For the first time in 4 years, ice diving conditions were perfect

GIBSONBURG — Every year hundreds of SCUBA divers visit White Star Career for its crystal clear water and sunken attractions, but last weekend they came for a third reason: diving under the ice. For the first time in four years, conditions were perfect for ice diving, and men and women came from as far away as Pittsburgh to get certified in ice diving.

“Ideally for things like this weekend we need 8 inches of good solid ice. This weekend the ice was about 15 inches thick,” said Rich Synowiec, owner of Divers Incorporated in Ann Arbor. “We need at least four inches to walk on it, but as long as we can dive from shore, any dive under an ice sheet is ice dive.”

Divers Incorporated and Deep Six Specialists, Inc. in Akron had ice diving instructors on hand to guide divers through the two-day ice diving certification. A section of ice was cut out to allow access to the water, and divers were attached to an above-ground diver who monitored the line throughout the dive.

Learn to dive “in any environment”

Patrick Ferris first experienced scuba diving on his honeymoon in Cancun and continued diving upon his return to Ohio. The good weather diving season in Ohio wasn’t long enough for him, so he decided to learn how to ice dive last weekend.

Mike Oaks prepares for his first ice dive as Patrick Ferris awaits his turn at a small opening in the ice at White Star Quarry.  Both men were certified in ice diving during a two-day course last weekend.

“In Ohio, if you want a diving season, you have to learn to dive in any environment,” Ferris said.

Ice diving is risky and many divers would not consider going into the water with just a small escape hole. The benefits, Ferris said, are worth it.

“I like the challenge of it, and it’s a different environment,” he said. “There’s a lot less turbulence when there’s ice and the water clarity is really good.”

Mike Oaks is a commercial diver who also came to White Star to become certified in ice diving. His decision to start scuba diving started with his job.

It’s “peaceful and silent” under the ice

“We were operating a barge for one guy, and we had all these opportunities to do underwater work. That’s how I got started, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” Oaks said.

It was six years ago, and Oaks decided to take the next step in ice diving.

“It’s something different,” he said. “It’s peaceful and quiet, and I just do stupid stuff.”

Divers Incorporated instructors and their students work on ice diving certification at White Star Quarry on Saturday.

Ted Deitrick is a scuba diving instructor who traveled from his home near Pittsburgh to become certified in ice diving at White Star. After emerging from his first dive under the ice, he said the experience was unique and very different from summer diving.

“You’re just very used to going up wherever you want, but you have all that ice above you,” Deitrick said. “I put my feet on the ice and felt like I was skating underwater.”

“It’s silly not to dive in winter”

Like Ferris, Deitrick took the plunge into ice diving to extend his diving season.

“I want to be able to dive the other half of the year. In the summer we dive approximately every weekend. It’s silly not to dive in the winter,” Deitrick said.

Deitrick had opportunities closer to home to learn ice diving, but he traveled to Ohio to train with Synowiec.

“I did my instructor certification with Rich and I really respect him. I wanted to get certified with someone who dives in the ice all the time and knows what they’re doing,” Deitrick said.

The regular diving season at White Star is from April 1 to December 31. For more information, visit whitestarquarry.com. For more information about Divers Incorporated, visit diversinc.com.

Contact correspondent Sheri Trusty at [email protected]

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