The certified divers at Ultimate Dive and Travel draw on years of experience to help students gain scuba-diving certification with and underwater savvy. Certification courses include classroom instruction, where students glean diving basics through textbooks, DVD lessons, and in-depth interviews with retired manta rays. Pool sessions help familiarize pupils with their equipment within the security and comfort of a swimming pool. The final legs of the course come with open dives at Lake Pleasant, where participants earn their open-water certification. Ultimate Dive and Travel is also an authorized dealer of subaqueous gear from brands such as Scuba Pro, Oceanic, Henderson, and Atomic Aquatic.
A PADI-certified dive center, Fins Up Scuba is the place to go if you're interested in the art of breathing underwater. Led by expert divers Chris and Nichole Sweeney, most of the center's scuba courses begin in the classroom, where students learn the safety protocols and basic techniques of diving. From there, students can set their sights on open-water certification, which spans several days of in-water training. Fins Up Scuba also hosts frequent trips to exotic locales, choosing spots based on their colorful underwater reefs or rumored sunken treasures.
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.
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.
The PADI-certified instructors at All Wet Scuba—a PADI five-star dive center—prepare patrons for underwater adventures with the proper gear and diving-certification courses. Boasting more than 40 years of total diving experience, the staff leads students through a range of scuba courses for all abilities, from Discover Scuba to PADI Rescue Diver to PADI Advanced Open Water. The knowledgeable instructors don the same gear as their students, including the required clown nose, to better elucidate the finer points of operation. Further assisting divers, the staff can direct them to the necessary diving wares from Body Glove, OMS, and Cressi for rent or purchase in the full-service shop and offer gear-maintenance services to prevent tank leaks that might propel their operator into the den of a hungry giant squid. In addition to diving classes, All Wet Scuba also trains students in CPR and public safety.
Rather than tying themselves to a single certification agency, Scuba Magic’s instructors guide students down a variety of training avenues. This flexibility is embodied in the school’s owner, Gary Moyer, who is certified by PADI, SDI, DSAT, EFR, and HSA. The shop’s coursework ranges from programs for first-time divers seeking their open-water certificate, to those preparing to handle underwater emergency situations and baby submarines convinced a diver is its mom. The school provides a stock of high-quality gear to students taking their classes, and technicians trained by the manufacturers themselves maintain the equipment. Occasional national and international diving trips bring aquanauts to such wonderlands of crystalline, warm water as Fiji.