The Central Pacific Scuba Club, despite being deemed “too risky” to be a official club on campus, continues to create a community for Cal Poly and Central Coast divers to come together and safely enjoy Pacific Ocean wonders.
Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) offers scuba certification courses through the Recreation Center. Offered quarterly, these courses are open to all students with a passion for the underwater sport. The course includes classroom sessions, diving practice in the Recreation Center pool and 20 hours of ocean diving time.
Once certified, students can join a wide community of Central Coast divers who explore the local beaches. Although the club was first founded for just Cal Poly students, it is now open to all divers in San Luis Obispo, creating a community of people with a shared interest.
The club was created on campus 20 years ago. In 2014, the Cal Poly Scuba Club stopped receiving ASI club funding after the Dean of Students Office decided to no longer recognize the club as a student organization.
“Whenever there’s a group of students who go off campus to do anything, we have to look at what they’re doing and if it’s safe. Some activities have higher risks than others,” Chip Neuenschwander, Assistant Director of Student Clubs and Organizations, said. “Once it’s a club event from a recognized student organization, there’s all these extra parameters we have to consider.”
While pulled funding may seem detrimental to the club’s livelihood, industrial technology and packing junior and Scuba Club president Harrison Whitaker saw it in a positive light.
“Without ASI, we have more leeway with what we can do with club funds,” Whitaker said.
What does this leeway look like? Diving trips to Catalina Island are just the start. Journalism junior and Scuba Club member Kendal McKinnon said she also enjoys the freedom that comes with being disaffiliated.
“We rent two houses and we go down there and just dive all day,” McKinnon said. “The water here is sucky… it’s cold, and you’re lucky if you get five to 10 feet [of] visibility. In Catalina, we get 60 feet. It’s amazing.”
Part of what makes scuba diving dangerous on the Central Coast is this short visibility. McKinnon described a time where, while diving in pairs, a girl came up having lost her partner. Unable to look further than five feet ahead, the two were separated. Luckily, the other partner found a group to tag along with until returning to the surface.
Despite the dangers of scuba diving, neither Whitaker nor McKinnon ever doubted getting certified.
“Life under water — it’s a whole other world,” Mckinnon said.
It is what keeps them going and motivated to keep this club and community alive, they said. The club continues to host meetings every other Monday at 7 p.m. in Robert E. Kennedy Library.
As president of the club, Whitaker aims to bring a social life to the members of the Central Pacific Diving Club. Other than a love for diving, most club members are connected by a love for the ocean and a passion to preserve it. That is why the club hosts clean-up dives to aid in restoring the beaches from pollution.
“We got at least five or six tires, a safe, tons of glass bottles, plastic” McKinnon said about their last clean up at Avila pier. “The local aquarium scrapped off anything living and returned it to the water.”
On Saturday, Oct. 27th, the central coast scuba community gathered for a festive underwater pumpkin hunt and carving competition in Morro Bay, hosted by SLO Ocean Currents. Divers submerged to hunt for pumpkins and carved them underwater to win prizes. This community, while quietly living life underwater, is ever growing and evolving to celebrate the Pacific.