The TIDES dream

If you build it, will they come? I never saw Field of Dreams, but the strange voices Costner hears in the feel good family movie have stuck with me ever since I saw the first trailer in 1993. It's one of those memorable phrases that quickly became everyday nomenclature. For me, however, it's been much more than a catchy phrase that elucidates the essence of a visionary. It's become a mantra of my life.

I've never had an issue starting things. It's no wonder, then, that when Matt Abraxas shared his idea for the A Rising Tide webseries, I was ready to dive right in. We weren't exactly sure how we'd organize the scholarship, how students would find out about the opportunity, or how we'd even recoup our costs, but that didn't stop us from forging ahead.

We assembled the team, ironed out the details, and contacted everyone we knew in the education space to spread the word- Ocean First was offering three marine science and scuba diving scholarships of a lifetime. As the submissions poured in, we quickly realized that three scholarships were far too few. These kids were motivated, inspiring, and ready to take the plunge. We needed more seats. Not wanting to fight the dream, even for a minute, I decided to expand the scholarship and increased it to eight lucky winners. We now had our A Rising Tide Season 1 team.

As the semester unfolded, it became increasingly clear that these kids came ready to play. The field was built. The excitement contagious. The inherent fears of swimming, sharks, and breathing underwater gave way to increased confidence and engagement. New friendships were forged and fears overcome. Doors were opening that these kids never knew were closed.

While there were a number of unforgettable moments and winding plot twists, for me it all came to a head during our open water trip to the Florida Keys in June. On our first day out at sea, the students started with a light snorkel to acclimate to the marine environment and ease any trepidations going into their first dive.

After a short surface interval, we all suited up. This was going to be as big as any dive I'd ever done and it wasn't because of what was down there. I took a giant stride into the big blue and descended down to the sandy bottom to wait for the scholars. One by one, they entered the water, gave the obligatory ok, and slowly descended to where I waited.

This was my 1,000th dive and their first. It was hard to keep the memories of past dives from flooding my mind. Belize, where I got certified and dived the Blue Hole for my 200th dive; Borneo, where we celebrated Amy's 40th birthday and my 500th dive; Raja Ampat, where I dived the mangroves and reached 900 hours underwater. My mind came racing back to these young teenagers. Where will they be in 999 dives?

One thing was for sure, once we created the dream, they applied.

Graham Casden