Outdoors

Love is in the air, 25 feet below the ocean’s surface

Sven Krasser proposes to Shannon Statham on Pleasure Reef off Key Largo. Krasser grew up in Germany and Statham, who accepted Krasser’s proposal, was raised in Jacksonville.
Sven Krasser proposes to Shannon Statham on Pleasure Reef off Key Largo. Krasser grew up in Germany and Statham, who accepted Krasser’s proposal, was raised in Jacksonville. Courtesy of Don Rhodes

    The lovely lass with the flaxen hair glanced at the white plastic slate she had just received from her beau.

    She jerked back in surprise, smiled, nodded and checked a box on the slate accepting a marriage proposal offered 25 feet below the surface of the ocean.

    Very cool!

    A day earlier, I got a call from the dive shop asking if I would take a few photos of a couple getting engaged during a scuba dive the next day, which was July 4.

    “Call the guy and ask about the details,” instructed the owner of the shop.

    The store’s employees were very excited and wanted to make sure the proposal went off without a hitch.

    It seems the prospective bride didn’t know about the plan.

    My presence was going to be explained as a dive guide who was going to take some images of the couple’s scuba adventure in the upper Keys.

    The ruse worked.

    On my way to the dive boat the lyrics of a song written by George Young and Harry Vanda floated through my mind:

    “Love is in the air, everywhere I look around; Love is in the air, every sight and every sound; Love is in the air, in the whisper of the trees; Love is in the air, in the thunder of the sea.”

    I met the couple at the store and fitted them with scuba gear.

    The soon-to-be-engaged young woman had no idea of the plan.

    A fit, handsome young man pulled me aside, reviewed what he wanted to do, and then we headed out toward the third-largest reef system in the world after Australia and Belize.

    Our destination was Pleasure Reef, a shallow reef loaded with colorful, tropical fish and sea fans that sway in the current — perfect.

    We arrived at the dive site, put on our gear and stepped into the bathtub-warm water.

    Upon reaching the bottom, I gave the OK sign and received one in return from both divers.

    After about 10 minutes it seemed about time for “the proposal.”

    I found a sandy patch and gestured that the divers should kneel next to each other so I could take some pictures.

    They did.

    But instead of looking at me, the man was writing on a plastic tablet and fiddling with a tube attached to a GoPro camera.

    The young woman poked him a few times and indicated that I was trying to take a picture. He ignored her and kept writing.

    She gave him a stern look and poked again. He said later that she tends to be a ‘type A’ personality.

    She still had no clue what was about to happen.

    Then, while still resting on both knees, he faced her and gave her the slate on which he had written the proposal and put boxes for checking ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

    She checked ‘yes’!

    Now came the scary part. He took the ring (a backup spare in case he dropped the real one) out of the tube and put it on her ring finger.

    No fumble, no drop, perfect.

    Next came the kiss.

    Kissing above water is one thing.

    But kissing during a scuba dive requires some special coordination.

    The divers have to take out the mouth piece that supplies breathing air, turn their heads sideways so their masks don’t get in the way, perform a lingering kiss, replace the mouthpiece, clear the mouth piece of water and resume breathing.

    Whew!

    This procedure is not part of normal scuba training. (Upon reflection, maybe I should teach it as a specialty course.)

    Then, after a short and very happy boat ride, it was off to another beautiful reef — Davis.

    Being in the spirit of the moment, the couple did some underwater dancing.

    It is worth it to learn to scuba dive, especially if you are just engaged, just to have the opportunity to dance underwater.

    You can do lifts that would shame contestants on Dancing with the Stars, spin your partner above your head or below your feet and perform all manner of great moves in the weightless environment.

    So, there you have it: the proposal; the acceptance; the placement of the ring; and the celebratory dance.

    Success!

    The couple in this story — Sven Krasser, 38, and Shannon Statham, 34, besides getting engaged underwater — is very unique.

    Sven grew up in Germany and Shannon was raised in Jacksonville.

    They met through mutual friends at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta while Sven was studying for his PhD in computer engineering and Shannon was studying for her PhD in aerospace engineering.

    I could tell they were smart. After they got on the dive boat the average I.Q. of the group went up at least 30 points — maybe a paradox; or is it pair of docs?

    Sven and Shannon, who have been dating for eight years, live in Pasadena, California.

    He is a cyber security researcher, and she works for NASA at the Jet Propulsion Lab.

    I asked Sven, “Why did you decide to come here and get engaged while scuba diving?”

    “We came here in 2009 and got certified at Conch Republic Divers. We both like the island vibe and so this seemed like the perfect spot,” he said.

    Like many divers, Sven and Shannon are active in other physical activities, including running and rock climbing.

    The couple plans to get married a year from this fall. “It will be on dry land,” Sven said with a smile.

    “Love is in the air, everywhere I look around; Love is in the air, every sight and every sound. And I don’t know if I’m being foolish; Don’t know if I’m being wise. But it’s something that I must believe in; And it’s there when I look in your eyes. Love is in the air.”

    Or, as a song sung by Ella Fitzgerald says: “Romantic sponges, they say, do it. Oysters down in Oyster Bay do it. Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.”

    So, if you come to the Keys and dive on Pleasure Reef cupid can find you — he did just that for a rocket scientist and her computer whiz boyfriend.

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