As a dedicated and growing community, the Adaptive Sports Fund (ASF) recently hosted an amazing scuba try-dive demo day. It was held at the Blyde Riverwalk Estate in Pretoria-East – a wheelchair-accessible, child-friendly water lover’s paradise. The try-divers were privileged to strap on their scuba tanks and dive in the prestigious Crystal Lagoon while friends and family relaxed under thatched umbrellas on a real beach.
Participants of various abilities, including paraplegics, quadriplegics, amputees and an individual with a vision impairment, took part in the event. The demo day would not have been possible without the sponsors, the venue and all the cross-agency instructors and buddies from four scuba schools coming together to provide adaptive scuba diving for people with impairments.
Afterwards everyone had the chance to sit down for a meet-and-greet over delicious pizza at Amici, the local restaurant.
Here’s what some of the ASF members had to say:
“This experience was amazing, and yet amazing doesn’t do it justice. I guess the part that still surprises me is how I managed to breathe under water for as long as I did. I can’t believe it was made possible for me – a person with a disability, who, under normal circumstances, never would have been considered for scuba diving!
“I am so grateful for the effort my instructor and buddy went to in order to make me feel comfortable. A million thank yous would never be enough.”
– Colette Roos
“Everyone would agree that it was a well-organised and professionally hosted event. I felt as free as a fish in water and it required a lot less effort to swim than to push my wheelchair.
“This activity is better than any medication! My favourite moment was seeing the slightly concerned face of Colette Roos, a blind woman, beforehand and then her broad grin after the dive. ASF is an unbelievable team!”
– Chris Lourens
“Wow, what an adventure! One of the best parts was the feeling of weightlessness. There is nothing but water and the sound of my breathing. I felt light and I was aware of every centimetre of my body, yet I cannot seem to control it fully. Breathing through a scuba regulator for the first time felt strange – you’re drawing breaths while your face is under water.
“This did not feel normal at all… I had an awesome instructor who was super chilled and soothed me. Every time I was panicking under the water, I heard my instructors voice in my head, telling me to breathe slowly. It is definitely something to get used to. But all good things lie outside your comfort zone.”
– Erica de Winnaar
“A heartfelt thank you. I can’t begin to put into words how grateful I am. ASF made it so comfortable, exciting and amazing. Shout-out to my instructor for making me feel like I have been doing this for years.
“You have no idea how deep your efforts go. This accessibility issue is genuinely bigger than we think, but thanks to initiatives like this, we feel less excluded from society!”
– Sibongile Ndimande
“I’ve always loved water and have a few scuba dives under my belt. After my amputation, I didn’t really have the opportunity to go scuba diving again. With ASF and the wonderful, patient and knowledgeable dive buddies, it was an incredible experience.
“Once again, it goes to show that people define their own boundaries. Where there is a will, there is a way. A big thank you to everyone who was willing to remove the obstacles and make room for us to do again what we love.”
– Maria Combrink