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.
Got Air Scuba employs a staff of passionate, knowledgeable PADI-certified instructors. They teach a variety of classes, ranging from introductory courses to advanced specialty courses, such as a rescue diver course and Divemaster program. To facilitate courses, the dive shop stocks gear from ScubaPro and Bare Dive Gear. Once students have learned the ins and outs of breathing underwater, they can partake in a trip to an exotic locale. Past destinations have included Cozumel, Mexico, and some really big puddles.
For nearly half a century, the Illinois Institute of Diving’s certified instructors have led courses geared to swimmers of all levels at its full-service diving center. Swimmers can get a feel for flippers, masks, and bendy breathing straws during Saturday morning Discover Scuba courses, beginning with a classroom session to outline the basics, followed by a swim in the pool with an instructor. Alternatively, students can work toward certification through the open-water and pool-training course. In addition to providing mechanical gills and other necessary scuba gear, the school also gives students a kit that includes a logbook, handbook, and other necessary tools to successfully complete the classroom portion of the course.
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.
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.