Scuba instructor Shannon Coleman is your ticket to a spectacular underwater world.
Story and photo by Gretchen M. Sanders
Some people do yoga to relax. Shannon Coleman prefers plunging toward the ocean floor. The 50-year-old water lover started scuba diving in 1987 and has spent the last three decades swimming with eels and octopuses 50 feet underwater.
Coleman—who has dived in Belize, Bermuda, Grand Cayman, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, St. Thomas, and Turks and Caicos Islands—wanted to show others the gems of ocean life, the sharks, stingrays and barracuda that stir her soul.
In 2015, she became an instructor at Tom’s Dive & Swim, a local diving shop through which she offers scuba-diving-certification classes for teenagers and adults in her backyard pool in Pflugerville, Texas. Her students perform their open-water checkout dives at The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, formerly known as Aquarena Springs, in San Marcos, Texas, and at Windy Point Park on Lake Travis. They can take her advanced diving classes to learn additional skills.
“You don’t have to be extremely fit or a great swimmer to dive,” Coleman says. “You are weightless in the water, and you can ask for help getting in and out.”
She notes that scuba is also a good activity for couples. “You can dive together all over the world,” she says. Here’s how this fish keeps flipping her fins.
“I wake up at 7 a.m., and coffee is thing No. 1. I also have a supplement drink in the morning. I practice intermittent fasting, so I don’t eat food until lunchtime.”
“I dive three to four times a week, and I’m usually at a dive site for at least two hours each time. Diving is labor-intensive, with lots of gear to schlep around. One tank of air weighs about 40 pounds, but I might haul three tanks per student. Divers also wear weights to control their buoyancy. I will carry 4 extra pounds when I dive, in case students need the weight. The hardest part of diving is getting into and out of the water with all the gear. The easiest part is being in the water. When I’m not diving, I love to be outside. I spend about five hours a week pulling weeds, watering, mulching and trimming in my huge backyard garden. I also do three hour-long Camp Gladiator classes a week, which are held outdoors at different locations around Austin.”
“Diving makes me hungry. On some dives, I will burn more than 700 calories an hour because my body is working so hard to stay warm. People say I have strong will-power because I don’t eat processed or junk food. Illness has led me to eat cleanly. I tend to have lots of vegetables, lean meat and very few grains. I follow a mostly low-carb diet with no sugar, which I don’t even crave anymore. Wine is my dessert. Very seldom do I eat out. I cook six days a week.”
“I wear a 3-millimeter full-sleeve Aqua Lung wetsuit when I’m diving in the ocean. It protects my skin from barnacles and fire coral, and it keeps me warm, especially if I’m doing multiple dives a day. Every diver needs fins, a snorkel and a good mask. An ill-fitting mask causes stress underwater. I use a Tusa Freedom Elite Mask that I bought from a dive shop. I never buy diving equipment online because I can’t be sure where it came from. You don’t want to be underwater with faulty equipment. I wear a dive computer, which fits like a wristwatch and monitors my depth, dive time and how long I can safely stay at a specific depth. I also have a primary and secondary regulator, which are attached to a tank and allow me to breath underwater; a pressure and depth gauge, which tracks my depth and remaining air; and a buoyancy compensator, which fits like a backpack and controls my buoyancy on the surface and underwater. Aqua Lung is my go-to brand for gear.”
“There is nothing more freeing to me than diving. I can forget about everything else when I drop beneath the surface.”
“Just keep swimming.”
“I go to bed around 11 p.m. My husband and I will unwind by watching movies together in our home-theater room. We watched Murder Mystery last week. It was cute.”