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My Favorite Time of Year To Dive

By: John Chandler

Date Posted: 2000-12-01

On more than one occasion I have been asked, "What is your favorite time of year to dive?" or the more often Internet query is "What is the best time of year to dive Okinawa?" Both are valid questions since many times seasonal weather has a lot to do with determining when conditions are most conducive to sliding in and out of the deep blue and gaining the most smile for your buck!

My unequivocal answer is: "Winter, just plain old Winter." The cooler weather and shorter days that cause less solar heating of the waters surrounding Okinawa combine to add just a little chill to the water (not COLD, just chilly) which I think gives Okinawa a real season. Next week I will discuss some great things you can do in order to prevent becoming chilly but the water is not cool enough for that just yet. Today I would like to dwell for a few moments on why I like winter diving so much.

In the winter the water cools down to a temperature somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius. In perspective these temperatures are tropical for those folks in Tokyo or Washington, DC that are facing a winter of snow, ice, slush and wind chill factors that can scrape the skin right off your face and freeze most mustaches in place. These divers would pay lots of money for water temps like ours in December, January, February etc., but we are not in Tokyo or DC are we! The cooling waters also causes much of the suspended algae to settle into deeper regions giving us deep cobalt blues that really look great in photographs! I'll bet that are not discussing that on Wall Street this time of year.

Many folks comment on how much they miss the change in seasons here. It seems that Okinawa's Fall usually comes on the third Tuesday in October and Winter starts the following Monday. The transitional seasons go fast here. Many will counter immediately that we never get to see the leaves change color on Okinawa. Wrong, just get out of the Kadena-Chatan complex and you will see plenty of red leaves and pine trees molting a warm brown glow just north of Nago on your way to the dives sites up at Okuma and Hedo. But even if we are not getting the deep reds and purples of the fall colors enjoyed back east we are getting a refreshing change in the water temperature which reminds me of a seasonal change. It reminds me that nature is really in charge and we have to live with it and not complain about it. I know that if you want the refreshing briskness of a winter morning on Okinawa all you have to do is drive down to Sunabe Sea Wall and do a 45-foot dive in January wearing only a dive skin for thermal protection. Believe me you will definitely want to find a warm fire and hot chocolate after that one. This is the time of year many divers discover that removing the thermostat from their engines last summer was not a great idea.

I like winter diving because it satisfies that North American phenomenon of wanting to put more clothes on just because the calendar has moved past October. Winter diving on Okinawa let's you dust off that great big overstuffed parka and walk around the dive site showing off all your dive patches! By the way your overstuffed parka is exempt from Dalton's Second Law of Diving, which only applies to bumper stickers on your beat up dive van. I like winter diving because it makes you dig through all your dive gear to find last year's wet suit and while you are digging through all your gear, looking for last year's wet suit, you find those fins you borrowed and that mask strap you thought you lost in the Keramas over the 4th of July. Winter diving puts you back in touch in with a lot of gear you have not used over the hot summer months. And speaking of hot, this past summer was about the hottest that I remember on Okinawa. Because of that my hair color changed from bald, to red, and then to brown every three days. So I guess I like winter diving because it allows me to stabilize my hair color better so that it will remain an off shade of tan. In the winter you wear a hat to keep your head warm. In the summer you wear a hat to protect your head from the nuclear rays of the sun So I guess I like winter diving because I do not have to give myself a sun block shampoo before and after every dive.

In retrospect of this discussion I sincerely appreciate and enjoy Okinawa's change in seasons. I guess if you do not SCUBA dive you do not notice the changes much. If you do not notice the changes you are really missing out on the flavor of Okinawa that all too few really appreciate. It really can get cold here and sometimes you really do have to bundle up. So start SCUBA diving in the winter more and you won't be as homesick for the changes you think you are missing back home. I also like winter diving so much because by Christmas I will start remembering how much I miss summer. See you at the beach; I am the bald guy wearing the thermal flip-flops or check out my web site at www.jwchandler.com.

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