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The New Image of Pacific Northwest Diving

Diving is a challenge for the body, the mind and the spirit. The formidable task of exploring the underwater world lead divers to some of the most exotic locations throughout the waters of our planet, where encounters that inspire the imagination flourish with brilliant colors and limitless adventures. Delving under the waters of the Pacific Northwest in North America manifests that challenge and delights divers in ways that both personally reward individuals and add distinction to the community of diving.

It was not so long ago that diving in the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest conjured the image of 48-degree water finding it’s way into tight fitting wetsuits, where it would trickle down the spine in agonizing discomfort. Heavy lead-cast weights would dig into hipbones, as divers thrashed along for a hundred-yard surface swim against a current. After a 35-minute dive of poor visibility, hands and feet would be so cold that one could barley drag oneself onto the sandy and muddy beach for an uncomfortable surface interval before doing it all over again.

Today, the Pacific Northwest offers some of the most enjoyable and spectacular diving in the world. Advances in gear technologies have addressed and overcome literally every difficulty in local diving. Drysuits live up to their name by keeping divers dry, thus virtually warm and definitely comfortable. New fin designs have been developed to help divers maneuver in currents with greater agility and strength. Buoyancy control devices have evolved with more durable materials to provide greater lift, and many BCDs employ integrated weight systems that use palpable lead shot weights to increase comfort for divers and safety for drysuit users. Regulators and diving computers have advanced to account for cold water and exertion of diving in currents. Underwater lights now possess more powerful beams to increase visibility. Even dive education has matured to offer focused training on local diving environments.

"I had never even considered diving in the Pacific Northwest until I discovered how much advances in equipment could protect me from the cold waters, strong currents and less than crystal clear visibility" realizes Jennifer Rose, a strictly tropical water diver, now considering the a dive trip to Puget Sound in Washington State, USA.

As gear technology has advanced, expectations for local diver responsibilities have also increased. Divers from the Pacific Northwest are active promoters of protecting the underwater environment, both for their own enjoyment and the enjoyment of future divers. Visually rewarding underwater parks are abundant with marine life, and a healthy diving community promotes the protection of the life below the surface through exceptionally effective training and environmental education.

Since the introduction of chartered boat dives, diving in the Pacific Northwest is no longer limited to hauling gear down and up muddy banks, long surface swims fighting currents, inaccessible dive sites, or cold surface intervals. Today, there are daily charter services, live-aboards and even bed-and-breakfast dive operators. Because divers of the Pacific Northwest are generally self-sufficient individuals, the buzzword for these charter services has evolved into "details." Comfort, safety and good diving details are essential for a successful dive charter service and the Pacific Northwest has developed some excellent operators. Dive boat charters offer the extra details and service that turn diving in the Pacific Northwest into a wonderful experience. Bowls of hot soup during surface intervals, and exceptionally attentive Divemasters help to create an atmosphere of enjoyment and good-humor.

These extra details are what keep veteran divers going in the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest weekend after weekend. And introducing new divers to the improved practices of Pacific Northwest diving produces a stronger and more conscientious diver. New practices in local diving techniques provide these divers with the ability to face situations that are not often encounter in the more popular tropical destinations. Concerns with keeping warm, proper current swimming practices and maintaining dive-buddy contact in limited visibility become major focuses of local diving orientations.

Pat and Bruce Wyrwitzke of Oregon have been diving for the past four years in the Pacific Northwest and have learned that diving with a charter service brings about a thoroughly positive experience one has with the local dive scene. The couple has also been diving in various areas of the Caribbean, yet they continue to explore the exhilarating diversity of Pacific Northwest diving. "When I think of diving I think of this (type of) operation," comments Pat about local dive charter services in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, the couple will drive several hours just to take a four-hour trip out on their favorite charter service, Bandito Charters.

Dive charter services offer access to some of the most diverse and thrilling dive locations in the Pacific Northwest. Famous dive sites such as the Octopus Hole, Seymour Inlet and the wreck of the Diamond Knot are all regularly featured trips for many charter companies. These adventures bring divers face to face with such amazing aquatic life as friendly wolf eels, giant octopus, brilliant sea anemones and odd-looking ratfish. In the end, however, divers of the Pacific Northwest are always looking for fun; and fun is what they can get in today’s local diving scene. Thrilling drift dives through the underwater wreckage of the famous "Galloping Gertie" bridge in Puget Sound often give divers carnival-like tours. Tropically clear waters of Lake Crescent, Washington astound divers with visibility that often extends beyond 100 feet. And encounters with abundant the sea-life that surround the Gulf Islands, Canada provide divers with the excitement that fuels their passion for the sport.

In every respect, diving in the Pacific Northwest has taken a very diver-friendly change from the image that existed not so many years ago. Thanks to advances in dive gear technology, the introduction of charter services, improved practices for diving education and the ongoing efforts to enhance the experience in every manner possible, Pacific Northwest diving has been brought back into the limelight. In fact, the local diving community has adapted to the environment so successfully that even those who are use to tropical diving environments will surface with a feeling of amazement and a smile that extends ear to ear.


Dive Shops/Operators:

Underwater Sports – Washington



Pacific Pro Dive – British Columbia, Canada



Charter Services:

Bandito Charters, Inc. – Washington



Nautilus Explorer – British Columbia, Canada



Tourism Information:

Washington State Tourism Agency


British Columbia Ministry of Small Businesses, Tourism and Culture