Despite a close encounters with a hammerhead shark, Learn Scuba Chicago's Captain Bob just keeps on scuba diving. The aquatic expert got an up-close peep of shark teeth on his very first Caribbean dive, yet has scarcely taken his flippers off since. When he isn't maintaining underwater habitats at the Shedd Aquarium, Captain Bob leads diving courses, which range from thrilling dips for beginners to rescue-diver certifications. Students plunge into indoor pools at Water's Edge Aquatic Center in Bensenville and the UIC campus. Depending on the course, Learn Scuba Chicago lends or sells student equipment such as masks, fins, snorkels, and gills.
By the clear waters of a competition-size pool, Chicago Scuba School & Dive Shop's students are guided through the fundamentals of submarine exploration. In groups of 10, fledgling divers bedeck themselves in the masks, oxygen tanks, and cardboard shark fins required to spend extended periods below the depths. Three instructors then usher students into the pool, teaching them how to properly wield the Aquamanesque powers of their scuba gear as they train in the course of four hours. The expansive pool provides plenty of space for divers to flex their flippers, and small class sizes ensure that students’ flawless underwater backflips receive extra attention. If they wish to further their aquatic expertise, Groupon-holders can opt to take a full scuba-certification course at a $100 discount.
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.
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.