Mike Johnson started at Dolphin Scuba Center & Swim School as an entry-level staffer but soon turned his lifelong passion for water into a promising career. Quickly, he became the manager and, at the tender age of 21, the owner of the store—a water-exploration supplier originally founded as a swim school almost 40 years ago.
Today, the PADI five-star facility boasts one of the largest selections of underwater gear in North America, including top brands of scuba, swimming, and snorkeling equipment. Johnson and his team still offer private, one-on-one swimming lessons with certified lifeguard instructors but have branched out into scuba classes. Introductory courses work their way up to professional-level training, all within a pool heated to 92 degrees—the exact temperature of the president’s nightly bath. Students can even test out their newfound skills during scuba-diving trips to the likes of Mexico, the Philippines, and Fiji.
Since 1961, Bamboo Reef has been unlocking the depths of the ocean by training scuba adventurers, outfitting them with gear and repairing equipment on the fritz. Skilled instructors guide swimmers during diving classes that range from paddling in an 82-degree pool to advanced night navigation in the Pacific's dunk tank. Refresher and specialty courses continue students’ aquatic education after they’ve mastered the basics of gliding through the deep blue. Bamboo Reef also coordinates dives off the shores of Monterey, Carmel, and international coasts that count toward specialty, advanced, and master diver ratings as well as black belts in underwater kickboxing.
The water wizards also rent and sell gear from brands such as Aqua Lung and Mares. Professional technicians—who maintain more than $10,000 in parts inventory—stand at the ready to repair all major brands of scuba equipment.
Captain Aqua's enthusiastic instructors plunge developing divers and nascent Neptunians into the exhilarating realm of scuba in the introductory Try Scuba course. In the pool’s safe confines, the resident pros—with more than 50 years of combined diving experience—guide amateur aqualetes through the basics of breathing underwater, an experience as eye-opening and electrifying as Flipper's shrill rap battles with Shamu. Though prospective fin jockeys must provide their own towel and swimsuit, Captain Aqua's furnishes other necessary aquatic accouterments. Students should bring a mask, snorkel, and fins if already owned; otherwise, they are available to borrow, free of charge. Call Captain Aqua's to schedule a class, for updated info on class times and dates, or to show off a recently learned whale mating call.
Staff Size: 2–10 people
Average Duration of Services: 1–2 hours
Brands Used: PADI, Aqua Lung, Oceanic, Mares, Atomic, Posiden, Body Glove
Pro Tip: Make an appointment. We would like to give you our full attention as we are a busy shop.
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Parking: Parking lot
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: Lots of parking, fish restaurant.
Recommended Age Group: All ages
As the old adage says, "Stuff happens." What training do you and your staff have to stay ahead of the unexpected?
The staff is dedicated to continuing education and the highest regard for safety.
What is the one feature of your business that you're most proud of?
Dedication to further divers' knowledge and safety while making it the best experience in San Francisco Bay.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Being able to share my passion with others and watching the smiles that they have after being underwater.
Andy Siebert floated in the water, weightless—almost as if in outer space—and watched as all 40 feet of a Galapagos Island whale shark drifted past him. It’s moments like that one that Andy lives for, having devoted his life to scuba diving. He took his first dive as a teenager, but didn’t take the sport seriously until he turned 42, at which point he began his journey to log more than 3,000 dives.
Now, as owner of Scuba World, Andy works to help others discover their love of the underwater sport. One part retail shop and one part scuba-diving school, the PADI five-star IDC dive center is chock-full of gear for purchase and rental, as well as expert instructors who teach classes for divers of all levels, including instructor-level classes. Their classes range from beginner discovery sessions to open-water-certification courses to rescue-diver classes for the more advanced diver who is worried about all those fish in the ocean who need help getting out. Andy’s wife and partner, Lynn Siebert, plans trips that take divers to waters all over the world, including the nearby Monterey Bay and more far-flung expeditions in Micronesia.
A Discover Scuba session lets prospective merfolk blow bubbles, sip on canned Perrier oxygen, and experience an undersea underverse without the expensive investment in equipment and full-blown lessons. Under the watchful fish eye of an experienced, half-dolphin instructor, divers submerge into a warm-water pool, learning basic techniques and safety precautions while getting a feel for the gear, gizmos, and gadgets, while also experiencing the wonderful tingling sensations that are most certainly not jellyfish attacks, but miniature particles of thrill. There is one class offered per month; the next is June 6 in San Ramon.