North Texas Daily

Scuba shop dives deep on class, safety precautions

Scuba shop dives deep on class, safety precautions

Scuba shop dives deep on class, safety precautions
March 12
00:16 2015

Erica Wieting / Staff Writer

On University Drive between a pawn shop and a health store is an alcove that sells video cameras, masks and oxygen tanks.

Island Divers, Denton’s local scuba shop, is bursting with a wide variety of diving equipment:  goggles, wetsuits, underwater watches — you name it.  For co-owner Lee Gano, diving is more than just a hobby.  It’s his life.

Gano said he took over the store from previous owner Jim Williams in 2004.  Earlier this year, he sold part of it to Aqua Things, a California-based company he is a part of.  Gano used to research sharks in California and said his fascination with the animal is what got him to start diving in the first place.

“When I was about 10 years old, my dad took me to see Jaws because I kept bugging him about it,” Gano said.  “I was so fascinated with the underwater footage and the sharks that I pretty much learned to dive right after that.”

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Current manager of Island Divers in Denton Lee Gano explains his love for scuba. Gano also teaches diving at UNT.

Gano loves to go diving with sharks, and said out of about 450 species of sharks, less than 20 are dangerous to humans.

“More people were killed by falling coconuts last year than by sharks,” he said.  “I’ve been in the water with more sharks than most people have watched on television, and I’ve got all my fingers and all my toes.”

Gano said Island Divers is all about providing people with the appropriate skills they need to practice safe diving. 

Marketing professor Kenneth Thompson, a Navy veteran and certified dive master since 2008, said having the right equipment is vital to the diver’s safety.

“Make sure that you have quality gear, for one thing,” Thompson said.  “Most of these shops, like Island Divers, are set up to help folks select the right equipment.”

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The back of Island Divers serves as a storage area for scuba tanks, gear, and suits. The shop sells all kinds of gear, as well as offers scuba classes regularly.

Thompson said because diving is such an expensive hobby, a lot of people are suspicious of stores selling scuba equipment because they think they’re being scammed.

“A lot of people think, ‘They’re just trying to sell me stuff,’ but that’s not true,” he said.  “They’re trying to equip you correctly so that you can enjoy the sport.”

Personally, Thompson said he estimates he has spent about $15,000 on his equipment at home.

Maintenance of equipment is equally as important as quality, Thompson said.  Equipment should be checked thoroughly at least once a year.  This includes checking seals on the regulators, which allow the diver to breathe, pressure testing and cleaning the oxygen tanks.

“The other equipment is a little easier to maintain,” Thompson said. “But you still have to attend to it.”

Finding a good, established dive shop, Thompson said, is imperative to any diver.  He carries his own equipment with him when he goes diving because he never knows which shops he can trust himself. Fortunately for Denton residents, master diving instructor Rob Pittman said Island Divers has been around since the 1970s.

“We are the oldest shop in North Texas, certainly,” Pittman said.  “I think we’re the second oldest in the whole state.”

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A plethora of scuba goggles are displayed on the wall inside Island Divers. Gear of all quality and costs are available at the shop.

In addition to equipment and advice, Island Divers offers classes. Gano said he wants as many people to experience diving as possible.  He has continued a program former owner Williams began at UNT through the store.

Every fall and spring, two diving classes are taught at UNT through Island Divers.  Both taught by Gano, the classes are part of a full-semester program.

“If you show up and put forth effort, you’ll probably get an A,” Gano said.  “But you’d be surprised that 10 percent of the class does fail because they don’t show up, or they don’t do the work.”

These two courses are not offered during the summer, but classes are also taught through the store year-round.  This is a cheaper option for UNT students, Gano said, but they can only receive physical education credit this way.

Spots for classes through Island Divers fill up quickly, as space is limited.  Pittman, who has been certified since 1966, teaches the classes at the store.  He said they try to limit each class to six students.

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A mannequin models scuba gear. The shop sells gear for men, women, and children.

“It just tends to be a better experience for the student,” Pittman said.  “We can give them more personalized attention.”

The store tries to hold a couple of classes per month.  Right now, Pittman said he has seven students.  Although this is over the usual limit of six, the store tries to accommodate people with special circumstances like if they are about to leave on a trip.

Pittman also said all skill levels are accepted in the classes. The store teaches beginning open water divers all the way up to instructors.   

Thompson said he thinks the classes offered by Island Divers are a great opportunity. He has even thought about pursuing additional certifications, such as photography.

Thompson said he has also expressed interest in attending some trips through Island Divers.  In addition to teaching classes, the store goes on diving trips led by Gano.  Those interested can sign up for the trips in advance.

“We do trips around the world,” Gano said.  “For spring break we’re going to Fiji.”

Featured Image: Island Divers is fully decorated with scuba-themed paraphernalia all over the store. Shells, buoys, and plastic crabs are just a few of the decorations that line the floor and shelves. Photos by Devin Dakota – Staff Photographer

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