Mankind has always held the oceans as a fascinating natural wonder. Many travel to various parts of the world to specifically discover different parts of them, and explore their wonders by either snorkelling or swimming. Some prefer to conquer their power by riding their waves, while others dare even more by diving deep into their dark abyss.

At 87 metres below sea level, Richard Ponec, a 29 year old PADI SCUBA DIVING INSTRUCTOR, still feels at ease. This interview with him will take us around the world in order to understand what it feels like to venture deep into the unknown.

Mandy Farrugia, Richard Ponec, Wojciech Podhorski, diving

History of Diving

Various ancient manuscripts reveal that, apart from the hunt for food, people also used to dive for precious marine materials, such as pearls, essential for the crafting of refined jewellery. Without any doubt, techniques back then were primate, as in Herodotus’s story of Scyllis, a Greek sailor, who used a reed to breathe while cutting the mooring lines of Persian Ships.

Since then, interest in this unknown underworld urged people to develop ever-improving methods of staying underwater for longer periods of time, at ever increasing depths. Nowadays, diving has improved to an extent that progressive technology has introduced advanced equipment which permits professional commercial divers to dive down to 350m below sea level. While it may appear to be quite a stressful activity Ricahrd Ponec explains about the fascinating world of diving, and the unique experience this brings along.

andy Farrugia, Richard Ponec, Wojciech Podhorski, diving

What intrigues you the most about being a diver?

Freedom mostly, but the opportunity to discover new places and getting access to exclusive views of the world win the biscuit too. Putting aside the excitement, this sport provides me with exceptional moments. While I am diving, I do not think of anything else. In fact it serves me as a meditation exercise. Besides, having the opportunity to look at the all the successes which my students manage to obtain over a short period of time under my supervision is very rewarding.

When did you first start practising diving?

It all started with a coincidence. Back in my late teenage years, when following the cold Slovakian winters, I used to spend my summer holidays around the Greek Islands. It was there when I discovered the ocean for the first time, and not knowledgeable much about diving, I started to free-dive just by holding my breath, which did improve eventually, however it was never enough, as I always wanted to go deeper. I believe that this was the turning point which convinced me to move on to scuba diving. I started recreational diving training courses in Slovakia, mostly in lakes, but soon afterwards I had the opportunity to travel to Egypt on various diving trips with my instructor, so as to reach the technical levels required.

andy Farrugia, Richard Ponec, Wojciech Podhorski, diving

What was the most exciting dive so far?

Although it is really difficult to pick just one, it must definitely be one of my first tech-dives in Thomas Canyon, at Ras Muhammed National Park in Egypt. It was in 2013 Dahab, where I was pushing all the boundaries. Diving 52 metres below sea level and passing through tight canyons was definitely a challenging task for me, but rewarding.  In fact, when we rose back to the surface to make our way towards the boat, we got surrounded by a group of dolphins.

During your diving career in Malta, which were the most interesting dive sites and experiences to you?

I particularly enjoyed the caves and wrecks. UM EL FAROUD wreck, lying at 36m below the sea and 250m off the coast of Żurrieq, is probably the most interesting wreck Malta has to offer. A typical recreational dive of 45 minutes is not enough to discover the whole wreck, so people keep on coming to see it. Having several different chambers with open entrances makes it a very exciting sight for skilled, experienced divers. As for the caves I particularly enjoyed BILLINGHURST CAVE in Gozo.

andy Farrugia, Richard Ponec, Wojciech Podhorski, diving

Why should everyone give diving a try?

It is the one passport to another world. It is a very exciting activity. At first it can be a frightening one for some, but eventually their heartbeat does slow down when they descend further. Once they get to descend to a freer world, where they can move in three dimensional trajectories, they realise how peaceful it is. First of all it’s a silent underworld. This, together with that liberating feeling, makes it extremely easy to forget about anything else happening just above you.

© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Mandy Farrugia