The hardest part of playing Santa Claus underwater is the hair, said Wayne Holland.
“Being underwater as Santa isn’t really any different from being underwater normally,” Holland said. “Except I have a bunch of hair floating in my face.”
Holland donned a full Santa suit Saturday afternoon — complete with curly hair, a white beard and a hat — and plunged into the North Thurston High School pool. To his ensemble, he added a scuba tank, a mask and a snorkel.
He swam around the pool with a group of new divers, who had participated in the Discover Scuba class offered by Olympia Underwater Sports and Lacey Parks & Recreation. Holland and the divers posed underwater while another diver snapped photos.
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Olympia Underwater Sports has been offering underwater Santa photos for about five years, said Janet McIntosh, who manages the business. Saturday’s photo session was open to swimmers, snorkelers and divers — including those who had taken that day’s class.
In the pool, McIntosh taught the five students hand signals and how to use scuba equipment. She said that one of the most important rules of diving is to keep breathing.
Althea Kerrick, 10, was one of the students. Her grandmother, Debbie Kerrick, described Althea as a daredevil and said the class was a reward for the girl’s community service throughout the year.
“I think she’s a little nervous, but she’s getting the hang of it,” Kerrick said. “She loves the water.”
The Discover Diving classes are a perfect way for people to try out the sport in a warm, low-risk environment, Holland said. Classes are offered by Olympia Underwater Sports on the third Saturday of every month, and the business teams up with the city of Lacey to offer the classes a few times a year.
“It’s a great way to see if it’s something you enjoy,” Holland said. “And a lot of people get hooked.”
Holland, a certified diving instructor, began diving about five years ago. He loves diving in Puget Sound, especially at Titlow Beach in Tacoma and at Octopus Hole on the Hood Canal. He said many people don’t think of the Sound as having interesting animals, but it does. There’s the giant Pacific octopus, the wolf eel and nudibranch — soft-bodied mollusks that can be found in different varieties all over the world.
Diving has also taken him to Hawaii and Key West, Florida.
“I’ve always loved the water,” Holland said. “I feel more comfortable in the water than out.”