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Interest In Scuba Diving Surges
By Matt J. Weiss, March 5, 2008 @ 02:00 AM (EST)
Source: Mercurynews.com

Wetsuits peeled down to the waist, half a dozen divers push off the beach in a small runabout, waving at the sunbathers left lazily behind. Half an hour later, the boat rocking gently in the waves, the divers tip backward, entering the water with a soft, jubilant splash. They bob for a moment, then head down to discover the life aquatic with its tropical fish and vivid corals.


"It's truly otherworldly," says Jim Allan, a maritime archaeologist at St. Mary's College in Moraga who spends much of his year underwater, diving off shimmering reefs and exploring shipwrecks.


Allan's first dive experience "grabbed me so powerfully," he says, that he never stopped. "It's like flying. You're surrounded by spectacular color and marine life, and when you look down, you look down forever."
Allan's passion for the deep is shared by many.


Despite the frigid ocean and bay waters here, the Bay Area is home to dozens of dive shops and thousands of avid divers. And those divers have a favorite land activity: comparing notes on the best reefs, most remote dive sites and the ever-growing number of dive magazines, high-end scuba supplies and fabulous dive resorts out there.


The number of divers certified each year has more than doubled since 1990, when 440,418 new divers were certified worldwide by PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. Some 924,270 were certified in 2006, the last year for which figures are available. (PADI's not the onl

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