What is D.D. Dive Shop doing at 1035 Waukegan Road, smack dab in the middle of downtown landlubbin’ Glenview?
The north end of a branch of the Chicago River trickles through town just 1 ½ blocks south, too shallow to scuba dive.
Isn’t Lake Michigan, 2 ½ miles east, too dark, murky and cold to scuba dive?
And didn’t the only weekly show, “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” airing late Saturday nights on ME-TV and featuring regular scuba-diving scenes, produce its last new program early in 1968?
Not a problem for D.D. Dive (standing for the “Dive! Dive! Dive!” command by sub commanders when they order the boat submerged) owner Ralph Naruszewicz. In his view, he’s open for business in just the right place.
“There are plenty of places to go diving around here,” Naruszewicz said. “But it sounds like a scuba shop in the middle of nowhere. “
A master instructor in scuba diving, Naruszewicz starts out the Diving 101 process in the shop with classes. He then takes students a couple of blocks west to the Palladium to get their scuba gear wet. The instruction is then completed at a quarry, originally dug out to provide rocks for construction of Interstate 57, near Kankakee.
Galapagos trip hyper-popular
After that, the budding scuba enthusiasts can take any number of expeditions D.D. Dive sponsors, ranging from Bonne Terre Mine, one hour south of St. Louis, through tropical locations all the way to the Galapagos Islands off South America’s Pacific coast — though you will have to wait a few years for the next available Galapagos trip. The July 2014 journey is already sold out, despite its $4,500 cost for just the boat part. Air fare is extra.
“Galapagos is the Mt. Everest of scuba divers,” said Naruszewicz. “There are hammerhead sharks and whale sharks.”
Detailing the world under water amid his full line of scuba equipment, including a full getup modeled by male and female mannequins, Naruszewicz said divers can get their fix close to home on Lake Michigan despite its stereotype of poor underwater visibility.
“Lake Michigan is a fantastic place for scuba,” he said. “People think the water’s murky. But there are days where visibility is 70 feet. On average visibility is 30 feet. We will charter a boat out to the shipwreck sites. A couple of wrecks were sunk (specifically) for scuba diving. It’s 10 miles east of Evanston.”
Naruszewicz said more than 3,000 lake shipwrecks are documented. Better samples are found closer to Milwaukee in metal ships that have been preserved better compared to disintegrating wooden vessels. But he can’t promise divers will find any of the sunken World War II-vintage training airplanes that crashed into the water after taking off from the old Glenview Naval Air Station.
‘Adventurous’ in a world needing exploring
Naruszewicz said the mentality of the scuba diver is “someone who’s adventurous and wants to explore the part of the world that hasn’t been well-explored. There’s more water in this world than land, and so much more to see under water.”
Between the lessons, diving trips and equipment sales, Morton Grove resident Naruszewicz has turned an avocation into a vocation. After being hooked on scuba diving on a trip to Mexico, he began frequenting D.D. Dive under its original owner, Jerry Zak, who began the store in 1995. Eventually he began teaching diving classes. In 2003, Zak sold the store to Naruszewicz.
In the near-decade since, he has certified more than 200 divers. Neophytes can equip themselves for between $900 and $1,000. To get fancy, they can spend up to $3,500.
Constant sellers are masks, snorkels and fins. A near-standard accessory now is a “dive computer,” which keeps track of the time spent in the water and whether the diver is surfacing too quickly.
The business has grown, “but is not recession-proof,” Naruszewicz said. “A bar is."
“There are definitely more divers. There are not as many TV (diving-depicting) shows, but there are more magazines and books (along with on-line sites).”