Swimming through tropical waters offers a bevy of magnificent sights and marine life. Schools of fish swirl around the sandy bottom. Turtles lazily paddle in search of food or a mate. Eels pop in and out of shipwrecks and other shelter. And throughout the journey, the colors are brilliant. It’s a whole new world under the waves … and it’s beautiful. The Dive Shop in Flint offers adventurous individuals the chance to visit and experience the depths live and in technicolor.
The Dive Shop was opened in 1986 by seasoned diver, Kevin Stiff, and it quickly became Genesee County’s go-to shop for scuba gear and dive certification. They offer tank fills, equipment sales and service, rentals and certification classes throughout the year. They also host instructor led group dive vacations in a bevy of locations including the Great Lakes, Mexico, Belize, Canada, Honduras and others.
“We host diving trips starting in the middle of May through September,” informs manager and instructor, Kim Collingham. “We will typically take between 12 to 30 people, but have taken as many as 100. They have to be certified and we can take care of that right here at the shop in our pool.” This year, scheduled trips include Port Sanilac, Alpena, Straits of Mackinac and Tobermory, Canada. Other common Dive Shop destinations are Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; and sites in Belize. The exotic locations tend to get most of the attention, but the Great Lakes dives remain extremely popular. “Our Great Lakes dives sell out pretty quickly,” says Collingham. “The lakes hold over 6,000 shipwrecks at depths from 12 or 15 feet to 130 feet and deeper. If you can only take one diving trip this year, I would join us at sites like Alpena or Mackinac. Those destinations really provide a great range of shipwrecks to explore but, really, each trip is an adventure.” For more information, visit diveshopmi.com/trips/
Anyone who wants to take a dive trip must first complete Open Water Diving Certification and the Dive Shop is ready to accommodate by offering year-round certification, refresher courses and leadership courses. “We have our own pool for holding private and group classes – not many shops can offer that,” adds Collingham. “Standard certification involves nine hours of class and nine hours of pool time. We don’t do quick courses; we feel that it takes a certain amount of time to make sure everyone is comfortable.” At the end of the course, each student must make an open water dive in a local lake to demonstrate the skills learned – typically in Lake Fenton or Otter Lake. Once certification is achieved, it lasts forever. The Dive Shop does recommend a refresher course for those with an inordinate amount of time between dives. The class schedule is set for the year and available to the public at diveshopmi.com, so those interested can find the class that works best for them. Classes are open for students starting at age 10, and group discount rates are available.
The Dive Shop Team (L-R): Brice Gasche, Owner Kevin Stiff, Matt Brandon and Manager, Kim Collingham
The Dive Shop asks that potential students come in to sign up and be fitted for needed equipment. “There is a straight fee for basic class and students need to provide their own mask, fins, snorkel and boots,” says Collingham. “All of the equipment is available in the shop and students get a discount. Everything must be tried on for proper fit – you don’t want to use a mask that is constantly leaking. If you purchase a mask from us and it doesn’t work well in your first training session, we will swap it out for you.” The Dive Shop also offers the use of their pool for program graduates who would like to practice or refresh their skills before a vacation, and all it typically costs is a tank of air.
If you are planning a vacation, why not a dive – either local or exotic? “We teach classes, we do travel, we rent gear,” says Collingham. “We are the place for anything related to scuba or snorkeling. The Dive Shop can set you up with everything you need.”