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Under the sea


Everything’s better down where it’s wetter. Take it from these scuba diving experts.

Jenny Coon Peterson March 23rd, 2011

So you don’t have gills or fins? No problem. Scuba diving businesses around the metro offer classes, equipment and trips for beginners on up.

For being landlocked, Oklahoma doesn’t suffer from lack of scuba shops. A number of metro retailers and instructors, like Blue Water Divers, 922 Straka Terr., are getting people in the water. The outfit certifies almost 600 people a year.

“With just a little bit of study at home, a little bit of time in the classroom, we can jump right in the water and start developing their skills and knowledge so they gain confidence,” said owner Allen Aboujeib. “They learn how to be safe and have fun.”

Frankie Campbell, owner of Frank’s Underwater Sports & Travel, 312 W. 33rd in Edmond, said scuba can be just as thrilling for landlubbers as it is for beachgoers.

“We go diving here in the lakes of Oklahoma, and I can have fish come right up to my nose and actually tap the eyeballs of our masks while we’re out there,” said Campbell, with more than 18,000 dives under his belt.

Nervous about jumping in? Blue Water Divers covers that, too, with a “Discover Scuba Diving” option to check it out before you get in too deep. Classes begin in a heated, indoor pool before heading outside.

“To complete your certification, you’d either go to the lake or the ocean with us,” Aboujeib said. “The lake obviously is a lot closer, and that’s what most people do.”

Beginners test out their new skills with instructors floating nearby.

“We go out on four or five really fun dives where we let the leash out a little bit on you,” Aboujeib said. “We’re right there with you, making sure you understand everything.”

Anyone can do this.

—Allen Aboujeib

Blue Water Divers does most of these lake dives at Lake Tenkiller — “by far the best and most popular lake for scuba diving” — where the outfit keeps a house for classes and get-togethers. Others in-state include Elmer Thomas, the closest to the metro; Murray; and Broken Bow. However, Aboujeib said none of the metro lakes are suitable for diving.

Outside Oklahoma, both businesses offer trips worldwide. The teams lead groups to locations as far away as Fiji and Australia, or closer-to-home spots like Belize and Cozumel.

Whether in the pool, at state lakes or jumping in overseas, Aboujeib said scuba diving can appeal to anyone.

“It doesn’t matter your weight, your size; there are quadriplegics doing this. Really, anybody can do this. It’s noncompetitive, very romantic, so I think we hit a lot of targets.” Campbell agreed. In operation for 56 years, Frank’s has certified tens of thousands of divers, he estimated, and that number speaks to the draw of the sport.

“You’re flying through the water, it’s so graceful. So peaceful, so quiet,” he said. “No cell phones, no pagers. It is such a relaxing sport. That’s why every weekend, we’ve got people out diving here in Oklahoma.”

Additional reporting by Nicole Hill

 
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