Diver down: Scuba diving an increasing popular pastime

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – After 25 years of marriage, Gay and Scott Ramsey dove into their next 25 with something new – scuba diving.
Last October, the Tupelo couple got certified as open water scuba drivers after taking a dive course taught by The Dive Force.
The Dive Force, operated by Hank and Barbara Weaver and Cliff Pryor, has helped everyday people like the Ramseys get their sea legs and lungs.
Hank Weaver said they started out teaching and certifying the area’s search and rescue teams for emergencies. But, their Tupelo business opened up a new world to a surprising number of people who wanted to dive for recreation.
The Ramseys polished up their diving skills Saturday during a refresher course to prepare for a trip to the Virgin Islands.
The couple will live on a boat for seven days and hopefully dive every day in open water, something they have not done. But both say because of what they’ve learned from the instructors at The Dive Force, they are confident they will be fine once they get in the water.
“We are so glad we took the class and got certified to do open water diving,” said Gay Ramsey. “We have enjoyed it so far. It was scary at first learning to breathe with an apparatus in your mouth. But we were glad that there was someone in our area who taught the class. This is something we are planning on using for a lifetime.”
Joe Bishop of Corinth took the course over the weekend because he is part of a group from Alcorn County that is starting an underwater search and recovery team. However, the volunteer fireman said he’s been able to use his new work skills for recreation as well.
“I enjoy going places and scuba diving,” said Bishop. “Seeing how things look under the water is an amazing experience.”
Upon completion of the training course, participants are certified through the Professional Association of Diving Instructions, or PADI. Weaver said in seven to nine days, he can get almost anyone certified, even if the person is not an expert swimmer.
The class starts with a self-study program where participants learn the material. Then they go through two classroom sessions lasting three hours each. After that is complete, they head to the pool to do some dives. The last step to get certified requires the divers to travel to Pelham, Ala., to a diving site to complete two check-off dives. After completing the entire process, participants receive their certification.
The Dive Force’s teachers have many years of experience in scuba. Each trainer at The Dive Force, which is located in Swimming Pools of Tupelo, has more than 10 years under their belt, and Pryor has nearly 30.
Hank Weaver said the team’s only goal is to share love and passion for diving with others, regardless of age.
“No, we don’t have an ocean in our area, but what we do have are people who travel and vacation a lot and those people really enjoy the experiences of scuba diving,” said Weaver. “It is one of those activities that the whole family can do and we start training children as young as 10 years old. Anyone can learn to dive.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@journalinc.com.

– A scuba diving class costs $350. The equipment and gear costs another $300. For more information on the course, contact
Hank Weaver at (662) 539-1095.

Click video to hear audio