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.
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.
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.
After leading expeditions in search of underwater treasure, the instructors of Sonoma Coast Divers show their students how to cook and eat the spoils—abalone. They try to conclude each of their abalone diving classes with a group picnic, where everyone can compare their catch in hopes of snagging a record-size shell. Persistent hunters can even compete in the autumn's abalone cook-off, part of a Halloween celebration that includes subaquatic pumpkin carving.
These special events highlight the dive venue's dual emphasis on community and adventure. Whether they are hosting a scuba-certification class, a Stress & Rescue course, or a simple air-fill service, the staff freely shares their passion for oceanic exploration. Their training pathways safely transform patrons from first-time pool divers into instructor-level dive masters. By filling their curriculum with specialty courses—such as night diving, wreck diving, and bubble collecting—they inspire guests to pursue different disciplines. They also plan several trips for all skill levels, guiding tours through local kelp forests and planning weeklong retreats to Caribbean islands.