At Underwater Connection, southeast Wisconsin’s only PADI five-star instructor-training center, an award-winning course director and a team of skilled instructors educate both undersea novices and emergency-service professionals in the art of scuba diving. Following safe, low-stress basic diving courses in a pool, teachers and students move to the open water to cover techniques that include rebreathing, underwater videography, and recovering toy-boat wrecks from flooded bathtubs. Underwater Connection provides all equipment for classes, relying on its factory-trained equipment mechanics and Aqualung Master Technician, who refill tanks and do in-house repairs on gear from brands such as Dive Rite, Poseidon, Oceanic, Aqua Lung, and Scubapro.
An instructor at Loves Park Scuba guides groups of up to 15 students through the basics of aquatic adventuring in two-hour scuba lessons. After donning provided fins, masks, snorkels, BCDs, and weight belts, landlubbers proceed to the on-site training pool, which staff maintain at a comfortable 85- to 89-degree temperature and a healthy level of self-esteem. Students then submerge to practice skills from the Scuba Diving International curriculum appropriate for divers of all experience levels, including children and visiting Loch Ness monsters. Though its wares are not included with this Groupon, visitors can stop by a well-stocked dive shop to browse equipment and exchange barked greetings with dive dog Ruby Johnson.
There are treasures beyond belief under the waves. All across the Midwest, lakes large and small contain pieces of history, from a moss-coated dump truck at the bottom of Haigh Quarry to the schooner Thomas Hume, which has been a home to the fish of Lake Michigan since 1891. With favorite wet spots from Missouri to Minnesota, the teachers at Chicagoland Scuba are privy to it all. Whether offering first-time divers certification classes, leading diving trips, or learning how fish like to be hugged, exploring the underwater life is second nature to these pros—something they hope rubs off on their students, too.
A five-star PADI instructor-development center, Sea Lions Dive Center gathers a team of friendly instructors who train aspiring divers and budding dive instructors toward their certification. They help students plunge into the water at local quarries and in Lake Michigan for technique-refresher courses and open-water-dive certification, as well as specialized training in cavern and ice diving, underwater digital photography, and advanced fish heckling. When not leading local classes and helping to maintain the dive shop's relaxed atmosphere, staff instructors also lead monthly trips to regional destinations, such as North Carolina and Florida, or the far-flung waters of the Maldives and Indonesia.
Frogg Pond Dive is the home of Chicago Diving Schools, who introduce the gill-deprived to underwater exploration. Students new to sea can get flippered feet wet in the discover scuba class, wherein a PADI certified instructor teaches the basics of sea breathing from the safe, never-electric-eel-filled confines of a pool. For swimmers not ready to take the plunge to the bottom of the un-briny depths, there's the snorkeling class. And divers who have already completed a scuba certification program, but are out of practice or have recently had their memories erased by Secret Service agents, can regain their aquatic adeptness by enrolling in the dive refresher.
Inside one of Illinois’ oldest PADI–certified dive centers, Berry Dive Center’s eight instructors call upon a combined 100 years of experience to increase the underwater expertise of small student cohorts. Lessons unfold in both pool and classroom, with instructors sharing textbook techniques and safety tips before offering personalized critiques during supervised practice dives. The PADI five-star IDC facility—which was recently given a 35-year store award—keeps skills sharp with PADI certification courses and weekend excursions to Kankakee’s Haigh Quarry, with adventure-diving opportunities such as exploring wrecks, deep-water diving, and apprehending goldfish smugglers. The center’s dive shop also stocks a full line of diving equipment and manuals.