Enjoy scuba diving in Gapyeong’s K-26 pool, the deepest in Asia!

Photos courtesy of K-26
Photos courtesy of K-26

Enjoy scuba diving in Gapyeong’s K-26 pool, the deepest in Asia!

by ChiHon Kim
Stripes Korea

Scuba diving in an indoor pool might sound boring. There are no tropical fish or coral reefs to admire below the surface, only tiled flooring. But before you swear off indoor diving, consider a dive into Gapyeong’s K-26 pool— the deepest in Asia.

Ranking in at around 26 meters deep (the second deepest is in Taiwan at 21 meters), K-26 challenges experienced divers and first-timers alike. It is a great spot to practice freediving and scuba diving without having to deal with freezing cold weather outside. The temperature of the pool’s clean water is maintained at 29 degrees Celsius year-round, making it a cozy experience.

As an ideal training spot for any level of diver, the pool increases gradually in depth from around the 1.3-meter mark, up to the 2.5-meter, 5-meter, 10-meter mark until finally opening up to the 26-meter depth. Inexperienced divers are only allowed up to the 10-meter mark, but the facility offers certification lessons to build up to the max depth.

From the outside, the modern, grey recreational building hides the 26-meter-deep marvel it houses inside. However, as soon as I entered the front, two enormous windows gave me a view of the clear blue water and divers immersed deep inside. I couldn’t wait to dive in!

Diving right in
I filled out paperwork at the reservation desk and then received a short safety and basic diving skills lesson. I chose the Diving Experience program (120,000 won or $102.78 including equipment), which doesn’t require prior certification or for you to be an experienced diver to try it out.

During this course, participants learn diving physiology, proper equipment use and scuba hand signs inside a small classroom on the second floor with knowledgeable PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors)-certified instructors. The hand signals are essential to learn as they help avoid miscommunication during risky situations that may come up underwater. Unfortunately, this course is taught in Korean, so you’ll need to have a guide or friend who can translate for you.

After the short lesson, I walked up to the third floor where the deck of the pool sits. The closer I got, the faster my heart started to beat. Excitement and, I admit, slight fear swept over me. I stretched and hastily slipped into my skin-tight wetsuit to learn basic diving skills and techniques in the 1.3-meter-deep area of the pool.

The 1.3-meter-deep area of the pool was safe enough for me, but I needed to bend my knees in the water to get fully underwater. In this portion of the program, I learned essential skills for diving safely, clearing my mask if water got in, purging water from the regulator, recovering the regulator if it fell, controlling buoyancy and equalizing my ears to re-balance the water pressure. At first, breathing from my mouth instead of my nose was a challenge, which led me to breathe in water many times during the practice session, a concern for when I’d dive deeper.

Overcoming fear
Soon, the thrill I felt at the beginning was overshadowed by more fear. My instructor Park, Jae-jun could sense it and read it on my face. “You look very nervous, never hold your breath, just breathe through your mouth slowly - inhale and exhale deeply, but comfortably,” he advised.

The first dive on the deepest end is the same height as a 10-story building. “What if something bad happens to me,” I thought to myself. Having an instructor to guide me through it helped me push those fearful thoughts away.

“It’s going to be a wonderful experience. I think you’re going to make it,” Park, reassured me. “Just do it!” I screamed at myself and sank into the water as Park gave me the thumbs-down hand signal, which means “go down” underwater.

Participants are allowed to explore the pool and try different depths at their own pace. My instructor checked on me at every depth and he encouraged me to go deeper at a slow and steady pace.

When I reached the 5-meter depth mark, I felt pain in my ears. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I referred back to my training and equalized my ears and the pain subsided.

Photo by Chihon Kim

From that depth, I could see my instructor signaling me to head toward the 10-meter mark where there is a window to the outside world.  I was nervous to go to that point because right below it was the tunnel that leads to the 26-meter-depth. I couldn’t even see the bottom of the pool from this point!

“Just do it!” I screamed at myself again as I kicked my legs! However, I felt my heart beating fast when I looked down the deep blue vertical hole. My breath was in short gasps, but I managed to reach the window and from there had a crystal clear view of Cheongpyeong Lake!  I felt as if I was floating in the sky and it made me realize why so many people love to scuba dive.

While I was enjoying swimming underwater, my diving director pointed to the air gauge of his scuba tank, signaling an air gauge check. My gauge marked 50, a minimum safety margin, so it was time to return to the surface. If you swim up to the surface of water rapidly, you will develop decompression sickness. So, my instructor made me ascend to the surface of the pool at a very slow pace.

A sense of accomplishment
Once above the surface and from the safety of the deck, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I made my first dive and once again overcame my old phobia of nearly-drowning as a child. I felt comfortable using my regulator to breathe and the worry I had about breathing in water through my nose was no longer an issue.

This experience has inspired me to try to get my scuba certification at K-26. The pool offers PADI-based scuba diving and freediving certification for open-water and professional diving, which is recognized globally. The license sessions split into a few days, allowing you to master the basic diving skills that will enable you to safely embark on all your future diving adventures.

The lessons are probably not as expensive as building your own dive pool, but they’re not cheap either. The courses start at around 700,000-800,000 won and are only taught in Korean. If you’re interested in English-friendly certification courses, Aquatic Frontier Korea in Suwon offers those classes.

If you’re already certified, get to K-26 and get some practice in. Solo dives at K-26 are prohibited and all divers are required to have a certified buddy with you. If you’re an open water diver, then your dive buddy must have a higher experience level.

I’m already looking forward to getting my certification, going beyond the pool and exploring the open sea!

Thnigs to know
Address: 262-57, Gojaegil, Cheongpyeong-myeon, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do
Hours: Mon. – Fri. 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sat, Sun. & holidays 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed on Mon.
Contact Info: Phone: 031-585-5757, 070-4916-9322, 070-4917-6995
E-mail: hlp@k-26.com
Web Page: https://en.k-26.com/

Entry fees for certified divers
• Weekday: 33,000 won (3hrs), Day ticket for 1 day: 53,000 won (available until 7 p.m.)
• Holiday: 55,000 won (3hrs) 

Entry fees for Test dive 
• Diving Experience program (open to everyone): 120,000 won

• Only certified divers can access the diving pool (Exception: Diving Experience Program with instructor) 
• All necessary diving equipment, including tank, mask, fins, buoyancy compensator, regulator, gauge, weights and wet suit for any session is free. You can also bring your own equipment. All you are required to bring is a swimsuit, swim hat, towel and license if you have one. (One extra scuba tank is 10,000 won)
• Online booking is necessary for your diving session.

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