Have you ever wanted to explore the deep blue ocean, swimming with schools of fish and sea turtles? Then maybe scuba diving is for you! This sport is gaining popularity and could be the most fun you'll ever have underwater.
Recently, our FishCampHuntHike reporter got the chance to explore Academy of Scuba in Phoenix, yes- we know what you're thinking-- a scuba dive shop in Phoenix? It’s hard to believe, but there actually are places to scuba in Arizona, like Lake Pleasant, Lake Mohave and Lake Mead, along with relatively close dive spots in Mexico and California.
We remembered seeing some of their Instructors having fun in the DockDogs pool at the International Sportsmen’s Expo in February. Now that summer is fast approaching we thought that Academy of Scuba was the perfect place to get you suited up, certified and excited for your next vacation. But we found out scuba diving doesn't have to be a "vacation only" sport and you’ll see why after our tour with Founder, John Flanders, and Director of Training, CG Durda, along with some of their scuba dive instructors.
FCHH: What a cool scuba shop! And you’re in the middle of the desert…can you tell me more about Academy of Scuba?
John: Yes. We have two, nice sized, full-service scuba shops, one in North Phoenix and one at Metro Center. Since Arizona is an outdoor state and the people who live here like to do things outside, scuba does well here. Our locations each have an indoor heated pool, training gear for all levels of divers and a retail shop stocked of great equipment. We have by far the biggest scuba training pools in the Valley and everything you need is all under one roof. All staff members are Certified Scuba Instructors or Divemaster Assistant safety divers. Academy of Scuba is number one in safety, customer service and has a satisfaction guarantee.
FCHH: Very cool. Let’s take a look around!
They showed me the classroom where new scuba divers learn about scuba safety procedures and equipment. John explained he teaches 68 mantras or "if, then" scenarios, to make sure his scuba students are prepared for anything that could happen. He rather have peace of mind in knowing the people he certifies have learned everything they need to know to be a safe diver and then they can really have fun! I also got to see the huge indoor pool and it sure does look like a nice comfortable place to learn to scuba dive!
FCHH: Are there different types of scuba diving?
John: Yes and there are different levels. After certification, you can go on Open Water Dives with a buddy, up to 60 feet. We call them the "pretty fish dives." There are also Specialty Dives for Adventure, Advanced Open Water, Rescue, Wreck and Cavern dives, Ice Dives, Night Dives - you can spend a lifetime doing Specialty Dives and getting your Divemaster certification.
FCHH: Is scuba diving scary?
John: No! Once you are certified and know what you are doing, it shouldn't be. The scariest part is it's addictive as hell!
FCHH: How long have you been diving?
John: Over 28 years.
CG: 12 years and John trained me all the way through.
John: I’ve trained instructors for all levels and now I have all sorts of people, lawyers, families, retirees, come in for Open Water Certification. They fall in love with the sport and say- what an amazing job I want I be like CG! You can make professional, technical and leisure goals. Some people come in here because they want to be a marine biologist. It’s a very diverse sport.
FCHH: What’s the deepest you have ever gone down?
John: 365 feet
FCHH: How far can someone dive safely?
John: For different certifications, you have restrictions set by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, also known as PADI, of which I am a board member. For Open Water you can go down 40 feet. For Deep Diver it’s 130 feet. Technical Diver 500 feet.
FCHH: What’s better choice- getting a resort certification or trying scuba here?
John: Learning here. Definitely. We have the time to really teach you what you need to know and feel comfortable doing it. At resort dives, you are rushed through the course in a rented pool and don’t get personal attention. It’s much better to go slow and start off in a pool, with lessons and local dives.
CG: It’s also better when you get your own gear. Then you are comfortable in your equipment and you get in our pool, which is a comfortable place. So when we go to lake where it's not so comfortable, but you feel comfortable in your gear, you can still feel confident. It’s like driving someone else’s car, you can do it, but it’s not as comfortable as your own car.
John: To be proficient on your vacation dives, you need to local dive, it’s much like practicing your golf swing before going on a golf trip.
FCHH: Alright, let’s get a women’s perspective from Academy of Scuba Instructors, Marsha Petterson and Tania Land. How did you get into the sport of scuba?
Marsha: It was a total fluke. My uncle invited me with his four boys to try scuba and they dropped out, but I kept going. That was 27 years ago. The very first time I went, I threw up. But after that I just fell in love scuba diving in Monterey, it was incredible. I was face-to-face with sea lions, sharks and fish, even a baby octopus crawled up my arm just to investigate.
Tania: I’m pretty new to the sport, it’s only been a few years. I used to think it was a “rich man’s sport” and thought I was too poor. Then I realized its something I can do and fell in love. Not a lot of women are in the sport, so it gives us more opportunities. As a female, I like being in this business.
FCHH: Were you afraid to try scuba?
Tania: Well, you just have to have respect for sport, it's not a "safe sport.”
Instructor Jack Hatfield wanted to add, “It is a safe sport, but it's an extreme or adventure sport. It’s best to pick an instructor and gear you trust. We’ve all had an apprehension stage, even as an instructor and have had the training to get passed it.”
Marsha: Fear is normal and there's a good reason for it, but the 68 mantras teach you to handle those situations. We want you to be safe and qualified not just certified.
FCHH: Thanks so much for showing me a glimpse into your underwater world of scuba!
For more information or to get scuba certification with Academy of Scuba, visit their website, Facebook and Twitter.