El Mar Diving Center, an SSI and TDI dive center that started in 1963, serves as a divers' oasis amid the dry Mesa terrain. The center's seasoned staff lead an array of courses, teaching beginners the ropes in the Junior Open Water Diver class and helping more experienced divers hone their skills in Solo Diver sessions. They also lead speciality classes such as Night and Limited Visibility Diver and Wreck Diver, in which adventurers learn which treasure is safe and which is lorded over by pirate ghosts. In addition to heated pools, high-tech equipment, and other essential learning tools, the center's affiliate school in San Carlos, Mexico boasts a 36-foot boat that hosts exploration dives in the Sea of Cortez.
The managers of Scuba Professionals of Arizona have logged 50 years of underwater experience between the two of them. In the center's brand new pool, they put their acquired training from Scuba Schools International and American Nitrox Divers International to good use, leading scuba lessons for beginning and advanced divers of all ages. Their onsite store vends and maintains equipment for snorkeling and scuba classes, as well as organizes diving trips to destinations as close as Lake Pleasant and as far as Fiji.
Staff Size: 2?10 people
Average Duration of Services: 4+ hours
Brands Used: Aeris, Aqua Lung, Hollis, Oceanic
Pro Tip: We are passionate about the sport of scuba diving
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Parking: Parking lot
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: Scuba classes
Recommended Age Group: 10 and up
A lot of people like to dive right in when it comes to learning a new skill, but the founder of Inland Water Divers prefers a slow and steady approach when it comes to certifying new scuba divers. "Your first step as a new student should be to stop into the shop and meet one of our instructors," he says. Ensuing conversations focus on a student's individual goals, and whether he or she would simply like a PADI or NAUI diving certification or something more advanced, such as rescue diving training or algae language lessons. After all, as the founder points out, "Matching you with the correct equipment and knowing your goals will help ensure that you are successful in your training."
John Flanders and Jeff Varner founded the Academy of Scuba to bring the magic of diving to the arid lands of the Southwest. They employ a team of PADI-certified instructors, who lead courses ranging from beginner and advanced open-water certification to more in-depth programs such as master diver, deep diver, underwater video and photography specialists, and professional shark imitator. Once certified, divers can stretch their new sea legs on diving excursions to exotic locales such as Catalina Island, Playa del Carmen, or San Carlos, Mexico through the academy?s partner and affiliate companies. Both of the Academy's locations rent, repair, and sell high-quality gear from reputable brands such as Sea Dive, Amphibious Outfitters, and H2Odyssey.
At Scuba Specialties, experienced instructors lend their nautical know-how to diving greenhorns age 10 years and up during Discover Scuba classes. Each introductory session—lasting 60–90 minutes—instills plunging pupils with the proper utilization of equipment, as well as tips and trips for making small talk with bashful snorkels. After gleaning basic fundamentals, students don diving duds and step into the shallow tides of an indoor heated pool, where newly acquired techniques are practiced in the safety of shallow waters. Instructors volunteer careful guidance as divers hone subaqueous skills, helping them master the art of breathing underwater for future undersea explorations and nightly tug of wars with stubborn bathtub drains.
Scottsdale Scuba owner Rick Owens believes that no one's too busy to learn how to dive?with ultra-flexible class scheduling, he makes sure of it, having once gone as far as to hold classes at 2:30 a.m. to accommodate one group. Owens works with two other veteran divemasters to make sure students can get in the water whenever they have the time. All together, his team of teachers boasts about 100 years of combined experience, meaning they can embarrass away most sharks by threatening to reveal their baby photos.
The shop itself has been open since 1991, during which time instructors have kept adapting their teaching style to their students' needs. Alums are even invited to stop by dive sessions at Lake Pleasant for free refreshers on diving skills and new equipment.