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Just breathe. There were other rules, too, but that’s the one I really remember from my first-ever scuba diving class earlier this month. Still, I instinctively took a deep breath and held it as I lowered my head beneath the water. I let it out and watched the air bubbles find their way to the surface before I clenched my teeth against my regulator and took my first breath under water. It worked. Air filled my lungs, so again I exhaled. I took another breath, this one more confidently. I let it out, and then resurfaced. There I was in maybe 4.5 feet of water at Malabar Intermediate School’s pool with dive master Jason Poth and three others in the Mansfield Area YMCA’s class. We took a moment to celebrate our first underwater breath, and then moved onto our next skills, which included clearing our goggles and retrieving our regulators from behind our backs.

A YMCA board member, Poth began volunteering his time to lead the scuba diving classes in late March. He hopes to introduce the community to one of his passions and raise money for the organization. “A lot of people like diving in Ohio? And, yeah, there are actually places to dive here, but I live to travel,” he said. “This, I hope it just opens the door to people saying, I want to do more.” He took his first scuba diving course several years ago and “went ballistic.” So much so, that he says teaching scuba diving lessons is “kind of” his retirement plan. Currently, he’s a certified dive master and is working towards his assistant instructor training. Saturday, following the lesson, he intended to go diving again for his own advancement. “It just takes a long time,” Poth said. “To become a dive master, you have to become a rescue diver first. You learn how to do search patterns and ... Then, it takes one to two years to become a dive master.”

If you go

The two-hour scuba diving classes are offered most Saturday mornings at Malabar Intermediate School’s pool for $35 for YMCA members and $50 for non-members. Pre-registration is required, as the lessons must be limited to four people. “It’s something our area doesn’t get to experience, and (Poth) wanted to bring this experience to Richland County,” said aquatics coordinator Jenn Jeffery.

She encourages people to come with an open mind to try the new experience. “We want to show Richland County that we are willing to have these fun programs, if the interest is there,” she said. “We want to have people come out and experience this.” The class is open to anyone age 10 and up.

To register, contact Jeffery at or 419-522-3511.

More about my first scuba diving class

On Saturday April 13, I walked into Malabar Intermediate School not sure what to expect. A few weeks prior, one of my coworkers had called me over to his desk after spotting a Facebook post about the YMCA’s new scuba diving classes. He thought I should try it. Though I feel as if I’m pretty mild-mannered in the workplace, I love adventure. My coworkers know this. I’ve gone skydiving, rock jumping, ziplining and have every intention to try rock climbing, bungee jumping and even scuba diving in open water. 

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