Colorado is a landlocked state, but that doesn’t mean there’s no interest in scuba diving.
The owner of a Greeley-based dive and scuba center said Colorado has a healthy number of divers in its overall population of 5.6 million, although the nearest coastline is over 1. 000 miles.
“People come to Colorado for the outdoors,” said RonBland, owner of Tortuga Bay on the 10th.e Street. “The demographics of scuba divers are based on activity.”
Bland, 70, estimates that there are a few hundred thousand certified divers in Colorado. He has worked in the dive industry since the late 1980s. He started with a store in Fort Collins. Bland opened TortugaBay in Greeley in 1998, and it’s safe to say he’s hooked.
Bland and his wife, Pamela, organize diving trips throughout the year. One of their annual trips is to Cozumel, Mexico each September. Thirty-five people have joined the Blands this year, including 20 divers.
The Blands visited Fiji in November 2018 and they are planning a trip to the Philippines in 2021 – a dive site Bland describes as “spectacular.”
“There is so much to see,” Bland said of scuba diving. “In Cozumel there are so many beautiful reefs. You are looking for things that are out of the ordinary, lobsters, crabs, turtles.
But no big sharks, so don’t worry if you’re inclined to give diving a try. Bland said larger sharks will avoid divers.
“Catfish, eels,” Bland continued. “You will see marine life, you are not going to see snorkeling.”
The difference between snorkeling and scuba diving is the equipment. Snorkeling does not rely on autonomous air. Scuba is an acronym that stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.
For more information on diving with Tortuga Bay, visit http://www.tortugabay.net/ or call (970) 353-DEEP (3337).
While there are places to dive in Colorado – see this 2016 story from 303Magazine.com and this list from Aquaviews – Bland takes its students out of state for the open water certification phase of their training.
There are three phases to becoming a certified diver, Bland said, and the start-up cost will be around $ 600. The first phase of certification is for academics and it’s done online these days. After the course there is an aquatic training in a swimming pool. Bland takes the students to Eaton High School once a month. Then there’s the two-day open water test.
For this part of the certification, Bland takes his students to the Heber Valley near Park City, Utah, to snorkel in the hot water of Homestead Crater.
With certification, the new diver is ready for life.
Bland wrote in an email that basic certification is similar to getting a driver’s license.
“You didn’t know much about driving back then, but you learned a lot more over time with experience,” Bland wrote.
Bland recommends if you are considering a hot-weather location for spring break and want to dive, then get certified soon. The whole process can be accomplished in a few weekends.
“You get this card and it’s your ticket to rent planes anywhere in the world,” Bland said. “You are certified for life. ”
– AnneDelaney covers high school and recreational sports for The Greeley Tribune. Contact Anne at [email protected], (970) 392-5647 or on Twitter @ AnneGDelaney.