by B. N. Sullivan
I wrote last week that I had just returned from a reunion with some long-time friends, all of whom had been members of a dive club in Athens, Greece many years ago. The name of the club was the Marathon Diving Club, and it was organized by a couple of American men who were living and working in the Athens area at that time. (The image on this page is a patch bearing the Marathon Diving Club emblem.)
The founders of the club had learned to dive while serving in the U.S. Navy, and had continued to dive for recreation. The idea for a club arose as a way to attract and train other sport divers living in the Athens area, and thereby increase the pool of potential dive buddies.
The club name might be a head-scratcher at first. It does not imply that we did marathon dives! Rather it reflects the fact that the focal point for many of the club's early activities was an area known as the "Marathon coast" - the region on the eastern shore of Greece's Attic peninsula, near the site of the ancient Battle of Marathon.
In the early days, most of our organized dives, and some of the club's training activities, took place at beaches along the Marathon coast. The club also had a small facility located at Nea Makri, a little town situated on the Marathon coast. The facility (more like a little shack!) was where we stored pieces of communally owned dive gear. It also housed the compressor that filled our scuba tanks.
Recreational scuba diving was a relatively new sport in the late 1960s and early 1970s when we first met and began diving together, and it was almost unheard of in Greece. As I recall, there was only one dive shop in Greece at that time, and it was in the port of Piraeus. Certified training for new divers was non-existent there, so the founders of the Marathon Diving Club put together a training program of their own.
The club's instructors all were -- or had been -- U.S. Navy divers. I have no idea exactly how many new divers were trained over the years by the Marathon Diving Club's instructors, but it was a good number. What amazes me, when I think back, is just how good that initial training was, and how many of the divers trained by the club's instructors stayed with the sport for years -- even decades (including yours truly).
I'd like to thank my friend Lorna for unearthing a Marathon Diving Club patch -- in mint condition, no less -- and bringing it to last month's reunion. Lorna's husband was a founder of the club, and was my first dive instructor. You'll meet him in the next regular post (right after Wordless Wednesday) , when I write about the Marathon Diving Club's training program for new divers.