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Fear of diving? Just go with the flow at Flow Dive Centre
This bespoke scuba venue offers all you need for your own underwater adventure, from equipment to practical courses.
PETALING JAYA: It’s a sunny Saturday morning at the PJ Palms Sports Centre here, where a small group of people are preparing for their first diving class.
Wearing wetsuits, flippers on their feet, the excited beginners make their way towards the cerulean waters of the centre’s swimming pool. There, they are greeted by instructor Melanie Hwa, founder of the Flow Dive Centre.
Hwa is all smiles as she imparts everything her students must know about entering the ocean, from neutralising their buoyancy to underwater sign language.
Welcoming newcomers to the wonderful world of scuba diving has always been a treat for her.
“I especially like to see kids and parents learning to dive together, because it’s a great bonding experience,” Hwa told FMT Lifestyle cheerfully. “It’s fun to see these people of different ages, and their different reactions to going underwater. Most of the time, kids tend to do better, because they’re fearless!
“It’s even better when a family goes diving after getting their diving licenses together,” she continued. “That can really help build core memories. How many kids will be able to say, ‘Hey, I got to go diving with turtles over the weekend?’”
The Flow Dive Centre is a full-fledged bespoke Professional Association of Diving Instructors (Padi) scuba centre, which aims to cater to all kinds of diving needs.
Among other things, the centre sells diving equipment, conducts diving and photography courses, and helps put together community events and diving trips. The centre has certified over 1,100 divers and, to date, has organised over 160 dive trips.
It may seem unusual for Flow Dive Centre to be in the heart of urban Petaling Jaya, as diving schools are more commonly found on islands or beaches. According to Hwa, this location is actually beneficial for students as they can practise diving in an accessible spot without having to travel too far.
“The first time you are introduced to all your equipment, you can try diving from the safety of our pool. You will be able to learn at your own pace, and there is more time for you to become comfortable under the water,” she explained.
Once her students have learnt everything, they are then able to head to an island for the open water. “You can enjoy your time there more, because you now have the experience,” she said, adding that they also stand a higher chance of getting their diving licences at this stage.
The bubbly Hwa has been a scuba enthusiast for almost as long as she can remember. “The first thing I bought with my own money after graduation was my diving licence,” the licensed Padi Instructor Development Course staff instructor recalled.
Taking the plunge
The Penang-born Hwa worked in the corporate world for about five years before the siren call of the sea proved too alluring to resist. Around 2015, she quit to become a freelance digital marketer and diving instructor instead.
Several years later, she learnt of an opportunity to start a diving centre in her current location. Taking the plunge, figuratively and literally, she opened Flow Diving Centre in August 2019.
Things, unfortunately, got off to a rough start, with the pandemic arriving shortly after. As pools had to close because of social distancing, it was a difficult few months for Hwa and her team of four.
Fortunately, she and her team successfully navigated those choppy waters, and the centre is now doing well.
Reflecting on her journey, she said: “I feel diving has become more popular as a leisure activity now. Covid was particularly an accelerator. Because of the pandemic, most of us couldn’t go overseas over the past few years.
“People started exploring Malaysia more, and they discovered it has so many beautiful beaches and places to dive,” said Hwa, who named Sipadan and Tioman Island as some of her favourite local dive spots.
Diving, Hwa stressed, is a truly unforgettable experience. One thing she loves most is how calming it can be.
Underwater, the only sound you can really hear is your own breathing. It is, she said, as if you had left all your problems behind on the surface world.
“You can get up close with all kinds of marine life, from big things like whale sharks and manta rays to tiny, fascinating creatures on the seafloor. You really develop a new appreciation for nature,” Hwa added.
Her advice to new divers? Trust in yourself and enjoy the experience. As the name of her centre suggests, just go with the flow.
“Some people come with a big fear built up in their head. They overcomplicate things. But diving is simple, even kids can do it. Just listen to your instructor and don’t be scared. Diving is a lot of fun, just give it a go!”
Flow Dive Centre
PJ Palms Sports Centre,
Lorong Sultan, Seksyen 52,