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UA students find fun and relaxation in scuba diving

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Valentina Martinelli | The Daily Wildcat

The pool at the UA Rec Center.



Summer season in Tucson is hot and sometimes unbearable. Many students who reside in the city will do anything to cool off, and a select group found a unique way to do it.

Scuba diving has become a popular extracurricular activity at University of Arizona. According to Andrew Huff, the assistant director of the Outdoor Rec Program, back in the 1970s, a group of students started an informal scuba diving club. Now it is a formal club named SCUBA that is housed in the Student Recreation Center with Outdoor Rec. At SCUBA, club members can become certified with the National Association of Underwater Instructors in basic scuba diving and leadership.

Huff also oversees the UA's scuba diving program. According to him, there are plans in the works to bring the program back this year after a pause in 2020 due to the pandemic. 

“Pre-Pandemic we were averaging 256 participants a year taking SCUBA,” Huff said via email. "SCUBA is popular at the University of Arizona for a few reasons. The UA SCUBA program is of great value compared to other providers. The HR fee gives us this ability opening access to a greater number of students. It also is a great way to relax and unwind. It is also one of the most adaptable outdoor pursuits to any ability.”

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Many picture an activity such as scuba diving taking place in Hawaii or the Great Barrier Reef, where divers can see various sea life swim by them. Since there are no oceans nearby Tucson, Huff and the club members have adapted to their surroundings. 

“Many go north to Lake Pleasant,” Huff said. "[Another] place to dive in Arizona is Lake Mojave. A lot of students enjoy diving down in Mexico.”

To scuba dive with the school, you must go through a certification process, and that is what Steven Backerman oversees. Backerman, co-owner of the Paragon Dive Group in Tucson, works together with the UA to ensure as many students as possible get certified and trained on scuba diving. 

“Paragon Scuba Academy will be providing scuba instruction for the University of Arizona’s Outdoor Recreation Program in coordination with Mr. Andrew Huff, the Assistant Director of the Outdoor Recreation Program,” Backerman said via email. “We are super jazzed to announce that we will begin to certify even more UA students.”

Apparently, the popularity of scuba diving extends beyond the UA campus and into the greater Tucson area, according to Backerman.

“There are thousands of certified divers in the Tucson area,” Backerman said via email. “We are currently certifying around 15 divers a month, ages ranging from as young as 10 years old (which is the minimum age to become certified as a Junior Open Water Diver) through 80 years old.”

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A new group of students will arrive on campus next fall and Huff said he is excited for what they can find at the UA Outdoor Rec center. 

“Students should check out the SCUBA [and] all these opportunities found at Outdoor Rec and Campus Recreation,” Huff said. 

For more information on SCUBA visit rec.arizona.edu/outdoor.


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (9/21)
993 29 2.9%
Total (8/2)
23,557 463 2.0%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated September 21, 2021