There’s a whole underwater world waiting to be explored and Adventure Sports, Inc. wants to help you get there.
The dive shop opened in Auburn in 1973 and since then, has been providing lessons, equipment and trips all around the world. Maybe you knew that students at Auburn University had the opportunity to take scuba diving as course credit — but did you know it’s these same instructors offering courses through the city of Auburn?
Bill Washington, a swim coach at Auburn University, started the company about 50 years ago, said the current Manager Wade Lloyd.
“His main thing was diving, he was really one of the pioneers when diving got started in the early 60s,” he said. “… He just enjoyed it so much, he approached the university and said, ‘Hey, can we teach a diving class?’ And they went for it and here we are, many years later.”
Adventure Sports Inc. takes divers from beginner through advanced.
“When scuba first got started it was a dangerous, kind of daredevil sport,” Lloyd said. “And now it has evolved into a sport that most anybody can do. We take young kids to senior citizens diving and everybody does well.”
Here’s what to expect if you take a class, specifically the beginner Open Water Class (Scuba I), through Adventure Sports: First, there’s a swimming test. To be able to dive, you do need to know how to swim.
“If you get through that, what we do is we break you up into smaller groups, sometimes just two people, sometimes just one, put you with an instructor and that instructor takes you from A to Z,” Lloyd said. “They take you from learning how to put your gear together, to getting you in the pool for the first time, to going through all the skills that we learn to make you more comfortable using your gear underwater.”
Now, expect a little travel too. If you’re in the beginning class, you’ll visit a freshwater spring in Ponce de Leon, Florida.
“We get down to 25, 30 feet, we’re doing our skills that you have to perform in open water to show that you know how to do the skills and then the next day we go out in the gulf on a boat out of Panama City and get down to 50 or 60 feet and look at some wrecks that are down there, see some fish and hope everyone has a good time with that,” Lloyd said.
If you get certified, and subsequently bit by the diving bug, don’t worry — Adventure Sports has a lot more to offer. Scuba II is next, which is a little more advanced.
“That has the possibility to take you up, if you have enough dives logged, to be either an advanced open water diver or a master diver, just depending on how many dives you get logged,” said one of the instructors, Shane Blanton. “You have to have 24 logged dives for advanced open water and you have to have 50 for master.”
In this class, you’ll learn more about navigation, diving at night, using Nitrox, deeper diving and stress and rescue and react right (first aide). But, that is not all Adventure Sports has to offer. If you’re still interested in diving, you can take Scuba III.
“Scuba III is where you transition from being just a diver into a dive pro if you choose to be one,” Blanton said.
Graduation from Scuba III essentially means you could take on a career in diving if you so chose, he said.
There are twelve to fourteen instructors right now — a few of whom got their start at Adventure Sports, including Lloyd and Blanton.
“I had two good buddies of mine that were in high school, they were a year ahead of me and when they graduated high school, they took the summer program that we offer through the rec program, and got certified and came back and said, ‘Man, you gotta do this,’” Lloyd said. “‘This is awesome. You gotta do it, you gotta do it.’ So the next year, when I graduated, I took the class over the summer and just fell in love with it and have been doing it ever since.”
Having been with the shop for a long time, Lloyd has been on a lot of the trips. His favorite dive trip is to Cozumel, Mexico. And while the diving is great, he said, it’s the people that make the trip special.
“The diving is really good, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve been going down there so many years that I’ve got friends that are down there and we go do the untouristy
things that most people don’t do when they’re down there, but the diving is phenomenal,” he said.
One of his favorite diving experiences, however, is the reef around the Blue Hole of Belize. Another is the Bloody Bay Wall, Little Cayman, Cayman Islands.
“I get to go do this stuff and it’s called work,” he laughed.
Blanton had learned to dive while in military service but wanted to improve his skills after moving to Auburn. Now, he’s an instructor for the instructors, teaching people how to become dive instructors.
Diving is a family activity for Blanton. His wife and oldest son are both instructors and his youngest son is working toward that goal as well. Since becoming a dive instructor in 2004, Blanton has traveled all over the world for dives, to Cozumel, Mexico; to Grand Cayman; to Saint Martin; to Roatán; to Jamaica; to the Bahamas; to Cancun; to the Keys and all over Florida.
One of Blanton’s favorite dives involves a week aboard a sailboat: Blackbeard’s Liveaboard Cruise.
“It is a sailboat we go on in the Bahamas,” he said. “The diving is amazing. You do a ton of dives, just a real intimate setting.”
Blanton encouraged anyone who’s interested to give diving a go with Adventure Sports.
“You never know until you try,” he said. “My wife was nervous for years and now she’s got over 400 dives and she’s a dive instructor.”
For more information on Adventure Sports, Inc. visit the website www.adventuresportsauburn.com or stop by the shop at 747 E. Glenn Avenue.
Photos Contributed By Shane Blanton