Take a dive

One did it because of her love for marine animals – namely sharks – one to further his career, one because he loves the water and one just for fun.

Four young people became SCUBA divers last weekend at Southwest Minnesota State University by taking a class sponsored by SMSU and Marshall Community Services.

Missy Burner of Marshall attends college at Minnesota West for a surgical technology major, but her avocation in life is in the field of marine biology.

“Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a marine biologist,” she said. “I love sharks, and it’s a dream of mine to SCUBA dive with sharks.”

Burner said after getting her certification as a diver, she will be able to pursue her dream as a hobby.

The class fit right in with Jason Teunissen’s life plans as well.

Teunissen’s younger brother, Adam, is an ag business major at SMSU, so it was easy to spend the weekend at SMSU to take the diving course. The two are originally from Alvord, Iowa.

Teunissen works as a welder at a grain elevator in Brandon, S.D. In the spring or early summer, Teunissen hopes to travel to Seattle, Wash., where he can get his commercial diver’s license to do underwater welding. Adam said he took the course at SMSU “just for fun” and is thinking about accompanying his brother on the trip to Seattle as well.

Jacob Erickson, an SMSU computer science major from Morris, took the course because he likes to swim.

“I’ve always wanted to learn how to dive,” he said.

Their instructor, Michael Knorr, a Professional Association

of Diving Instructors course director out of Moorhead, teaches courses at various schools around the region and would like to see a diving program in the physical education course listings at SMSU.

The program would still be a weekend course, but the student would get one or two credits.

“The SMSU campus was very excited to host this SCUBA class with MCS and we were pleased with the turnout with such short notice of the class offering,” Patty Myrvik, aquatics director at SMSU, said. “Plans are in the works to try to get this class back on the books as an elective in the sport and recreation major here at SMSU.

“The main faculty members of that department, the chair of the education department, Mr. Knorr, Doug Goodmund (MCS) and I are setting up a date to try to get this back into the program for the next academic year. Mr. Knorr teaches this at several other MnSCU schools as part of their curriculum and has had significant success. We hope we can continue that here at SMSU.”

Burner appreciated the chance to take the course so close to home.

“I was excited when I found out (about the class),” she said.

Over the course of three days, switching between classroom and pool, among the things the students learned was essential information about their equipment.

“This is equipment intensive,” Knorr said. “To control your buoyancy in the water, you need a vest. To breathe, you need a tank. To move, you need your fins.”

Knorr took the students through several scenarios that, while unlikely to occur, it will be better if they are aware of them and have practiced them in the safety of a pool with an instructor rather than in the depths of an ocean.

For instance, if their masks come off in the water, they need to be prepared and not panic. Knorr had them practice breathing underwater with no masks and trying to keep the water from getting up their noses.

He had them feel how it is with no air. They got under water and one by one, he slowly turned off their air.

“Breathe until you’re out of breath,” he had told them beforehand, “then give the signal (a hand slicing motion across the neck) that you are out of air, and I will instantly turn air on.”

Afterward, all four said they didn’t feel any moments of panic taking that last breath.

“It was OK,” said Burner. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” said Erickson. “It was just one breath (without air).”

“All four are very comfortable underwater,” Knorr said.