
Exploring Nature Down Below
Exploring nature is another quality that is cherished by Colorado residents and facilitated by scuba diving. Though Coloradans enjoy observing nature on the heights of the enormous mountains or in the woods of the expansive forests, scuba diving allows people to also experience the natural environments and fascinating features of the submerged earth. Most of earth is actually underwater; imagine how much of the world most of us have never seen.
”Underwater you just get that unique experience,” says Greg. “Three quarters of the planet is actually underwater, and we’re fortunate to get to explore it. Sometimes you feel like you’re an explorer going to some of these destinations that are so far off the grid. Sometimes you find a really rare fish or an animal and it always makes it very interesting when you find something like that.”
The sights provide an ultimate reward for the scuba diving experience. Divers are often awestruck with the remarkable views of the beautiful plants, colorful fish, large whales, and unique creatures that are permeating below the surface.
“I really like diving with mantas or whale sharks,” exclaimed Eddy. “When you get a manta that’s 15 feet across and you’re sitting there in one spot, it comes right over your head. They’re actually kind of curious so sometimes they’ll come within feet of you and it’s stunning when you have that kind of stuff happen. Or in the Galapagos you have hundreds of hammerheads swimming by, or sometimes you get dolphins that are really curious and so they’ll come pretty close too.”
Divers also occasionally get a bonus of seeing the remains of sunken ships or the rubble of submerged villages.
“I did this trip last year that was in Truk Lagoon,” Greg recalled while discussing his recent trip around Japan. “We went and dove on the World War II wrecks, and so it was essentially a dive and a history lesson.”
With this combination of enjoying exciting adventures, exploring natural environments and seeing beautiful sights, it is no surprise that Colorado developed an affinity for the sport.
Escaping from the Winter with Trips to the Tropics
The cold temperatures of the Colorado winters might ironically amplify the passion for scuba diving among residents. During the winter, many Coloradans take scuba diving trips to warmer climates and tropical regions throughout the country or around the world. (We recently met Captain John T. Hall who runs boats on Grand Lake, as well as yachts out in the pacific when it’s winter here.)
“It makes a huge difference that the winter gets pretty cold and people want to get away sometimes,” explained Eddy. “In the middle of winter when they get tired of skiing, the plan is to go somewhere nice and warm in a beautiful place, and so a lot of people here travel and go scuba diving in the winter to take a break from the cold.”
Summer Dives through Colorado Lakes
During the summer, residents can plunge into the many Colorado lakes that are ideal for scuba diving and that are available for certified divers. With such a vast multitude of lakes and rivers in Colorado, it can help to identify the most popular areas for scuba diving in the state.
Denver Metro: Divers in the Denver area often choose Chatfield Lake and the Aurora Reservoir. Also, the Denver Aquarium is respected as one of the best diving locations in the country due to the plethora of gorgeous fish and *actual* sharks that are swimming in the tanks and surrounding all the divers.
Boulder/Fort Collins: Boulder or Fort Collins divers can explore Horsetooth Reservoir, Wellington Lake, and many experts consider Carter Lake one of the best areas for diving in Colorado.
Mountains: The mountains offer many optimal locations for diving enthusiasts.
Jefferson Lake, Georgetown Lake, and Officer’s Gulch are all popular options among the scuba community. Turquoise Lake in Leadville is also known as one of the most exceptional spots for Colorado diving. Steamboat residents often dive in the Yampa River.
South: The southern regions of Colorado also host several lakes for scuba divers. Pueblo Reservoir is an excellent location, and many divers also enjoy exploring Blue Mesa in Gunnison and Navajo Reservoir in Pagosa Springs.
Colorado lakes can differ regarding visibility levels and water temperature. Lakes at the lower altitudes often feature relatively warmer water, but the visibility can be obscured by the accumulation of rock sediments and algae blooms. Lakes at higher elevations harbor much colder temperatures, but the lakes often generate clearer water with superior visibility. For all locations, divers can experience maximum visibility during the early morning or late afternoon hours, as that is when the sun is not glaring directly on the particles in the water.
Getting Certified to Dive In Colorado
Receiving a scuba diving certification can enable residents to explore most diving sites in Colorado or across the globe. Several scuba companies in Colorado provide lessons and certifications for prospective divers. While the specific details might be different depending on the particular company, obtaining the official scuba diving certification is typically a fast and simple process.
For Flatirons Scuba, the certification process takes two weekends. The first weekend involves classroom material and pool lessons that teach students how to effectively operate the scuba equipment and perform the diving techniques. The following weekend entails four open dive sessions in the Aurora Reservoir, with two open dives on Saturday and then two more on Sunday. These sessions enable the students to dive in a real lake and earn their scuba certifications.
“Going to the Aurora Reservoir is a chance for the divers to try it out and finish the certification,” said Eddy. “The open dive sessions are really about honing in on the skills that are most important, such as mask removal, mask clearing, regulator recovery, alternate air source breathing, and buoyancy exercises like hovering.”
Another benefit of scuba diving is that the sport is generally easy to learn. Anyone at least 10 years of age can become certified to scuba dive, and many people become proficient at the diving techniques during the course lessons and dive sessions.
“It’s not a sport where you have to be physically fit to learn how to dive,” said Eddy. “Getting comfortable in the water is the only limitation, and most people – I’d say 90 percent or even higher – can get comfortable and become proficient by the time they’ve gone through the four open waters. If people stick with it and keep going, they usually get the skills and then they are rewarded with how much fun it can be.”
Group Trips to Scuba Meccas
Some Colorado scuba companies also facilitate global group diving trips to the best places on the planet. These trips offer a chance for divers to visit different locations, experience impressive cultures, and dive in pristine tropical areas where the water is magnificent and sights are spectacular.
Flatirons Scuba arranges several diving trips each year. “We do about 10 trips a year to various locations,” explains Eddy. “We take the groups anywhere from Lopez, Mexico, all the way across the world to Indonesia, Asia, or Madagascar (Africa). We often include airfare and hotels, and we plan everything and handle all of the logistics to take the stress out of traveling.”
Building Bonds Beneath the Surface
Perhaps the most impactful advantage of scuba diving is the unity and camaraderie it fosters among family and friends. Traveling to different areas, enjoying the underwater adventure, and seeing the various sights enables people to spend valuable time together while sharing a very rare and special experience.
“We get a lot of families that do it as a hobby or family activity,” said Greg. “The thing I enjoy most is being with the people when we go on trips. It’s kind of like a club. Essentially some of them have been friends and almost like family for 20 years since we’ve started the business. So the camaraderie of experiencing it with similar good-natured and adventurous people is a lot of fun.”
Scuba Companies Throughout Colorado
With numerous companies providing scuba lessons and diving certifications, you should be able to find a shop that is most appropriate for your location needs or diving preferences.
11965 Main St, Broomfield
• (303) 469-4477 •
3015 Bluff St, Boulder
(303) 444-7234 • oceanfirst.blue
Colorado Scuba Center:
1432 S Wadsworth Blvd, Lakewood
(303) 986-0007 • coscubactr.com
One World Dive and Travel:
6860 South Clinton Court m,
• (303) 220-8282 •
557 Milwaukee St, Denver
• (303) 399-2877 •
1603 W Belleview Ave, Littleton
(303) 789-2450 • a1scuba.com
Weaver’s Dive and Travel:
637 S Broadway, Boulder
(303) 499-8500 • weaversdive.com
Coral Key Scuba and Travel:
6680 Wadsworth Blvd, Arvada
• (303) 431-5911 •
Abyss Scuba and Travel:
4455 S Broadway Blvd # 7,
(303) 795-7070 • abyss-scuba.com
41199 U.S. 24 & US-6, Vail
(970) 949-1012 • beaverdivers.com