Underwater adventures

HBO executive dives into scuba excursions

When Gregory Sneed of Baldwin Harbor, New York, needs to get away from his demanding 9-to-5, he takes to the seas. The scuba diver finds his glory exploring the blue waters of Hawaii or Florida’s sparkling Keys.

Sneed, Home Box Office’s vice president and assistant controller for worldwide accounting, became enamored of diving about five years ago. “I’d always wanted to dive, so when I had enough time and money for the adventure” he went straight to Hawaii and studied diving with a private instructor. “Most scuba diving courses extend up to five weeks. However, I completely immersed myself in the sport and became certified in one week,” he says. Sneed loved his Hawaiian escape so much, he found himself back in the waters off Maui just weeks after his first trip. “I was hooked,” he chuckles.

It is the peacefulness and the communion with nature that most attracts Sneed to diving. “Diving opens up a whole new world. You’re right there with the fish life. And because human beings are not a known predator to most fish, [the fish] swim right up to you and that’s really fascinating,” he says.

Despite his deep affinity for the ocean depths, this husband and father of a nine-year-old boy doesn’t hesitate to warn of the hazards of diving. “Diving can be dangerous. The technical training learned up front is important to reducing the risk of accidents such as severe damage to the inner ear-the greatest danger to a diver,” he says. Sneed recalls a dive when he had to save a colleague’s life. “We were in rough water in the Florida Keys and couldn’t see the boat from beneath the surface. One member of our group panicked and I had to share my tank with him back to the boat once it was visible. I learned you should never panic, no matter what,” he says.

As far as Sneed’s future underwater adventures, he’s looking forward to making his fantasy dive a reality. “I’d love to dive off the South Pacific [islands] of Palau. [They're] about 600 miles southeast of Guam. There’s lots of virgin reef there. It’s exotic and completely away from it all.”

Getting started
Costs:
Basic Starter Gear
Mask $30-$150
Fins $50-$170
Snorkel $15-$50

Exposure protection suits:
Wetsuits and skins $80-$550
Dry suits $500-$2,400

SOURCES:
Rodale’s Scuba Diving or www.newdiver.com
Most equipment can be rented at dive centers.
The Diving Equipment and Marketing Association provides a listing of dive centers in your area (800-TM2-DIVE).

TRAINING AGENCIES:
Professional Divers Instructors Corp. (“PADI”)
Largest provider of certifications in the U.S.
800-729-7234; www.padi.com

National Association of Underwater Instructors (“NAUI”)
800-553-6284; www.naui.org.
YMCA
770-662-5172; 888-464-9622 (toll free); www.ymcascuba.org

National Association of Black Scuba Divers
1605 Crittenden St. NE
Washington DC 20017
800-521-NABS; www.nabsdivers.org; e-mail contactus@nabsdivers.org
BOOKS:

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling for Dummies by John Newman (IDG Books Worldwide, $19.99)
WEBSITES:
www.newdiver.com-Provides gear, safety, travel and certification information
www.beneaththesea.com-For information on largest annual consumer scuba and dive travel exposition in America held each March.

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