Anesti Vega Awarded Sea Hero Honors for Diversity in Aquatics

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Q: One of the goals of the Scuba Council is to expand the ways people can get involved in the sport. What are some of the on-ramps you’ve helped build, and why do you think they’re effective?
A: One of the top barriers for getting involved in scuba diving is the overall cost. The council focuses on addressing this barrier through partnerships and consulting with organizations like the AAUS Foundation and Reef Check Foundation to build culturally-competent scholarship opportunities. These facilitate access to fundamental training and equipment, as well as advanced training in citizen science and scientific diving that that could unlock an entire career path.

Q: When you were working on becoming a divemaster, some of your friends turned down your offer for a Discover Scuba experience because they did not know how to swim. What can other divers who also have loved ones that cannot swim or are not confident in the water do to help them feel more comfortable in the water?
A: That experience served as a wake-up call for me in a lot of ways. I didn’t meet a person that couldn’t swim until aquatic physical training in the Army. Later, when more people were comfortable sharing with me that they couldn’t swim, it motivated me to go back to help fill that gap by becoming a trained swim instructor.

One friend opted to do the Discover Dive despite not knowing how to swim. We practice swimming before donning any gear and took all the extra time we needed to get her comfortable in the water. At the end of the session, she was so elated she shared her story and experience within her social circles, which is key to breaking down the stigma of not knowing how to swim as an adult.

Readers can invite loved ones to the pool for a stress-free environment to develop comfort in the water. Have your skin gear available to borrow and go from there.

Q: As a scuba instructor, you work with a wide variety of people, from veterans with PTSD to children with autism to people that don’t know how to swim. What do you think it is about diving that makes it restorative and empowering to such a broad array of people?
A: I am one of many who believe in the power of our connection to water. There are many theories about and understandings of this connection, rooted in everything from the water of the womb to tracing our evolution back to Earth’s oceans. I was struggling with PTSD the most when I became an Open Water student. When I became neutrally buoyant, I felt truly present in the moment for the first time in my life. I focused on my breathing and how it affected my position in the water column. This pushed out the constant racing thoughts. It was this glimpse of my natural state, without PTSD, that gave me hope to start my journey to healing. The more I share my story, help build more opportunities for others to develop through aquatics, and create shared experiences of empowerment and healing, the more my own experience is validated.

Q: What do you find most gratifying about helping people build their in-water confidence?
A: When I see somebody’s confidence build, it’s contagious. I feel it right along with them. I’m honored and humbled every time a student of mine shares their story, or posts underwater photos from their recent dive, or gets their loved ones involved for the benefit of shared experience. It’s about seeing what grows of the seeds that I’m fortunate enough to plant — and empowering others to plant their own seeds — that drives me to continue this work.

This content was originally published here.

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