Ansley Smallen was hoping to come out of Shawn Simonson’s popular Environmental Physiology class able to enjoy trips with her dive-certified father.
She’s also a big Simonson fan: “He is one of my favorite people on the planet.”
She didn’t expect to find her future husband, on a boat, in the Bahamas, over a sink of dirty dishes.
Simonson’s graduate-level multidisciplinary course in the Department of Kinesiology gives students a chance to explore the physics of the underwater environment, marine life adaptations and the human experience in the underwater environment. Studies are capped by a dive and service trip abroad.
Students have the chance to earn their Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) open water scuba certification; that work starts long before the trip, with pool experiences at a Boise dive center.
Smallen remembers having a brief, relatively meaningless half-conversation with a guy named David shortly before the class started pool work at Dive Magic; this was in the fall of 2014, the first time Simonson taught the course. At the time, she was a full-time graduate student, working a graduate assistantship with Boise State track and field and juggling the evening dive class …
“It was kind of exhausting.
“Apparently, from what I’ve heard, he talked about me all semester,” she notes now, with the benefit of hindsight.
David Redinger was not similarly motivated to take the class. He was, however, inspired by a great — and very persuasive — faculty member: Shawn Simonson.
“I was kind of a unique addition to that class,” he said, adding that he was working on his bachelor’s in exercise science at Boise State with the intention of a career in physical therapy. Fish were not top of mind.
“I tried everything I could not to take that course,” he said, but given Simonson’s pitch, “I kind of saw that there was no way out of it.”
Very soon the two found themselves sharing very tight quarters with a dozen others on a liveaboard dive boat in the Bahamas for a week. There was plenty of diving — sometimes three dives a day — and there were chores.
“You’re living aboard, you’re forced to talk,” Ansley said.
“I waited until we were stuck on the boat,” David said.
One night, David’s dive buddy concocted a scheme: If he speared a lobster during a free dive, David would have to take his dish duty. Ansley also had dish duty that night.
“He was kind of trying to help me out there,” David said. “That’s where we kind of hit it off.
“It was wild … We instantly connected.”
One chat led to another. The two enjoyed fireworks from the boat in the Bahamas, far from the Boise winter chill. The chat that night lasted hours.
They started dating when they got home, engaged that summer and married the following year, in 2016; Ansley Smallen is now Ansley Redinger.
Following a brief detour to Texas, where Ansley was raised and where she worked for a short time at the University of Texas — San Antonio, they both now work at St. Luke’s as athletic trainers; both teach anatomy and sports medicine part-time at Bishop Kelly High School. They celebrated six years of marriage this past July.
And there is a junior Redinger now as well, the couple’s seven-month-old son. It’s a busy life. So much so that they have never had a honeymoon. There’s a thought there, though.
“I would love to go diving on our honeymoon,” Ansley said.
Here’s what their professor remembers — six years later:
The movie Frozen had just come out on DVD and somebody brought it on the boat. I think it ran a couple of times a night just about every night on the boat. The students laid on the life raft cover in the bow of the boat and watched the movie over and over again. It seemed like Ansley and David were always there watching the movie as other students came and went. I bet the two of them could sing every song. Ansley probably does not remember, but my wife suggested a Frozen-themed wedding when we heard they were getting married.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” Ansley said, looking back at the class and remembering the dive trip. “It’s a romantic set-up …
“Little did I know I would be meeting my future husband and the father of my son.
“It was just very, very divine that it all lined up.”
Shawn Simonson teaches the Environmental Physiology course in the fall of even-numbered years, and the dives have been in different locations; the first time the course was taught, in 2014, the experience was a liveaboard dive boat in the Bahamas. In 2016, it was a week at Anthony’s Key Resort in Roatan, Honduras, and in 2018 it was a week in Cozumel, Mexico. Given the pandemic, the 2020 trip was canceled and the scuba course was completed at Homestead Crater in Utah.
In most instances, participants have seen a variety of native fish, turtles, sharks and lobster. Sightings of octopus, barracuda, dolphin, parrotfish, and lionfish are not uncommon.
Not everyone comes back from the dive part of the class with a future spouse in tow, but David Redinger has a strong recommendation for a class that he didn’t dive into wholeheartedly at the beginning.
“One hundred percent” is how he describes his recommendation.
“It can literally change your life,” he said.
And of Simonson, “He’ll go down as one of my favorite professors at Boise State.”