Many would be surprised to find a dive shop in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, but Blue Planet Scubahas been around since 2010. The storefront (1755 S St. NW) is basically a dive gear emporium, with supplies from wet suits and scuba regulators to GoPro cameras and books about fish.
The store also holds interesting items collected on dives, including a tooth from a giant, prehistoric megalodon shark. The tooth is 4.5 inches by 4 inches and was found in a South Carolina riverbed.
Owner Heather Tallent says she and her husband, Jonas Furberg, fell in love with diving on a trip to New Zealand about 10 years ago.
“After that trip, it was like, ‘How can we get back underwater? How can we learn more and see more?’ ” Tallent says.
The couple teamed with Matthew Kavanagh to create a dive shop that focused on both conservation and building a community for local divers.
Blue Planet is one of the Professional Association of Diving Instructors’Five Star Dive Centers and offers scuba lessons from certified instructors for divers starting as early as age 8.
Discover Scuba is a class for beginners. It’s held in a shallow pool, where students learn how to use the equipment, move about and communicate underwater.
“It’s a great way to try it with no stress,” Tallent says. “You’re in the pool so you can stand up if you have any problems.”
The two-hour Discover Scuba course was a great option for me. My instructor, Jeff Peterson, helped me get accustomed to maneuvering with the fins, breathing through my mouth for an extended period of time and using the scuba regulator as well as breathing technique to move up and down underwater.
Blue Planet’s most popular program is the three-part, beginner-level certification course, Open Water Diver, which involves “classroom” work and a quiz, pool sessions and four open-water dives. There is also a Snorkel and Skin Diver Course, as well as more-advanced classes, such as the one for those who want to become certified dive professionals.
Pool sessions are at Gallaudet University’s indoor pools. Prices range from $60 for certain specialty classes to between $600 and $700 for the full, public Open Water Diver Course (private pool sessions are extra). Discover Scuba costs $80.
When the trio started the dive shop, Tallent — who has a master’s degree in animals and public policy — did not want to leave the world of wildlife conservation completely. Blue Planet educates divers on lessening their environmental impact and encourages them to help when they can by moving debris, for example. Blue Planet’s trips are to marine-protected areas or resorts with solid conservation practices. The company also raises money for the Project AWARE Foundation, does coral restoration in Florida and participates in the Rock Creek Conservancy’s Stream Team program.
Blue Planet takes groups on dives around the globe. A trip is planned every month this year, including visits to Iceland, the Galapagos Islands and the Philippines.
D.C. resident Mark Williams began diving with Blue Planet last May and has been underwater every month since. “I tell people that I’m disconnected underwater. No phone. No BlackBerry. The only place I can be at peace is underwater,” says Williams, joking that he even hangs out at the shop when he’s bored because “it’s like a family.”