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Adaptive diving in Grenada

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Adaptive diving
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We continue our series of blogs from the Aquanauts Grenada team, this time focusing on adaptive diving.

“In 2014, I was less than a millimetre away from being a C7 quadriplegic. The ability to scuba dive was one thing I didn’t want to lose from my accident. While in the hospital, I found Diveheart online and I told myself, ‘I’m either going to be an Adaptive Diver or Adaptive Instructor with Diveheart one day. If I get out of this okay, I will share this gift with everyone I can’.” – Ty Geer, co-owner of Aquanauts Grenada.

Fulfilling Ty’s dream and creating a facility that is accessible to everyone is one of the core missions of Aquanauts Grenada’s Geer family. For those with disabilities, scuba diving offers a fulfilling empowerment as it enables exploration in a weightless world. For their dive buddies, it offers a community that is filled with empathy, compassion, and inspiration. Enabling this dream took careful planning, research, and collaboration between a host of people dedicated to the vision.

Adaptive diving
Pre-training briefing with the Aquanauts Grenada team and the Diveheart divers

In October of 2020, the Geer family began their journey in Grenada. There were a few things that piqued their interest regarding Aquanauts Grenada’s location.

First, True Blue Bay Boutique Resort, the headquarters of where their dive operation is, is owned by the Fielden family, whose values align with their own regarding a conservation-mindset and ensuring accessibility throughout the resort.

Secondly, the dive shop is located directly across the bay from St George's University (SGU), which is a US-accredited medical and veterinary medical school. A campus full of students with knowledge of the human body, love of the ocean, and understanding of its therapeutic benefits would prove an invaluable collaboration for adaptive diving.

Adaptive diving
Adaptive diving on a Grenada wreck

Third, Grenada is located just north of the equator and south of the hurricane belt with year-round warm weather and a variety of dive sites suitable for all experience levels, including wrecks, reefs, and artificial reef projects.

Last but not least, the real power of Grenada is found within the people, as the local community is caring and kind to everyone.

With the foundation set, the Geers simply needed to enhance their relationship with Diveheart. In October 2022, Aquanauts Grenada and True Blue Bay Boutique Resort (TBBR) welcomed the founder and president, Jim Elliott, and executive director, Tinamarie Hernandez, on-site for an inspection and training meetings with Aquanauts’ team. After a week filled with high enthusiasm from both sides, Diveheart approved a new destination to their travel itinerary and scheduled their adaptive group trip for July 2023.

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Ty during Adaptive Training

The trip would be two weeks long. The first week, four of Diveheart’s team trained Aquanauts Grenada’s crew to become Diveheart Adaptive Instructors and Advanced Adaptive Buddies and the second week, they would welcome a group of adaptive divers.

Aquanauts Grenada’s team completing the training was Tom, Ty, Mirko, Bruce, and Frankie. Tom and Ty, both co-owners of Aquanauts Grenada, are Handicapped Scuba Association (HSA) Instructors, so they had an idea of what was coming. Mirko is an SSI and PADI instructor, so these three were training to become Diveheart Adaptive Instructors.

Bruce is Head Captain and SSI Assistant Instructor, and Frankie is an SSI Divemaster and Dock Master. An addition to the team was an SGU medical student, Drew, and these three all trained as Diveheart Advanced Adaptive Buddies. Prior to studying at SGU, Drew was a paramedic, so he knew the challenges ahead and was very much looking forward to learning how to combine his two passions.

Adaptive diving
Adaptive diving on a Grenada wreck

Their Diveheart training was an action-packed four days as they worked together as a team to resolve adaptations to key scuba skills for persons with sight, paralysis, sound, amputation, and cognitive disabilities.

The approach empowered a team perspective that was ingenious as each member collaborated with the others to ensure the best, and safest, approach for the adaptive diver. Each day included challenge skills which tested the team's ability to think outside of the box.

By the end of the training period, they had built a team with skills that were ready to welcome Diveheart’s adaptive dive group.

Diveheart’s group arrived three days later and they were excited, and somewhat apprehensive, about experiencing a brand-new Diveheart destination. The group was 16 divers in total, five of which were wheelchair users, two divers had degenerative conditions, and the director of the 10x international award-winning documentary, Adapting to Dive, David Marsh. By the following afternoon, the apprehension had cleared as the family atmosphere created by Aquanauts Grenada and Diveheart began to settle in.

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Evening presentations

Throughout the week, the two families grew closer and closer as the weightlessness of the underwater world worked its magic. They witnessed adaptive divers able to walk again underwater, a husband on his first Discover Scuba Dive so he could dive alongside his adaptive-diving wife, and others embraced their first time exploring sunken vessels or penetrating wrecks. Alternating between wrecks and reefs each day, the divers truly got to experience the beauty of Grenada.

The final night was spent together at the wheelchair-accessible West Indies Brewery for food, drinks, a roundtable discussion, and a jam session by Aquanauts’ Geer family and David Marsh. During the roundtable discussion, each person shared a highlight from their week and as goosebumps filled the room, it was very clear that they had created a blended family.

Something the Geer family had worked many years to achieve, was now a reality… they have a facility and team ready to ensure people of all abilities can explore the wonders of the 71% of our planet!

The next step for Aquanauts Grenada is working with local Grenadians to ensure that they, too, enjoy the benefits of this experience while they extend welcoming arms to international adaptive divers ready to explore a new adaptive destination. In collaboration with Diveheart, True Blue Bay Boutique Resort, and the students of SGU, Aquanauts Grenada is looking forward to sharing special moments with those that seek to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the underwater world in the Caribbean.

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Mark Evans
Mark Evans
Scuba Diver's Editorial Director Mark Evans has been in the diving industry for nearly 25 years, and has been diving since he was just 12 years old. nearly 40-odd years later and he is still addicted to the underwater world.
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