Originally created 12/24/01

Man has keys to watery worlds



Maybe Christmas Eve and thoughts of snow are pleasing now, but when the shivering starts, warm Caribbean waters and schools of colorful fish become more inviting.

There's a whole world out there underwater. And on Washington Road, Doug Shannon, the owner of the Emerald Sea Dive Center, is one of the people who can open that world.

Scuba diving is no more expensive than any other sport, and it doesn't take long to learn, he said.

"It's easy. I teach 10-year-olds how to do this sport," Mr. Shannon said.

Classes run for a two-week period, then students do four open-water dives with the instructor, Mr. Shannon said. Once students complete the performance work in the water and the classroom academic work, pass the final exam, and complete four open-water dives, they are certified as open-water divers.

Last year Mr. Shannon certified about 200 people through the Professional Association of Diving Instructors Open Water Diver course.

According to the PADI organization, the PADI Open Water diver certification is recognized worldwide and enables the holder to dive with a buddy without professional supervision. In the United States, 8.5 million people are certified scuba divers.

The open-water certification is the first step, Mr. Shannon said. "This is a whole, wonderful world opening up."

It's a relaxed, slow-paced sport but also an exciting one, he said.

More people become less afraid of creatures under the water after learning to dive, Mr. Shannon said.

Most people are afraid of sharks - especially after last summer's attacks - but sharks are more of a problem for swimmers than divers, he said.

"I went eight years and never saw a shark," Mr. Shannon said.

Few divers have ever been bitten, and if they were it was usually because the sharks were provoked, he said.

"It wasn't because they (the sharks) were hungry, I can tell you that. They are really beautiful creatures."

Scuba is an equalizing sport. "Everybody's on an even playing field," Mr. Shannon said.

Mr. Shannon, his wife and his children all dive, and his business is family oriented. A number of adults have learned to dive and then brought their children in for lessons, he said.

For most divers in the area, the diving season runs from April or May through October. The Savannah River and Lake Thurmond are nearby diving destinations.

"The river's a fun place. Standing on the bank looking in is different than being in there," said Mr. Shannon, who added he has seen unique artifacts such as a bottle identified as a Clinton Bottle Works of Augusta dating to 1840.

His favorite place to dive - Cozumel, Mexico. "It's a blast ... It's a diver's heaven."

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or shodson@augustachronicle.com.

NAME: Doug Shannon

OCCUPATION: Owner of Emerald Sea Dive Center, 4001 Washington Road

HOW IT STARTED: Mr. Shannon's brother, Allen, taught him to dive 11 years ago.