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March 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 29, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Foreign Travel Is Killing Our Dive Stores

from the March, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

When online shopping took off more than a decade ago, most dive stores were slow to respond and many went out of business. Of the 900 shops in the U.S. these days, there is another problem. Too many of their customers are exclusively warm water divers, traveling off to tropical waters to get wet. While many gear up with expensive equipment, the hassles and the high cost of travel have lead others to rent all but their fins, masks and snorkels at their destination. Most locations even rent-well maintained wetsuits these days.

Traveling divers do not buy the kind of gear local divers might, such as weight belts. Or tanks. Or get air fills. They don't pick up the extras, such as goody bags, knives and tank totes. While organizing dive trips abroad has helped many dive stores increase their bottom line, the dive business has changed and there are fewer dive stores every year. Last year, the magazine Dive Center Business carried an article urging stores to publicize some of the more exceptional local dive opportunities to get more divers to dive locally. In California, there are trips to snorkel with spawning salmon, dives into large reservoirs to visits towns that were submerged when the reservoirs were created, and the occasional organized bottle and artifact dives.

At the turn of this century (sounds like eons ago), Northern California diver Chuck Ballinger struck out to make a dive in each of the 50 states. When he finished, he chronicled his experience in the book An American Underwater Odyssey: 50 Dives in 50 States, a first-hand account of what he calls "adventure/ safari diving." Along the way, he dived almost every kind of dive imaginable -- former nuclear missile silos, underground lead mines, volcanic craters, along with the more mundane wrecks and oil rigs. He recently put together an energetic fourminute video with a glimpse of every dive ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCQVQorgr4w ).

His 208-page paperback book, which to my eye seems as current and fresh as the day he published it, is still available at our website ( www.undercurrent.org/UCnow/bookpicks2.shtml#Dive50States ). It just might encourage you to hop in your car and try a new dive, foregoing excess baggage charges, long security lines and the middle seat.

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