Scuba Divers of Marquette: Taking members under the sea

Joining organizations is a huge part of college, but few clubs can transport members to a whole new world. Few clubs can take its members deep beneath the Earth’s surface. For the members of the Scuba Divers of Marquette, this is precisely what makes their club – and their craft – so special.

Created in 2011 by a group of engineering students with spare time, spare change and scuba certifications, the Scuba Club strives to foster a community of scuba enthusiasts and help aspiring divers receive their own scuba certification.

“You can join if you are already certified, and you can join if you aren’t already certified,” said Melissa Jonardi, a senior in the College of Health Sciences and president of the club. “I got certified with the club freshman year, and it’s been a blast ever since.”

The club partners with local diving, sporting goods and boat rental shop Pirate’s Cove Diving, located at 1103 W. Oklahoma Ave., as part of its initiative to certify new divers. Jerry Guyer, the store’s owner and scuba instructor, runs a six-week certification program with the club. The class is held in the Rec Center pool before moving on to two open-water dives and costs $300 – a discounted price Guyer offers club members.

“If you’re not certified, we can get you certified for a fraction of the normal cost,” said Danielle Desautelle, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and four-year Scuba Divers member. “As a side bonus, once you’re certified, you’re certified for life. An extra side bonus: (Guyer), who we do our certifications through, is pretty chill and very flexible about meeting times.”

So far this year, around 15 new members have been certified.

The Scuba Divers make regular appearances at Organization-Fest, where they draw in students with this unique activity.

“I joined the club because I heard one of the members talking to another girl during O-Fest and was interested to find other divers in the area,” said Alex Curry, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and four-year club member. “As a diver, it’s nice to meet people who enjoy the same activities as you do.”

While one of the club’s main goals is to make the certification process easy, one of the biggest challenges is convincing others that a scuba club can survive – and thrive – in an environment like Milwaukee.

“We do a lot of explaining at O-Fest, because people are always confused about scuba diving in Wisconsin,” Jonardi said. “They’re always like, ‘You have a scuba diving club? What do you do?’ And we have to say, ‘Yes, we are a scuba club. Yes, we do scuba dive,’ And then some people right off the bat are ready to go.”

Though the winters are often long and harsh in Milwaukee, the club still finds ways to make the most of diving in Lake Michigan.

“I’ve (dove in Lake Michigan) before off Discovery Cove,” Jonardi said. “It’s funny though, there are a lot of fish, but you don’t realize until they are less than a foot away from your face because the visibility is so poor.”

But the great lake isn’t the only local body of water for scuba diving. The club also ventures to smaller local lakes with purposefully sunk underwater environments to explore.

“There are a bunch of lakes here where they sink things in,” Jonardi said. “Like school buses and boats and stuff, so you can dive down and swim around in there. It’s really cool unless you’re claustrophobic and don’t like small dark spaces.”

The club also schedules trips to diving locales outside of Milwaukee, such as a trip to a flooded mine in Missouri a couple summers ago.

“You get to discover a whole new world underwater,” Desautelle said. “Literally a whole different ecosystem that many people only watch on TV. You get to live it instead of watch it.”