Under the Sea: Junior dives deep to pursue her passion

By: Nathan Hoy

As junior Kari Starbeck opens her eyes and takes a deep breath, a whole new world is revealed to her. She enters a new reality that can only be described as eye opening and mystical.

She regulates her ears, checks her wrist computer and continues to dive into the unknown. Starbeck’s love for nature and exploration is perhaps a little different and exclusive than others. Ever since age eight, she has been exploring the depths of waters all over.

Scuba diving is a lifestyle, a passion and a word that highly correlates with the Starbeck family. It all started back when Starbeck’s father dove for the first time at the age of 12. After putting the diving hobby up on a shelf for a while, he took his family on a trip, and they all got the chance to go snorkeling.

Starbeck was only five when she got her first glimpse at what life under the sea was like; however, she knew very well that this was only a fraction of what’s down there and knew that she had to go deeper. When the family got back to Cedar Falls, her dad found that there was a dive shop close by. He had just gotten his divemaster certification, which allows him to help teach the class and assist instructors. Starbeck took her first dive in a pool at the age of eight and hasn’t looked back since.

Her dad’s best friend Chris Miller owns the shop called Scuba Too where Starbeck and her father are currently employed. She has the task of fitting people with gear, talking to them about classes and rattling off all the valuable knowledge she’s soaked up in her multiple years of diving.

Walking through the steps to a normal dive, Starbeck’s face lit up with excitement. It’s apparent to anyone listening to her talk about this unique hobby that she truly has a love for it that is impossible to describe. She explained how divers almost always have a “dive buddy,” and hers is usually always her dad.

“In the class, you learn how to set up all the dive gear,” Starbeck said. “You do a safety check so you know where the weights are and so you know the air tank is turned on.”

She then explained how before divers get in the water, they usually know the dive site pretty well. “We brief the dive and the waters every time before making our way under water,” she said. “We need to know how deep we’re going and can only spend a certain amount of time at certain depths.”

Illustrating a knowledge that a terrestrial human being would not understand, she made it obvious that she is very well informed on staying safe underwater. “If you stay at a certain depth for too long, the pressure allows nitrogen bubbles to get into the bloodstream, and if you don’t allow that to get out, you can get severely injured. You have to slowly come up so that doesn’t happen.”

Starbeck has a wrist computer that tells how long she can stay at certain depths. Her dad usually takes pictures so the pace is usually pretty slow, but she doesn’t mind. “You see something different every time,” Starbeck said with a smile.

This past October, the Starbeck family went to the Bahamas on a boat for a whole week and had the opportunity to make five dives a day. “I’d say my favorite dive has probably been a shark feeding dive,” she said. “The crew freezes fish guts and puts them under water while sharks feed on it and we watched. After the sharks left, we got to go look for teeth.”

Starbeck said her first dive in the ocean was a little nerve racking, but after the first one, all the nerves were gone. “The fish just don’t care; however, you can’t see jellyfish, so that’s always a little scary.”

But for her, the tradeoff of fears to bliss is more than worth it.

“There’s not anything else like it. You go underwater, and I know it sounds cliche but it’s a whole ’nother world. You see stuff you never see, and you feel like you’re floating,” Starbeck said with a grin and look of pure excitement. “It’s just straight magical.”

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