Chico State scuba class: Diving into a wondrous world


Photo of scuba course doing confined water training. Photo courtesy of Scuba Hut.

The idea of diving deep into the darkness of the ocean with nothing but a tank of air and some flippers may seem terrifying. But for a growing number of students at Chico State, scuba diving is becoming part of their weekly routine. 

Whether it is exploring a coral reef teeming with life, or swimming at Chico Sports Club along the lap pool, scuba diving offers a unique opportunity to experience the beauty and wonder of the underwater world. At the heart of every scuba class (KINE-125a) is the instructor, Rich Astley, who guides students through the process of learning to dive safely and get scuba certified for life.

One of Astley’s students, Jacob Santoyo, has been diving for one semester and even got the chance to travel to the Philippines in March and scuba dive around the coast with Astley and other members of the class. Santoyo enjoyed his newfound hobby and is glad he found out about the course through his mother.

Photo of boat dock in Philippines. Photo taken by Jacob Satoyo.

The trip included several days of scuba diving, culminating in what Santoyo called the “fun dives.” These dives had no training purposes, allowing Santoyo and his fellow scuba divers to swim freely around the lush, tropical vegetation and vibrant sea life.  Santoyo was able to see a wide variety of ocean creatures, including sea turtles, octopi, eels and sea snakes. But his favorite part of the trip was his last dive, where he got to swim with a turtle up close and even watch it eat.

“I will definitely be pursuing more scuba diving in the future,” Santoyo said. “It is easily one of the coolest things that I’ve done and I would recommend that everyone considers looking into it.”

For Santoyo, the scuba diving trip to the Philippines was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that he will never forget. With his new certification, he’s excited to see where his scuba diving adventures will take him next.

Astley has been teaching scuba diving since the spring of 2017 and also works at Scuba Hut here in Chico. He said the most rewarding part of teaching scuba diving is watching his students gain confidence and grow not only as divers, but as people.

Scuba has an outerspace feeling said Astley, as he describes the feeling of being fully submerged in water. The weightless feeling and only having a limited oxygen supply is truly insane, Astley said.

Scuba Compressor. Photo courtesy of Scuba Hut.

The class is separated into three different steps. 

The first part is a knowledge check, which he reviews over Canvas and weekly assigned homework. Next, students go into confined water, such as a swimming pool, where students build on the skills learned through Canvas.

The last step is open water training, where they put students in more true-like diving conditions, with lower visibility and thick wetsuits. Typically they do this portion of the training in Oroville and Redding.

As scuba diving continues to grow in popularity at Chico State and across the country, Astley’s role will remain crucial. With the right guidance and support, students can continue to explore the underwater world and push their limits in a safe and rewarding way, even in Butte County.

Alejandro Zepeda can be reached at