Text by Jianze Fang
Images by Yihong Wang
When I was born, I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. The disease causes a loss of muscle function, affecting mobility. Since elementary school, I’ve lived in a wheelchair. I started diving in my fourth year of university in 2020 and because of the pandemic, I had a lot of spare time. I was inspired to dive by my father, who came from a seaside town in Guangdong Province, China. In the 1990s, my father became a sailor and went to Europe and Morocco on a boat. His story has always motivated me to be near the sea and so, I thought I should finally embrace it, too.
I contacted the Handicapped Scuba Association (HSA) instructor in China, and started diving soon after. I obtained my HSA-approved diving certificate on August 19, 2020.
Learning to dive was a difficult process. Initially, my physical strength was low. In fact, after being in water for an hour, my physical strength was exhausted. I exercised every day and, eventually, my body was strong enough to dive in the sea.
When I’m in the ocean, I feel that the world belongs to me. The sea is so quiet: I can only hear my own breathing and I feel incredibly focused.
I am proficient in using diving equipment to dive, ascend, swim, and turn around. On land, I can only use an electric wheelchair for mobility. In the water, buoyancy is my strength; it rids me of the negative effects of gravity.
Before I learned to dive, I felt like a lost fish. However, after learning to dive, I felt that the sea accepted me – I might be like a son of the sea. Underwater, I am reminded of our duty as human beings: to coexist with Nature peacefully.
When I was little, it never occurred to me can that I could become a diver. It was a huge challenge for me to obtain qualifications at such a young age. It’s not been easy and has taken a lot of work. Nonetheless, I faced it all bravely and I am proud of myself.
“Underwater, I am reminded of our duty as human beings: to coexist with Nature peacefully”
Jianze Fang, China
From Guangzhou, Guandong Province in China, Jianze Fang is a passionate diver with muscular dystrophy who hopes he can inspire others to overcome challenges in their life to enjoy and achieve their goals. He is doing a master’s programme in management with a non-profit organisation at Macau University of Science and Technology. His goal is to obtain a master’s from Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University, or another international institution.
To read more inspiring stories with unique encounters divers have had, pick up your copy of Scuba Diver issue No.124/2022 here
From underwater marriages to being courted by belugas, there are some beautiful and entertaining pieces you won’t want to miss!
For more insightful features like this, subscribe to Scuba Diver here.