As a teenager, Robin St. Martin loved nothing more than roaring down the streets of Ottawa on his motorcycle. When thieves snatched his bike, the cash-strapped student thought that was the end of it. Six months later, he got a phone call from a person who’d found the bike while scuba diving. “He wanted me to witness the motorcycle being brought up from the bottom of a quarry,” says St. Martin. “It turned out he was a diving instructor. He invited me to take a course, and I’ve been diving ever since.”
Imagine venturing into the water to experience an amazing and diverse underwater world full of marine life and mystery — from exotic fish and colourful coral to haunting shipwrecks. It’s easy to learn and, while you don’t have to spend much or travel too far to get started, the siren song of myriad spectacular dives around the world could lure you abroad.
In the 19 years since he first strapped on a scuba tank, St. Martin, president of Ottawa-based security firm Iron Horse Corp., has descended into the St. Lawrence River, various quarries and the warm waters of the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and Cuba. “There’s always something different to look at,” he says. “All you hear is the water. It’s very relaxing.”
St. Martin’s favourite — and most dangerous — experience was sinkhole diving in the Riviera Maya of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where he swam among stalactites and tree roots growing through the ceiling. “It was a real mind-blower, knowing that you’re clearly underground but, at the same time, knowing that you have trees and a jungle above you,” says St. Martin, adding that even with flashlights, the pitch blackness made the affair completely disorienting. “In a dark cavern dive like that, where you’re neutrally buoyant, you could be swimming upside down because the ground looks like the ceiling.”
The six-week training course — comprising theory, indoor-pool and open-water dives — was a cinch, says St. Martin, and, unlike other sports, “diving does not require a lot of physical conditioning. ”
Aside from the rush of being underwater, St. Martin has another compelling reason to dive. After a dive, you need to wait a few days for the nitrogen to leave your blood before you can fly. “I get a few days of diving and then spend the next couple days at a resort relaxing.”