The Ocean is my vision of the world’s first bonafide Minx.
She’s the original siren, proven capable of luring good men and women into uncertain voyages with her immense appeal, infinite depths, unpredictable temper and unmatched power.
The Sea’s effeminate qualities are limitless, and despite the extensive explorations we’ve bombarded her with, the Ocean still remains a coquettish mystery to us.
In short, the brazen lady scares the beejeebus out of me.
Sure, I’m game for swimming around the beach and even paddling out for a good surf session (for “good surf session” read lounging on the board, dangling my toes in the water) but so far, that’s the extent of my courageous ocean adventures. Skimming through waves, and executing fancy face-plants in the sandy shores.
Thankfully, there are others who have significantly more courage and have managed to turn the mighty ocean into a watery play-ground by delving deep into the worlds that exist far beneath the deceptively calm surface.
Oceanic Rock Stars, if you will, touring for miles underwater, in order to explore, discover and learn firsthand what potentially historical treasures lay at rest on the Ocean’s floor. In fact, our little town is home to some nationally acclaimed oceanic rock stars. Granted, they don’t define themselves by that term (that’s all mine baby) and prefer to go by the slightly more humble moniker of Professionally Certified Divers.
I’m referring to the one and only Dive Locker on Thomas Drive. Recently honored by being listed in Scuba Diving Magazine, as one of the best Dive Operations in the 2011 Readers Choice Top 100.
It’s easy to see why they’ve obtained such a prestigious nomination. The passion they exude for diving is evident in even casual encounters with everyone involved with Dive Locker’s operations.
Throughout the process of trying to coordinate our schedules, we were able to eventually connect and get a little Q & A action together. Thankfully, they were kind enough to answer my questions, and help shed a little insight on the people behind the shops success. Most of the responses are from Tony Snow, Dive Locker’s Owner Extraordinaire, with additional comments provided by Brandon (who, according to the Dive Locker’s website, is aspiring to become the first underwater ninja. I commend you good sir. Ninjas rock) and Todd, Dive Locker’s Head Instructor, who has consistently been honored in PADI’S Top Ten as a top rated dive instructer.
How long has Dive Locker been in business, has it always been in its current location?
- DL: It’s been around for 8 years and yes, it originated in this location and has been here ever since.
Did business suffer last year with the oil spill?
- DL: Despite the oil spill we still had a productive year, especially compared to others. There was great potential for the best season ever before the spill occurred. Unfortunately the negative media coverage scared away a lot of potential and existing customers so it is really difficult to say how much we were affected.
As Divers, did you guys see any evidence of oil, while you were in the water?
- DL: Yes, but small amounts. There were several times when diving from shore that our staff encountered tar balls or sheen. However, they disappeared quickly and we have yet to see them since. We were very fortunate compared to surrounding areas.
Panama City Beach has been dubbed the “Wreck Capital of The South,” is there any idea how many sunken ships are in the area? Are divers still finding more?
- DL: Countless amounts. The wonderful thing about the gulf is there is so much unchartered areas. People find new treasures all of the time. I think that is a contributing factor of why people dive. We are fascinated with the unknown. The ocean is a great place to explore and possibly find a piece of history.
- DL (Todd)
We have tons of Wrecks within just a few miles of our Pass. The Closer Wrecks are Red Sea, a newly placed tug, is our most recent wreck. The local dive community all worked to raise the money and get that one placed here. Black Bart, an oil field supply vessel is easily our most dove ship wreck. The USS Strength, an old navy mine-sweeper is one of the more interesting wrecks due to its condition. It has been blown in half, so it has a neat dive profile. A prototype Hovercraft also sits on the bottom in shallow. A Little Further Out, there’s the Accokeek, A tug that served during WWII now sits in about 110 feet of water. The Grey Ghost, an Old Navy Tug sunk in July 1978 as one of our first artificial reefs. Mac’s Reef, a retired navy barge sunk in 2007. Simpson, our shallowest wreck, is about 20 feet, but ten miles down shell island sunk in 1929
- DL (Brandon)
We are the “wreck capitol of the south”. We easily have over 30 wrecks in the area, along with sunken bridge spans. Most of the wrecks in the area are part of the artificial reef program, but they are still amazing dive sites. We do have a few “natural” wrecks. The Empire Mica, which stands out the most to me was sunk by a German U-Boat during WW2. Another natural wreck is the Tarpon. An old cargo ship that was overloaded (cocky Captain) and sank 12 miles offshore in the middle of a storm. Crew members of these two wrecks and a few other wrecks lost their lives during the sinking. The Mica and Tarpon are said to be haunted.
When I asked them about the coming season, and their feelings on its potential, Brandon summed it up with this statement: “We have high hopes for the coming season. I personally think this will be an awesome season for diving and for us. I think we will definitely bounce back from the oil spill last year. THERE IS NO OIL HERE! You can quote that.”
And so I did.
Dive Locker is the place to go when you’re ready to discover something new and exhilarating – especially if you feel as if you’ve done everything Panama City Beach has to offer. If you fit that description, then this is your key to unlocking a completely unique adventure.
Dive Locker (888) 612-7968 | 106 Thomas Drive | Panama City Beach, FL 32408