By MICHAEL LAWRENCE
Dave Inman's Divers Unlimited, a South Florida leader in PADI Instructor Development as well as in the sales of dive equipment and dive services, has taken the business to yet another level.
While the first Divers Unlimited, in Hollywood, Florida (nestled between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami), has served as the primary base of operations for both the retail store and the world renowned PADI Instructor Development Program for the past 25 years, there are exciting new things in the works.
This year, proud papa Dave announced an addition to his family, the new and improved Divers Unlimited Training Center. In the booming town of Pembroke Pines, a suburb of Ft. Lauderdale about 15 minutes due west of the Hollywood facility, the new Divers Unlimited Training Center/Underwater Careers International fills a 4,500 square foot complex. The 2,000 square foot retail store offers virtually every line of dive gear available. This retail area is connected to a large room containing a 20 by 40 foot heated training pool (with adjacent changing and shower facilities). There is also a complete digitally-controlled air and mixed gas fill station and an extremely accurate digital gas analysis station. This high tech gas fill area features feeds for traditional compressed air, as well as standard and custom blends of nitrox and tri-mix. Behind this room is the DU campus, a complex of classrooms (the new home of Divers Unlimited's Underwater Careers International) and offices.
Divers Unlimited has never been just a "local dive shop." The Instructor Development Program alone has attracted students from all over the world. A roster of former students, many now leaders in the industry, would include the citizens of dozens of nations. In addition, Divers Unlimited has conducted PADI Instructor Development Courses in every corner of the globe. This worldwide reputation naturally brings visitors from many countries to Divers Unlimited's doors, some simply anxious to get their first open water certification so they may sample the diving treasures off the eastern South Florida coast. For others, it is the desire to either hone their skills or to become a viable member of the working recreational dive industry. In truth, it matters not whether your objective is the purchase of dive gear, the booking of local dive trips, the desire for scuba instruction or the determinination of career possibilities and directions within the industry. When you deal with Dave Inman's Divers Unlimited, you will find yourself dealing with seasoned dive professionals.
A Little History: Dave Inman is no newcomer to the dive world. He was actively diving and teaching diving before recreational scuba certifications were a reality. In the beginning, before the existence of PADI, NAUI, SSI or any of the various other members of the dive industry's alphabet soup were on the scene, Los Angeles County formulated the very first scuba certification course in the mid-50s. Dave Inman, then the Navy's dive training officer at the naval base in Coronado, California, acted as a consultant, helping layout the first training methods and assisting in the creation of the original charter. Since then, he has been instrumental in innumerable innovations and advancements within the dive industry. Between Dave's personal achievements and the recognition given to Divers Unlimited and the PADI Instructor Development Program, more than two dozen plaques and awards grace Divers Unlimited's walls and shelves.
Scuba Instruction: Divers Unlimited approaches dive instruction with a modular program. Scuba instruction is divided into several modules, each containing a number of sub-modules. The concept is this: one can step into the program at any point. If you are a newly certified diver, step into advanced, rescue, etc. If you are a burgeoning professional and have completed the required certifications and number of dives, step into the divemaster program. After this come a number of advanced professional courses such as assistant instructor, instructor, master scuba diver trainer, etc. Let's take a moment to explore the various possibilities.
Divers Unlimited has introduced tens of thousands of divers to the joys of the ocean. While some divers choose to remain at the entry level, many others take advantage of subsequent PADI courses to refine their diving skills. Divers Unlimited works closely with PADI and offers nearly every PADI certification (with the exception of ice diving; tough to accomplish in the South Florida climate).
Padi Instructor Development: Those looking to expand their hobby and their love of the ocean into either a part-time or full-time career will find a wide variety of choices offered at Divers Unlimited. These also follow a modular approach. The same courses are found in various configurations with each group designed to satisfy the unique needs of students. While each individual course may be taken as a separate entity (with the proper prerequisites), for the aspiring full-time professional the best way to receive a full and lasting education may well be to take the full immersion route.
Rescue diver, medic first aid, divemaster, IDC prep, IDC, medic first aid instructor, master scuba diver trainer (six specialties) and Resort Instructor are the are the basic building blocks of the professional dive instructor. The most popular modular configuration for the aspiring professional is the Triad Program. The Triad is designed to take open water certified divers (from any qualifying agency) along the stepping stones to becoming a PADI dive instructor.The Triad Program includes rescue, medic first aid, CPR, divemaster, IDC prep and the full instructor development course. After passing the instructor examination, there are several extra courses designed to further your knowledge, experience and potential earning power. These are medic first aid instructor, master scuba diver trainer and the resort instructor course. All three are included in the Gold Instructor Program.
The value? Being a medic first aid instructor allows you to conduct classes, charging an appropriate fee for this service. Master scuba diver trainer gives you the option of teaching six specialty classes, each an extra source of income. Resort instructor gives you skills normally acquired only on the job, thus making you a more valuable employee for a resort. The best way to explore the individual class requirements and the resulting employment opportunities is to call DU direct.
Local Resort Diving: After owning and operating successful dive resorts in Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Haiti, Dave understands through first-hand experience what makes a resort operation click. He has applied all of his knowledge concerning what it takes to make a diver happy and applied it to his South Florida operation. At Divers Unlimited you will enjoy the benefits of training and/or simply diving in a tropical environment similar to those destinations you are likely to be visiting and/or working in. Open water training is done on the reefs and wrecks in the warm waters off South Florida. With water temperatures ranging from 75 to 85°F and visibility from 50 to 100 feet, comfort and fun is a guarantee. These South Florida open water sessions are conducted from Divers Unlimited's 42 foot dive boat, the Diversion.
The reefs off Hollywood and Ft. Lauderdale are found in three distinct lines running parallel to the shore. With the first reefline in 10 to 30 feet, the second in 40 to 50 feet and the third in 60 to 100 feet of water, there are a variety of depths and reef available. In addition, South Florida features one of the most active artificial reef programs in the world. From Palm Beach down to Miami, the number of old ships converted to artificial reefs approaches 200 and Ft. Lauderdale has its fair share. These are superb dives, old vessels now encrusted with all manner of soft and hard corals and inhabited by hordes of fish. It is fair to say a dedicated dive vacation in this area will be as satisfying as a trip to the islands, particularly when combined with the nightlife the city offers.
As if all of this is not enough, there is one more very significant detail in the Divers Unlimited arsenal. Dave Inman is the exclusive dive operator licensed to serve divers visiting Biscayne National Park. The waters off the shore of the park represent the northernmost reefs of the Florida Keys and have what is arguably the finest, least spoiled diving of the Keys. These reefs, protected for decades, are every bit as gorgeous as anything found in the Keys and have been dived very little. Biscayne National Park has a complete dive facility (designed and built by Dave), two large Corinthian catamarans (ideal for the water conditions) and a diverse menu of snorkel and dive sites.
Conclusion: Divers Unlimited offers a full spectrum of activities for snorkelers, sport divers and aspiring professionals. It is hard to think of any more complete facility. For the menu of services and guidance concerning your particular interests, the best thing to do is call Diver's Unlimited directly at (888) 232-7234, (954) 430-3483 or fax (954) 430 2757. You may also write to Divers Unlimited, Underwater Careers International, 10191 Pines Boulevard, Pembroke Pines, FL 33026.