PADI's 13th annual Total Submersion event officially kicked off on Sunday, June 10th, at Sunset House on Grand Cayman. Most participants arrived on Saturday and enjoyed a welcome cocktail with PADI and Sunset House and Sunset Divers' staff at My Bar (where else??!!??). The early-morning orientation to the week's activities was also held at My Bar (where else?!?). The tone was set immediately by Theresa Kaplan, PADI Americas vivacious Director of Communications: "The biggest compliment you can give us is that you choose to repeatedly come dive with us - and if you're new, it's because a friend told you how much fun it is." And then she added jokingly, "Maybe you need new friends." That not only got a big laugh from Total Sub alums and newbies, it also definitely characterizes the atmosphere of Total Sub and the attitude of the event's participants. "Total Subbers" are, as Theresa put it, "the heart and soul of the PADI Diving Society." As a newbie at the event, I discovered that they take their diving seriously but with a whole lot of fun mixed in (more on that in my Day Two blog).
PADI Team Leaders were then introduced: Aja Clarke, a PADI Divemaster and Marketing Consultant for PADI Diving Society, is "captain" of Team Blue, Simon Morgan, a PADI Course Director and Senior Director of Technology and eBusiness, leads Team Red, Karin Sahm, PADI Travel Network Travel Specialist, Team Purple, Niccole Sherman, PADI Media Production Technician, Team Yellow, and Theresa is leading Team White.
Special guests at the event include Dan Orr, president of the Divers Alert Network. As Theresa put it, "DAN has been supporting this event for years, but more important, has been supporting divers for years." Dan and his wife, Betty Orr, Vice President and Director of Insurance of DAN Services, will be giving seminars later in the week.
Also attending Total Sub as a special guest is Hunter Clark, who is GoPro's events coordinator. Hunter presented a seminar Sunday afternoon on GoPro housed underwater camera and announced a special deal available to Total Sub attendees - buy a GoPro camera while at the event and get a free housing. Hunter will also be on board all five Sunset House boats at various times to give divers a chance to try the cameras for free.
Sport Diver's Field Editor Tanya G. Burnett, who is on hand to photograph all the diving and festivities, and Senior Editor Patricia Wuest, who will report on the event in the magazine's October edition, were also introduced. They joined Team Red for the day's diving, which was spectacular, and as all newbies discover, FUN-FILLED! We dived Orange Canyon off the island's Northwest Point, which always delivers a scenic look at the topography Grand Cayman is famed for, and Pageant Beach Reef (Capt. Roger's briefing: "The island used to hold beauty pageants in the building on this beach, but there are no longer any pretty women on the island," which caused him to be doused by water pistols wielded by a three women on board). That afternoon, we also dived the Kittiwake! What a nice wreck the island has been able to add to its dive portfolio. Its mast nearly breaks the water's surface and you can log a ton of bottom time on its deck, which is in roughly 20 feet of water. Many divers headed to the wheel, and took turns "driving" the ship.
The evening wrapped up with a welcome party on Sunset House's seaside and poolside terrace, the SeaHarvest Patio. This is a time for participants to recall the day's diving and catch up with old friends. For 13 years now, many of this year's attendees have been coming to Total Sub and the friendships forged have been long-lasting, born out of a shared love for diving - and fun.
More tomorrow, including Tanya's seminar on working with models!