Underwater Undead: Zombie-themed scuba diving in Wainwright teaches skills

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On Saturday, Clear Lake in Wainwright will be overrun by zombies.

The lake, about 235 kilometers southeast of Edmonton, will be the site of a zombie-themed training day organized by Alberta Adventure Divers.

The training is officially certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors – the largest scuba diving training system in the world. Those who successfully complete the course will receive a formal Zombie Apocalypse Diver qualification.

Alberta Adventure Divers began offering the course last year.

“Thanks to COVID, it was a way to keep our active divers diving,” said Connie Faas, dive leader and dive instructor since 2004.

The course is not only an opportunity to wear zombie costumes underwater. It also teaches important skills for divers.

The Zombie Apocalypse Diver course allows divers to sharpen their abilities, problem-solving skills useful both underwater and above, and refresh their knowledge of first aid.

Divers practice their search and recovery skills, as well as their buoyancy skills. In scuba diving, buoyancy is the diver’s ability to maintain and control their depth.

“They look really scary”

There are “zombies” wandering underwater, represented by Faas and his assistants, who wear zombie costumes over their dry suits.

“I have some that really fill the role,” Faas said.

“They have red and yellow contacts in their eyes. So they look really scary. They make the hair really scary underwater.”

Kevin Shortt is a qualified Zombie Apocalypse divemaster and diver who will help administer the course this year.

He said the class wasn’t just a practice scuba diver with zombie cosplay strewn across the top, but a great opportunity for a fun day out with the family.

“When I first heard of it, I didn’t think it was a real certified course. But it was [a] great opportunity, lots of family fun for surface support and divers,” he said.

It’s a great opportunity for divers to do something different from the usual institutionalized instruction in scuba diving, Shortt said.

It also gives people the opportunity to take a selfie with an underwater zombie and bring back fond memories, he said.

There’s plenty to see at the bottom of Clear Lake, Faas said, including a life-size underwater ceramic cow, a sea monster that divers affectionately call Ogopogo and a sunken plane.

The club is very active, despite its location far from major urban centers.

“People don’t really think of the Prairies when they think of scuba diving. But our club has been very active. It has hundreds of members,” said Roxanne Shortt, wife of Kevin Shortt and who provides a surface support for dives.

The Shortts are based in Lloydminster and the club has members from across Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Kevin Shortt decided to take up scuba diving after a fatal drowning in Lloydminster. He was one of the lifeguards and they had to wait hours for divers to arrive from out of town. After this incident he decided that Lloydminster needed a dive team, and to get one he had to learn to dive.

“So because of her commitment to life, people and emergency services, we started diving and from there it was a wonderful experience every time,” Roxanne Shortt said.

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