York, PA -
The students shuffled in, one by one. Instead of sweatpants or jeans and sneakers, they were dressed in swimsuits and flip-flops. Laughter and chatter bounced off the pool room's walls.
Flippers in one hand and a backpack slung over his shoulder, Ted Evgeniadis placed his bag on the tiled bench. The York College senior joked with the diving instructors as he waited for his classmates.
Minutes before, the pool room was quiet as instructors from York Divers hauled equipment into the college athletic building and placed each student's gear in order.
Jim Grim with York Divers scrubs in one of the exhibit tanks as he performs one of his volunteer duties at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Md. In addition to this, Grim prepares food for the fish and feeds them as well. Grim is the former owner of York Divers, off Exit 15 (George Street) in York. (DAILY RECORD / SUNDAY NEWS - JASON PLOTKIN)
"If I could stay in the water all the time, I would," said Lulis Jonosky, a York Divers dive master and first aid responder.
When the business started in 1975, it was called York Skin Divers and Supply. Through a variety of changes and owners, it eventually changed its name to York Divers and began working with the Professional Association of Dive Instructors in 1982. York Divers, which sits along South George Street just off Exit 15 of Interstate 83, celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2012, owner Sherri Stough said.
Former owner Jim Grim didn't get certified with the York company but discovered his love of diving while vacationing in the Caribbean in 1974. Grim said he got so involved that he became a dive instructor in 1985.
In 1988, when he had the opportunity to buy the business, he and his late wife couldn't say no. "She said, 'I think we could make money off of it,'" Grim said.
Mike Green, an instructor with York Divers, gears up as he prepares to help with a diving class at York College. (DAILY RECORD / SUNDAY NEWS - JASON PLOTKIN)
His wife, Linda, left her job at York Hospital after more than 20 years, and Grim eventually joined her to run the shop full time.
"We really brought diving to York," Grim said. "We made it full time for the area."
For the past 22 years, divers have also volunteered at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. A few times a week, they suit up to scrub tanks, prepare food and feed the animals. Grim now is part of the diving control board at the aquarium.
When it comes to underwater encounters, Grim said he isn't afraid. He said the eels will perform for you, and fish will swerve in and out of divers' legs.
Grim said when he first started diving, sharks were a big concern.
"Most sharks, if you look at them in the eyes, won't hurt you," he said.
With a little bit of education, people are more comfortable jumping into the water to take photographs," Grim said.
Ed Carter, with York Divers, hand-feeds some of the fish as he performs his volunteer duties at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Md. (DAILY RECORD / SUNDAY NEWS - JASON PLOTKIN)
What is the most dangerous animal in the water?
"Man," Grim said. "We screw everything up."
When the Grims took over the business, they began diving excursions. Stough continues this practice today, arranging trips to the Caribbean, Australia, Red Sea, Florida, all along the Atlantic coast and Mexico.
Stough became interested in diving about 16 years ago, when her friends who were dive masters encouraged her to try diving. She said she walked into the store, signed up for a discover dive and class, purchased her equipment and hasn't looked back since. When the Grims were ready to sell the business, Stough was waiting in the wings.
Now, the business is trying to take a big step forward and teach specialty diving areas, including night diving, ice and winter diving and handicap diving. The store is also trying to work with the Wounded Warriors Project to give area soldiers and veterans the chance to dive.
Phil Bath, foreground, an instructor with York Divers, helps instruct a diving class at York College. (DAILY RECORD / SUNDAY NEWS - JASON PLOTKIN)
The college students performed maintenance checks as the instructors watched. Air pressure in tank. Check. Gauges. Check. Vest straps secure. Check Weight belt near edge. Check. Put on wet suit, flippers and goggles.
Jim Grim said it had always been a goal of his to teach diving at York College, and now the course is going on five years.
Grim said that although the class can be expensive --students must purchase some of their gear and have the option to pay for certification -- the group has had no problem attracting participants.
Evgeniadis jumped into the water with his fellow classmates. The New Jersey native said he always wanted to learn how to dive.
The students began preparations in the water: Putting the tank vest on, flipping over and putting the weight belt on, checking the gauges and the mouth piece again. Water splashed everywhere, as flippers flew in the air and equipment was dropped in.
About 40 minutes into the class, it was quiet again. Only the faint noise and sight of bubbles from the carbon dioxide showed signs of life in the pool.
Steve Schwar, right, an instructor with York Divers, gives director to York College senior Cody Becker during a diving class at the college. (DAILY RECORD / SUNDAY NEWS - JASON PLOTKIN)
York Divers offerings
Residents can sign up for a variety of classes at York Divers, 968 S. George St., in the rear of the Colonial Shopping Center, Spring Garden Township:
--- Beginners -- open water diver
--- Advanced open water
--- Deep diving
--- Drysuit diving
--- Emergency First Response
--- Handicapped Scuba Association
--- Night diving
--- Wreck diving
--- Rediscover scuba/refresher course
The business also offers certification, discovery dives for those interested but not ready to commit to a class, trips and travel, scuba equipment for sale and rental, and equipment service.
York Divers was first certified by the Professional Association of Dive Instructors in 1982 and continues to be a PADI Dive Center. For this certification, the organization will send out quarterly teaching material and information, to keep groups and businesses up-to-date with rules and regulations, former owner Jim Grim said. The organization also sends out information to check up on them, and it is the business's responsibility to keep up with the rigorous standards, he said.
Wetsuit: The tightfitting permeable suit worn for thermal and element protection
BC: stands for buoyancy control device, which helps you establish buoyancy in order to get underwater or come back to the surface by adding or venting air from the bladders of the device
Regulators: delivers pressurized air to the diver in order to breath underwater
Tanks: Filled with compressed air used for breathing; either steel or aluminum
Weights: added to help get you underwater
Mask with snorkel: Help see underwater and enclose your nose so you can equalize because of the pressure
Fins: Allows you be able to propel yourself underwater
Source: Sherri Stough, owner of York Divers