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By Susan Long

A few months ago, I got an e-mail from a young man from Woodbury, Minnesota. His name was Matt and he was very interested in scuba diving and learning all that he could about it. He had been surfing the internet and found my name and e-mail address so he dropped me a message. He wanted to introduce himself and talk about scuba diving. Heck, I can do that! And we’ve been good friends ever since.

I learned quickly that Matt was a big sponge. I’m the first person to admit that I don’t know everything, but, through unique opportunities, I have met a lot of folks who know quite a bit about a lot of things. I know how to use my resources. So I began sending Matt links to websites with all kinds of cool information from rebreathers to submarines. In return he would send me pictures of the oddest looking fish found at 1000’. He watches every TV show he can find about diving and is active on numerous scuba-related internet bulletin boards. He’s even joined a few e-mail lists including the one from my own dive club, the Bottom Bunch, in San Diego. In fact, I took Matt’s picture to our last dive club meeting to tell everyone what Matt told me. “Divers are the luckiest people in the world.” And that got me to thinking about that.

He’s right. As divers, we get to go places and do things that most people only dream about. And, for the divers who enjoy local diving, we get to do it all the time. Cruising around in a 3D environment has to be the closest thing to flying that a body will ever experience. Divers get to hover, virtually weightless, and be part of the water. It’s also an opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with wildlife. Real wild life. For example, I live in San Diego. The closest thing I can get to actually interacting with wild life on land is seeing a skunk run around the neighborhood. But as a diver, I get to go out and see all kinds of fish, plants that are really animals and, if the diving gods smile on me, I get to have a sea lion come and check me out. In fact, three weeks ago a harbor seal nibbled on my fin! What an incredible experience! Tell that story to any of your land-loving friends and you’ll have them pea green with envy.

Another thing we divers have are good friends. Divers make the best friends in the world. We have a common bond – a respect for the environment and all living things. And we’re not just vocal about it, we do things to support that view. We pitch in for beach clean ups, clean intake tanks for aquariums and help collect money to support artificial reefs. Man, we do it all!

We are also a relatively healthy group of folks, too. You can’t put a bunch of crap into your body and expect to go diving the next day. And because you want to get the most out of that one tank of air, you’ll start exercising. This is not an urban myth. I’ve seen it happen. I know people who were wild teenagers and did things only rock stars do and then they discover diving. It was either that or diving. For some it was a physical and mental choice and for others it was financial. But diving won. They are some of the best divers I know, too.

Bottom line, we are the luckiest people in the world. Not only do we have a desire to do something but we have the gumption and drive to make it happen. I didn’t mention that Matt has Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy. He’s 27 and most folks with that disease don’t live to be that old. Matt is on a respirator 24/7. But he has as much gumption, drive, and persistence of any diver that I know. He is contacting every person he can think of because he wants to, some day, go diving. Where we want to be able to go to sixty feet for an hour, he’ll be happy with five feet for ten minutes. And he’ll get there, too. Why? Because for every person he contacts, he gets the name of someone else to contact. And he’s relentless. As is often in life, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. On his way to making his scuba diving dream happen, Matt is creating an incredible circle of friends.

On behalf of my buddy, Matt, remember that divers are the luckiest people in the world. If you are not a diver yet, take a course and become one. If you haven’t dived in a while, join a dive club and get back in the water. Your friends are waiting for you.

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If you would like to meet Matt or learn more about Matt’s dream to one day go scuba diving, visit www.geocities.com/roadrunnermatt/disabledscubadiving.html or e-mail him at roadrunnermatt@yahoo.com.