2016 Northeast Summit Meeting Held at Beneath the Sea

 2016 Northeast Summit Meeting Held at Beneath the Sea
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional

2nd Annual Conference Attended by 42 Dive Professionals.
 The Northeast summit was held at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Secaucus, New Jersey on Friday, April 1, 2016.  Held in conjunction with the Beneath the Sea Dive Show, the conference drew a very good crowd. The Speakers were excellent and presented a strong case for the benefits and enjoyment of local diving.  During the second hour of the summit, the attendees divided into two groups and opened a very “spirited” discussion about the challenges to the industry in the Northeast and nationally.  One group consisted of Retailers, Dive Boats and Certification Agencies.  The second group consisted of Resorts, Dive Clubs, Instructors, and Millennial Divers. Excellent notes were taken during the program and much of the action was caught on video.  The final hour of the summit was dedicated to comparing notes on the two discussions and talking about actionable items that can be implemented to help build a “Plan of Action” to deal with the obstacles and challenges in the Northeast Diving Community.
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Sebastian, Florida to hold Lionfish Fest

lionfish-fest-logo-200Making Delicious Dishes Out of Destructive Fishes
by Dana Polites
Southeast Dive News Correspondent

Capt Hiram’s Resort in Sebastian, FL will host the first Lionflish Fest on Saturday May 14, 2016. The event features a REEF sanctioned Lionfish Tournament Derby and a Lionfish Cookoff. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission www.myfwc.com is the main sponsor.

The Lionfish tournament is open to teams of 2-4 divers beginning at sunrise. Cost to enter is $125 per team. Catch weigh-in for the teams will be from 1-4 PM. Prizes will be awarded for Most Fish, Largest Fish and Smallest Fish and REEF will be collecting scientific data on fish length.  All existing federal, state, and local laws must be followed

Following the fishing tourney from 4 – 6pm the Cook-off begins. This event is open to the public and tickets are available for $15 per person.  Robin Miller, General Manager for Capt Hiram’s told us that 6 local restaurants will have their chefs, including Capt Hiram’s chef Dan Wood, cooking up some delicious Lionfish dishes for tasting and the best dish will be chosen by the audience.

Kendra Cope, Environmental Specialist Coastal Engineering Division for Indian River County said guests will learn about the lionfish invasion, how to prepare these fish safely, and different ways to help protect our coastal ecosystems from their harmful biological impacts.

More information is available at: http://sebastianlionfishfest.com

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South Central Summit Held in Dallas


Photo by Jennifer Idol

South Central Summit Meeting Recap
Friday, January 22, 2016
Embassy Suites, Frisco, TX
By Gene Muchanski, Executive Director
Dive Industry Association, Inc.

The first regional summit meeting of the South Central United States was held during the Lone Star State Dive & Travel Show in Frisco, Texas.  Twenty One (21) Dive Industry Professionals attended, representing dive stores, dive boats, dive clubs, dive instructors and various dive businesses.

This is one Man’s summary of the discussions that were held at the Summit.  If I missed something, please add to this.  We are looking for active engagement.  If you have a store, boat or club, you have been listed on the DIVE LOCAL Directory on our Blog.  If we missed someone, please let us know.  Thank you.

Guest Speakers

Rick Stratton, Dive News Network kicked off the program by explaining the concept behind the Regional Summit Meetings.  Why it is important to promote local diving.

Gene Muchanski, Dive Industry Association, Inc:  Talked about a shared industry campaign, DIVE LOCAL, and what it is trying to accomplish.  Gene said that, “Promoting the diving industry to the general public is a shared responsibility of all actively engaged Dive Professionals.  We must all do our part to grow the recreation.”  DIVE LOCAL defines the Local Diving community as Dive Stores, Dive Boat Operators, Dive Clubs, Dive Instructors and Local Resorts where applicable.  The sectors of the Diving Industry that have the most to gain from the promotion and success of the Local Diving Community is the; 1) Certification Agencies that sell certifications.  2) Manufacturers that sell dive equipment.  3) Travel Businesses that sell travel trips.  Therefore, they should be sponsoring DIVE LOCAL and providing co-opt advertising dollars to the campaign.  The message we want to send to the general public is 1) Learn to Dive.  2)  Buy Your Gear.  3) Go Diving.  4) Stay Active.

Tom Ingram, DEMA: Tom talked about local diving impacting the community.  Tom had statistics to show the diving industry is under performing.  Certifications are down 13% over the last 10 years. He showed us where local diving fits in. He says that giving divers something fun to do keeps them more active.  He pointed out that “local diving is perfect for the current economic conditions.”  One activity he spent time on was “Dive Caching.”  He introduced a new DEMA program called “Go Dive Now.”

Eric Peterson, Scubapro Regional Sales Manager:  Local Texas Diver talked about Dive Around Texas and what it did for the local economy. The program ran for six years and in the fifth year included DEMA’s Dive Caching.  One activity gave away a grand prize of $1,000.  Looking for local new ideas.

Jennifer Idol, The Underwater Designer:  Jennifer is credited to being the first Woman to Dive all 50 States.  That’s a lot of local diving.  She shared her experience in traveling around the country and visiting many dive stores along the way.  She talked about customer’s expectations.  She asked “When you visit a store, what are your expectations?  How do you want to be treated when you visit a store?“

Breakout Session – Focus Groups

  1. Group 1 – Clubs & Instructors
  2. Group 2 – Stores , Dive Boats & Resorts

Both of the groups focused on potential solutions to growing the local dive community rather than fixating on problems and challenges.  There was some conversation about the current dive leaders not taking the younger generation seriously enough and not respecting them for their accomplishments.  We had a brief discussion about Internet Sales and concluded that internet sales at a dive store is one type of business model.  Stores either choose to use that method or they don’t.  We discussed the importance of relationships with our customers and treating our employees and staff as future leaders in the industry.  We agreed that diving activities are the lifeblood of a local diving community but there was little discussion how dive professionals communicate their planned activates to their customers.  The group would like to see more collaboration between stores and clubs.  Youth activities are a great way to promote diving to young people.  One group should be age 8-17 and a second one from age 18-29.  It works well for churches, why not diving?

Regional Problems

  • Millennials are not shown respect


  • Millennials are an untapped resource
  • Teaching diving at Colleges & Universities grows the industry and supplies us with young divers. There is much opportunity at local colleges to teach scuba diving.

Potential Solutions

  • Social – Fun – BBQ
  • Dive Caching
  • Dive Around Texas
  • Promote relationships – Trust & respect – Be the white knight !
  • Communicate with your customers. How?
  • Promote Social Aspects of Diving / personal / fun / relationships – promote events.
  • Take relationships from stranger to customer to friend
  • Hold Clean-up events
  • Recommendations from Dive Clubs
  • Dive shops should feed the clubs
  • Can stores help with club events?
  • Improve Collaboration between stores & clubs
  • Clubs could promote store events
  • Better web sites, social media
  • Games, treasure hunts, keep them active
  • Work together more (leadership meetings between clubs)
  • More educational tips & tricks
  • Mentorship program – New divers to be diving leaders
  • Get new divers involved – give them a purpose
  • Season club members
  • Modernize communication methods
  • Make younger divers feel more comfortable
  • Emphasize youth
  • Set up course – under 30 – event / trip – in line with HS & College graduation
  • Lifestyle – Youth Groups
  • Monthly Newsletter – cross promotion

Actionable Items

  • Create social environment of trust – collaboration
    • Create a cooperative environment between clubs & shops
    • Create New Diver Mentorship Program
    • Create model for Youth oriented Groups (10-17) and (18-30)
  • Unique marketing plan to match the event
  • Cross marketing with other sports
  • Co-communicate with colleges & universities
  • Opportunities with colleges to teach diving
  • Help industry promote diving
  • Create Events like “Tenchiller”

Ways to Stay Connected to DIVE LOCAL

Ways to improve the economic impact of the local diving community. 

  • We need to establish a base line of where we currently are financially.
  • How many stores, boats, clubs and instructors are in the Greater Texas area?
  • Who promotes diving the most and what media do they use to get the message to the public?
  • How many active divers are there in the South Central? Where do they dive and how often?

Information we need

  • Economic Impact of Dive Store – Request a Retail Profile Survey form Dive Industry Association at gene@diveindustry.net
  • What is the State of the Dive Industry’s Sales Force? – Request a Sales Rep Profile Survey form Dive Industry Association at gene@diveindustry.net
  • We need complete contact information on dive Stores, Dive Boats, Clubs and Instructors.

Please correspond with the other attendees from the Dallas Summit Meeting and copy Gene Muchanski at gene@diveindustry.net


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North Central Summit Held in Chicago


Photo by Jennifer Idol

North Central Summit Meeting Recap
Friday, February 26, 2016
Hyatt Regency O’Hare, Rosemont, IL
By Gene Muchanski, Executive Director
Dive Industry Association, Inc.

The first regional summit meeting of the North Central United States was held during the Our World-Underwater Dive & Travel Show.  Nineteen (19) Dive Industry Professionals attended, representing dive stores, dive boats, dive clubs, dive instructors, certification agencies and various dive businesses.

Gene Muchanski, Dive Industry Association kicked off the program by explaining the concept behind the cooperative industry campaign called DIVE LOCAL.  The Goal of the campaign is to unite the local diving community in the Greater Chicago area to work together on activities that have the potential to increase the participation and economic impact of the local dive community.  Growing the diving industry begins with promoting and growing the local diving communities.  The heart of every local diving community consists of its Dive Stores, Boat Operators, Dive Clubs and Dive Instructors.

The objective of this cooperative campaign is to educate the general public about the Joys of Scuba Diving.  We need to show current divers, former divers and prospective divers how to 1) Learn to Dive (Initial training and continuing education);  2) Buy their dive gear;   3) Go Diving;  4) Stay active in the recreation.

The Summit consisted of a series of guest speakers followed by two breakout sessions. The speakers included, Patrick Hammer, Scuba Emporium, Rick Stratton, Dive News Network, Capt. Jim Gentile, Windy City Diving, Margo Miller, Illinois Council of Skin & Scuba Divers, and Lucy Dunbar, PADI Americas Regional Representative.

Patrick Hammer spoke about the importance of dive store sponsored activities and events to keep local divers enthused about the sport.  While Hammer admitted that gear sales are down, classes are way up, and he is having a good year. He encouraged other retailers and clubs to sponsor local dive events.

Rick Stratton spoke about the dive industry as a whole with respect to local diving.  Local diving is down all across the country, not just the Midwest said Stratton.  Stratton encouraged local shops, clubs and instructors to promote local diving as the mainstay support of our industry.

Jim Gentile spoke about his experience working with a variety of shops and clubs to promote the sport locally. He has seen a severe decline in the number of divers diving locally and wants to work to promote local diving with the help of other charters, stores and clubs.

Margo Miller spoke about her experience working with a variety of dive clubs across the state of Illinois. She stated that dive club membership is way down overall and many clubs have disbanded due to lack of attendance or activity. Many of the clubs have no real activity explained Miller. She emphasized the need for cooperation within the clubs to promote the sport.

Lucy Dunbar spoke about her experience running a successful dive store and the need for the dive stores to work effectively to promote local diving and activities. A dive store can only be successful if they develop a group of divers who dive locally and often, said Dunbar.

In the second hour, the group broken into focus groups including dive clubs, instructors, resorts. They discussed the problems with the local area including aging membership base, the lack of good meeting places, and people reluctant to take a leadership role.

The dive retailers face problems too including dropout rates, course prices that have not kept up with inflation, instructors who do not seem to value marketing, and everyone recognized that it is a struggle to communicate, especially online.

The group recognized that the upcoming millennials market is a potential huge market who seem to value travel and experiences over acquiring more stuff and that the social aspect of the sport is a huge motivator to get people to join the sport.

Finally, the group joined a larger discussion of potential solutions. With the baby boomers still booming, senior only trips is a potential resource. Dive clubs can work together to promote group events, helping each other remain active. Dive clubs could offer to help cross market diving with other clubs of dissimilar interests such a motorcycle club having a try scuba event.  They said that everyone should try attracting more active customer base that values extremes, like backpacking or all-inclusive, focus on the social aspect of the sport and work with other groups to share successes and best practices.

All-in-all, the second Local Diving Summit was a success and everyone seemed genuinely inspired by the event. The Dive Local campaign now has two successful events and nearly 40 members. Next stop is Beneath the Sea, in Secaucus, NJ on April 1, 2016.

Guest Speakers

Gene Muchanski, Dive Industry Association, Inc.

Rick Stratton, Dive News Network

Local Speakers

Patrick Hammer, Scuba Emporium

Capt. Jim Gentile, Windy City Diving

Margo Miller, Illinois Council of Skin & Scuba Divers

Lucy Dunbar, PADI Americas Regional Rep

Breakout Session – Focus Groups

  1. Group 1 – Clubs
  2. Group 2 – Instructors
  3. Group 3 – Resorts

Regional Problems

  • Aging membership
  • Finding meeting places
  • People are reluctant to take a Leadership role
  • Drop out problem
  • Prices of courses have not keep up over time
  • Instructors will take more diving courses but not marketing courses
  • Industry resistant to using marketing experts
  • Email is getting passe – many don’t read their emails anymore


  • Millennials are a hugh market
  • Social aspect of diving is very important
  • You can have a career in diving – We need a Pathway to a successful career

Potential Solutions

  • Senior-only Trips
  • Combine Club Events
  • Need to do more than just Dive
  • Link up / partner with other clubs
  • Cross market to other clubs – i.e. motorcycle clubs
  • Plan trips that are more demographically similar
  • Cater to Extremes – i.e. Backpacking side trips
  • Promote all-inclusive trips – $$$
  • Attract other adventure sports people
  • Broaden horizons
  • Courses that meet needs
  • Make group photos interesting
  • Build a pathway to a successful diving career
  • Don’t take away from the “Thrill of Adventure.”

Actionable Items

  • Acquire New Club Members
  • Focus on social aspect of the sport
  • Develop best-practices for Youth Groups.
  • Create sharable content for newsletters & communication
  • Change the image of the diving industry
  • Improve communication with industry shareholders
  • Publish & Promote Local Diving Events & Activities


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Lone Star State Dive Show – January 22-24, 2016

wow-200Lone Star State / Our World-Underwater
Dive & Travel Show
Dallas/Frisco, Texas
January 22-24, 2016

by Gene Muchanski
Editor, The Dive Industry Professional

It’s the beginning of the new year and the trade show season is about to begin. This year the focus will be on dive and travel shows.  We tried the Surf Expos and the Adventure Travel Shows in the past six years but are going back to focusing on consumer shows that specialize in scuba diving and diving related adventure travel. There is a high concentration of specialized exhibitors in the exhibit halls and the seminars and workshops are tailored to divers who want to spend their recreational dollars on what interests them the most.

Our first show this year will be in Dallas (Frisco), Texas, on January 22-24, 2016.  Patrick Hammer  and Jim Gentile from Our World-Underwater in Rosemont, IL are in their second year running a dive show in the Great State of Texas.

The Texas Dive Market:  Texas is a great market place for scuba diving.  It has the 4th largest concentration of certified divers in the United States, only surpassed by Florida, California, and New York.  At last count, there are approximately 135 Retail Dive Centers, at least 12 Dive Clubs and 6 Dive Boats that I know about.  If our Industry shared statistics and demographics on our industry, we could tell you how many scuba instructors there are in the state and how many certified divers live there.  Although I can’t tell you what the economic impact of scuba diving is in the State of Texas, I can tell you that it is significant.  The fact that SeaSpace was one of the four largest dive shows in the country for 35 years tells you that there is a market for scuba diving in Texas and it is BIG.

The NEW Dive Show in Texas:  Only in its second year, the Lone Star State Dive Show is catching on fast.  Patrick Hammer deserves a shout out for putting together a very promising show this year.  Based on his experience in running Our World-Underwater in the Chicago area, Patrick has put the right pieces together to make this a great show.  The show will have Workshops, Seminars, a Film Festival, an Exhibit Hall and a special Regional Summit Conference for members of the trade.

Seminars, Workshops and Film Festival:  The Show will feature 36 seminars on Saturday and Sunday, presented by 23 Speakers, many of who are the “Best in the Business”, like Cathy Church and Jill Heinerth.  The topics are varied, and include everything from adventure travel, marine conservation, technical diving, exotic marine life to secrets of great underwater photography.  The Saturday Film Festival will be hosted by Nancy McGee and include the works of Jill Heinerth and 10 other Speakers. Cathy Church is conducting two 3-hour workshops on Saturday and Sunday that will help any underwater photographer get better results from their digital camera and underwater lighting.  The Workshops, Seminars and Film Festival will bring world-class education and entertainment to a great diving hub that has been deprived of such diving activity for too many years now.

Something For the Texas Dive Professionals:  There will be two activities for Texas Dive Professionals before the show begins on Saturday.  On Friday, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, PSI Cylinders is conducting a Visual Cylinder Inspection Course for Industry Repair Technicians.

From 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm, the first South Central Regional Summit Conference will kick off to address the “State of the Industry” for Texas Retail Dive Centers, Local Dive Clubs, Local Boat Operators and Local Scuba Instructors.”  Guest Speakers will include Rick Stratton (Scuba & H2O Adventure Magazine), Gene Muchanski (Dive Industry Association), Tom Ingram (DEMA), William Cline (Industry Consultant and DEMA Board Member), Eric Peterson (Scubapro), and Jennifer Idol (Photo Journalist who has dove all 50 States).  The three hour conference will include 1 hour of Introductions and Guest Speakers, a 1 hour breakout session to discuss industry and regional challenges, and a 1 hour summary of what can be done to make the local diving community stronger.  Admission is free but space is limited to 50 Industry Professionals.  Please RSVP with Gene Muchanski at gene@diveindustry.net or call Gene at 321-914-3778.

The Exhibit Hall:  The Exhibit Hall will be open on Saturday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and on Sunday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.  There will be 61 Exhibitors in 70 Booths, consisting of dive equipment, dive training, local dive clubs, dive stores and some of the best travel destinations on the planet. Oceanic & Hollis will present their complete line of diving equipment and be there to support their Texas Dealers.  The National Association of Underwater Instructors will be on hand to show why they are “The Definition of Diving” in Texas and Worldwide.

Summary:  The second annual Lone Star State Dive Show has all the makings of a wonderful show for the local diving community. The Travel Industry has embraced this show and they are looking forward to promoting diving in Texas.  With the increased potential this venue has in the future, it will no-doubt get the attention of the manufacturing sector and the training agencies for next year.

Editorial:  Patrick and Jim – Thank you for putting in the time and effort for making this show happen.  It is exactly what Texas has needed for a long. With good advertising to the diving community and support from the diving industry, this show has the potential to recapture what we once had with SeaSpace, in Houston for 35 years.  We’ll see you in Dallas on January 22-24, 2016.


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2016 North Central Summit Conference – Chicago

DSC_04572016 North Central Summit Conference – Rosemont, IL.

The first North Central Regional Summit Conference will be held during the Our World-Underwater Dive Show on Friday, February 26, 2015 at the Hyatt Hotel in Rosemont, IL.  The conference is scheduled to begin at 12:00 Noon at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, the Host Hotel for Our World-Underwater, and end at 3:00 pm.  The purpose of the Regional Summit Conference is to bring together local Retail Dive Centers, Dive Boat Operators, Dive Clubs and Local Scuba Instructors to discuss ways to increase participation in our recreation.  All Industry Professionals are invited to attend.  There is no cost to attend, but attendees need to RSVP for the event, as space will be limited.

The format for the event will be similar to the Regional Summit Meeting being held in Dallas, Texas at the Lone Star State Dive Show but with one major difference.  In Dallas, we plan to begin the program with comments from Industry Leaders and then go into breakout sessions with Local Dive Businesses but in Chicago we will begin the program with current “State of Local Diving” summaries from Local Retailers, Boat Operators, Local Dive Clubs and Local Dive Instructors and then go into breakout sessions.

In a three hour period, the first hour will be reserved to set the agenda for the conference with regional introductions.  Patrick Hammer from Scuba Emporium will brief us on the current State of Dive Retailing in the North Central followed by Capt. Jim Gentile from Windy City Diving, who will brief us on the State of Dive Boat Operations in the Territory.  We are looking for a speaker from the local Dive Club Community and a speaker to summarize the current state of affairs surrounding local dive instruction.

The second hour will be spent in breakout sessions to discuss industry and economic problems in the region and possible solutions to overcome the problems.

The last hour will be a unified discussion to design a game plan for creating economic development in the local region by promoting diving through local Retail Dive Centers, Dive Boat Operators, Dive Clubs and Local Scuba Instructors.  Industry Leaders will be on hand to report what is being accomplished at other Regional Conferences.

It is our job as Industry Professionals to discuss roadblocks that are limiting our recreation and come together to not only propose potential solutions to our problems but to come up with a plan of attack and the funds necessary to grow our industry.  We look forward to see you in Rosemont, Illinois on February 26th.

If you are interested in participating in the North Central Regional Summit Meeting, please contact Gene Muchanski at gene@diveindustry.net

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2016 DIVE LOCAL Regional Summit Meeting – North Central

DSC_04572016 North Central Summit Conference

The North Central Regional Summit Meeting has been scheduled for Friday, February 26, 2015 at the Hyatt Hotel in Rosemont, IL.  The conference will be held during the Our World-Underwater Dive Show, after booth set up on Friday afternoon.  The purpose of the Regional Summit Conference will be to bring together local Retail Dive Centers, Dive Boat Operators, Dive Clubs and Local Scuba Instructors to discuss ways to increase participation in our recreation.  All Industry Professionals are invited to attend.  There is no cost, but attendees need to RSVP for the event.

If you are interested in participating in the North Central Regional Summit Meeting, please contact Gene Muchanski at gene@diveindustry.net  or visit the Dive Industry Foundation Booth # 2003 at the DEMA Show in November.

The format for the event will be similar to the Regional Summit Meeting being held in Dallas, Texas at the Lone Star State Dive Show.  In a three hour period, one hour will be reserved to set the agenda for the conference with industry and regional introductions.  The second hour will be spent in breakout sessions to discuss industry and economic problems in the region and possible solutions to overcome the problems.  The last hour will be a unified discussion to design a game plan for creating economic development in the local region by promoting diving through local Retail Dive Centers, Dive Boat Operators, Dive Clubs and Local Scuba Instructors.

It is our job as Industry Professionals to discuss roadblocks that are limiting our recreation and come together to not only propose potential solutions to our problems but to come up with a plan of attack and the funds necessary to grow our industry.  We look forward to see you in Rosemont, Illinois in February.

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Local Diving Summit Coming to TEXAS!

Local Diving Summit Coming to TEXAS!

Rick-200by Rick Stratton
Publisher/ Event Director
Dive News Network Media Group
Phone: 360-240-1874
Web: www.divenewsnetwork.com

Texas scuba divers will get a chance to speak about and promote local diving this January. In conjunction with the Texas Dive Show, a Local Diving Summit will be held in Frisco/Dallas on Friday, January 22.   The Summit offers industry leaders, dive shop owners, operators, dive club personnel and divers a chance to address the problems facing the industry with respect to local diving.

According to co-organizer, Gene Muchanski, from the Dive Industry Foundation, “Local diving is losing its appeal to divers. Dive store owners and dive club leaders find it difficult or nearly impossible to fill a local dive boat or trips to the local lake/river. Dive charter operators are finding it hard to fill local trips as a greater percentage of divers travel to dive, making it more difficult for operators to restore health to their businesses” said Muchanski.

Muchanski and co-leader, DNN publisher Rick Stratton will co-host the LD Summit as part of a national campaign called Dive Local.   According to Stratton, “a regional Local Diving Summit gives local dive leaders, dive store owners, managers, dive instructors, dive club leaders and dive charter operators an opportunity to discuss the status of local diving.  This is a chance for the local diving community to recognize the problems, and work collectively and cooperatively to solve the root causes. The industry must resolve this issue to keep divers more active, sell more equipment and certifications, and create greater opportunities for divers to stay involved in the sport between vacation dive trips.” explained Stratton.

The Summit will be approximately 3 hours in length and include introductions and keynote speakers addressing the problems facing the promotion of local diving. Already slated to speak are William Cline, Marketing Consultant and DEMA board member,  Tom Ingram, Executive Director of DEMA, Eric Peterson, Scubapro Sales Representative, and Jennifer Idol, first woman to dive in all 50 states, along with additional local operators, dive store owners and community leaders all with a vested interest in seeing divers participate more locally.

Following the keynotes, attendees will have the opportunity to participate in break-out sessions guided by community leaders from dive centers, dive clubs, boat operations and others. Community leaders will keep these sessions on task and positive. Each group will discuss the industry from their own perspective to help determine the issues causing a decline in local diving and brainstorm what might be done help create value for diving locally.  Suggestions and ideas will be compiled and prioritized, and Stratton, Muchanski and others have volunteered to assist local leaders to follow through on these ideas, creating an action plan that can be incorporated into Dive Local. To implement that action plan and evaluate the success or failure of any actions at the next annual meeting, quarterly newsletters will be sent to all local industry members to keep them informed as to the progress of members of the group.

According to Stratton, “this kind of thing has been done before… The industry gathers, talks about the issues, complains, somebody takes notes, but nothing happens… This time it needs to be different. Come prepared to be honest, take responsibility and take action to help the situation. We will help you. We are all part of this industry and what happens to one of us – affect us all. If we do not work together, then surely we will not be working at all. At least not in this industry… Let’s do this!” – Rick Stratton


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Isla Cozumel: A Mexican Island With A Caribbean Flair

Isla Cozumel: A Mexican / Caribbean Island Paradise
By Gene Muchanski
Southeast Correspondent, Dive News Network

Isla Cozumel is a Mexican Island with a Caribbean flare. In a beautiful tropical setting, the island is alive with watersports activities yet enjoys a relaxed tempo of life.  In this turquoise water, white sand beach, and lushly vegetated island you can choose to actively pursue your favorite watersport passions or do nothing at all.  In her own way, Isla Cozumel caters to every visitor in a very unique and personal way.

The Island of Cozumel is one of the better known and more popular diving destinations in the world. A beautiful little island off Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, Isla Cozumel beckons to scuba divers and water sports enthusiasts from around the globe.  Cozumel is accessible by major airlines landing at Cozumel’s own International Airport, cruise ships docking at one of its cruise terminals and by a short ferry boat ride across the channel from Playa del Carmen. Cozumel is a tiny island measuring 34 miles long from North to South and 8 miles wide from East to West.

DSC_0648-200Cozumel has become the popular diving destination it is today for many reasons. First and foremost, the island is home to the second largest coral reef system in the world.  The water is warm and clear and thanks to a mild ocean current, the scuba diving is almost effortless. The reefs are alive and abundantly populated with numerous species of fish, and thanks to the Mexican Government, are protected in Chankanaab National Park.  Even the locals are not allowed to fish in this beautiful marine preserve.  That means the marine inhabitants and the beautiful sea fans and coral reefs will be there for our enjoyment for generations to come.

It’s easy to get to Cozumel. Scuba Divers normally choose to fly directly into Cozumel International Airport.  The island is served by most major airlines including Aero Mexico, Air Tran, and United.  Depending on the time of day and time of year, going through immigration is relatively painless.  While some Resorts may pick you up at the airport, it’s not a problem if yours doesn’t.  The main city of San Miguel is next to the airport and most of the dive resorts are on the main road on the other side of San Miguel.  Shuttle vans are readily available for around $20 per person.

Cruise Ships are a popular way to visit Cozumel. There is a Cruise Ship Terminal in downtown San Miguel and another newer terminal a few miles south towards Chankanaab Marine Park.  Cozumel is currently the leader of cruise ship arrivals around the world.  It is estimated that between 2 and 3 million “Day Trippers” from the cruise ships visit the shops of Cozumel every year.

Another popular way to visit Isla Cozumel is by Ferry from Playa del Carmen. For years vacationers from Cancun and Playa del Carmen have taken the Ferry to Cozumel to visit this beautiful Island to enjoy the abundant watersports, shopping and restaurants.  At $13 per crossing, the Ferry is popular with the locals and people who work on the Island.

DSC_0481-200Scuba Diving has been a popular attraction for over 40 years on the Island of Cozumel and it is estimated that over 300,000 people come to Cozumel every year for the watersports. That’s not counting the 2 ½ million people arriving by cruise ships!  The first and most respected dedicated Dive Resort on the island is Scuba Club Cozumel.  Founded in 1976, this 61 room, waterfront Dive Resort has its own Dive Boats, Dive Shop and Restaurant.  Diving doesn’t get any easier than walking out of your room and onto the dive boat that’s waiting for you at the Resort’s own dock.  Managing Partner Timothy Massimino has been at the helm of Scuba Club Cozumel for 34 years now, overseeing a staff of 100-120 employees, some who have been with the resort for 20-30 years.

Booking a trip for you and your dive buddy or a group of divers is as easy as finding a reliable Dive Travel Wholesaler like Scuba Travel Ventures or Roatan Charter.  Working with a Dive Travel Specialist gives you a number of options in Airfare, Hotel Accommodations, Dive Operators and after dive attractions.  Seasoned Dive Operator Dive Paradise has their own fleet of Dive Boats, Dive Guides and Dive Instructors as well as their own Boat Pier near downtown San Miguel.  Independent Boat Operators like Sea Robin work with a number of Resort Hotels and arrangements can be made to pick you up at your own dock.

09-3546-200A major factor to consider in planning a dive trip is the amount of equipment support you can get when you are miles away from home and your local dive store. Cozumel has a number of dive stores scattered around the island but when it comes to repairs and hard to find spare parts, Cozumel Scuba Repair is the best place to go.  Founded by former NAVY SEAL Larry Cleghorn, Cozumel Scuba Repair has personnel that are qualified as repair technicians for most of the major equipment manufacturers in the world.  Knowing you can find that little 50 cent O-ring which saves your diving vacation goes a long way in making Cozumel next year’s dive destination of choice.

DSC_0314-200The Island of Cozumel takes its diving very seriously. For your diving safety and enjoyment there is a Hyperbaric Chamber and Medical Center downtown by the waterfront.  The Chamber is staffed by full-time Medical Professionals, including UHMS Certified Physicians trained to assist all Scuba Diving Injuries.  The Chamber is a Member of the SSS Recompression Chamber Network and part of the Divers Emergency Assistance Network.

If you’re into making six dives a day while on vacation, then Cozumel is a good choice for you. If your idea of a good vacation is waking up at 7 a.m., having a delightful breakfast, then packing your gear and going on the boat for a two tank dive, followed by lunch and a nap, then Cozumel is definitely your kind of place.   And the day doesn’t end there.  There is plenty of sightseeing to do on the island and many wonderful places to catch up on your Caribbean Dining experiences.  Your taste buds can experience everything from Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville to the Fogo Do Brasil Steak House and an after-dinner cigar at Mini Havana.

A good rule of thumb is not to make any scuba dives 24 hours before flying home. That last day on the island can be well-spent by renting a car and doing a little sight-seeing.  A favorite place to visit is Hacienda Antigua, Tequila Factory & Store for a little Tequila tasting.  It’s a short drive on Benito Juarez from downtown San Miguel, and being able to bring home a bottle of “Crema al Tequila” to pour on top of your ice cream will make you the talk of the town back home.

DSC_0450-200So when you are making out your “Bucket List” for places you’d like to dive before you die, Cozumel should be at the top of your list. Because after you’ve been there once, you’re  going to want to go back again and again.   So let’s recap the reasons why you are going to want to Dive Cozumel;  It’s a beautiful Island;  Cozumel has a temperate climate year round; The water is warm and clear, with gentle ocean currents; The marine life is abundant and protected.  The diving is easy from a boat yet accessible from shore.  The diving conditions appeal to all levels of diver experience and the grand majority of diving is between 30 and 100 feet.  There is an active Hyperbaric Chamber and Medical Clinic on the Island.  Cozumel itself is easy to get to; There are plenty of Resorts, Dive Operators and Dive Stores; There are plenty of Restaurants and Bars; Taxis are inexpensive.  There is no reason to drink & drive.  The Peso / Dollar exchange rate is around 13 to 1, making Cozumel a great value for your money.  Most of the people you deal with in Cozumel speak English in addition to being happy, friendly and courteous.  And most importantly, Cozumel is a safe place to vacation

Tourism is the bread and butter of many countries around the world. Political Leaders know how to roll out the red carpet for tourists if and when they want to.  The Political Leaders of Cozumel always want to.

Here is a quote from the Mayor of Cozumel,  Lic. Fredy Efren Marrufo Martin:  “Dear Friends: Welcome to Cozumel Island, our Heaven on Earth. An excellent tourist destination of the Mexican Caribbean, where you will enjoy its famous hospitality, and great services.  As Mayor, I welcome and encourage you to enjoy the natural beauties of Cozumel.  This paradise belongs to everyone.”

This is what Mayor Martin said to the people of Cozumel:  “Dear People of Cozumel: Cozumel is currently the leader of cruise ship arrivals around the world.  The best way to present ourselves to the tourists that visit us is by our politeness, hospitality and the excellent services we provide.  Cozumel is our home, I encourage that we work together to keep making our paradise an Island of peace and tranquility that we all can enjoy.”

Put Isla Cozumel on your “Bucket List.” You’ll be glad you did.

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Boat Diving in Palm Beach, Florida

“Best Kept Secret in the U.S.”
by Gene Muchanski
Executive Director, Dive Industry Association, Inc.

Dive-Boat-Narcosis-200DIA Dives with Dive Boat Narcosis:  On December 10th, 2011 we had an opportunity to dive Palm Beach, Florida with legendary Dive Boat Skipper, Captain Van Blakeman. Our new friend from Palm Beach County, Dan Volker, set us up with a boat dive on the Dive Boat Narcosis and got us tanks and weights from Pura Vida Divers, in Palm Beach, Florida. With an early morning dive already behind us, Dan Volker, Dave Bertrand, Al Kidder and I boarded the Narcosis and headed out for a two tank dive. Despite the 6-8 foot swells on this otherwise beautiful almost winter day, Capt. Van put us on a nice wreck in 85 feet of water like it was child’s play. As soon as I hit the water and quickly began my descent, I realized that Palm Beach County was one of the best kept secrets of the diving world. First of all, it was winter diving and I was wearing my Oceanic 3/2mm full suit and a 3mm vest from Undersea Designs and by the end of the dive I was still warm as toast. Second, the visibility was great and there was little or no current on the wreck at 85 feet. For a dive that was just a few hundred yards off the beach, I was very happy to see Turtles and Goliath Groupers on the wreck.

Boats in Palm Beach don’t anchor off or tie up to the wreck.  They drop you off in buddy pairs or small groups on different parts of the wreck or reef.  Each group has its own dive flag and each diver has his own Safety Sausage.  The boat crew tracks each flag and picks up the divers as they surface.   It was during our pick-up part of the dive when I saw first hand what an experienced boat captain we had.  Capt. Van came in for the pick-up, swung the boat around, and put the swim step right in front of us for an easy boarding.  WOW!  I have to tell you, I haven’t seen anyone make a diver pick-up look so easy as Captain Van did that day.   So yes, we will return to Palm Beach as soon as possible.  Not only for the excellent boat diving with Captain Van but for the Whales, Whale Sharks, Eagle Rays, Manta Rays, Goliath Groupers, and the countless other photo opts that are waiting for us just a few hundred yards off shore.

CaptVan-200Captain Van Blakeman:  Owner and Captain of the Dive Boat Narcosis.  Captain Van has a love for the ocean, diving, and people that make Narcosis Dive Charters the perfect place for him.  Starting back in Marathon, Florida in the late 1960’s, his work over the years with tugboats, while enjoying plenty of sailing and fishing, combined with diving experience ensures the confidence of his charter customers.  His continued awe of the world, respect for the environment and desire to have fun keeps his customers coming back.

For more information on Narcosis Dive Charters, contact Captain Van Blakeman, Dive Boat Narcosis, Riviera Beach Marina, Slip #52, Riviera Beach, FL 33404.  Phone: 866-627-2674.  eMail: divenarcosis@hotmail.com  Web: www.NarcosisDiveCharters.com

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