News: Retired Marine teaches scuba diving lessons
Story by Lance Cpl. Jerrick J. Griffin
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Underwater, there's a world that can be difficult to imagine full of fish and colorful plant life. To some people it's a dream to interact with that underwater world. But there's a man on base who can help make that dream a reality.
Retired Capt. Ray Simon, 53, from Ashtabula, Ohio, teaches scuba lessons to Marines, sailors and civilians at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Simon owns The Scuba Center located at the 14 area swimming pool and has been the owner since he opened it in 1993.
He began recreational diving overseas in 1974 while serving with the Marine Corps. He became a dive professional in 1986.
Once retired, he decided that owning a scuba shop was how he would spend his retirement. He had traveled the world and dove in numerous exotic places.
"I've been a lot of places diving, like Truk Lagoon in the South Pacific and ice diving in northern California," said Simon. "Everything is so beautiful [underwater]."
Simon is a Professional Association of Diving Instructors Course Director, Divers Alert Network Instructor Trainer, an Atlantis/Dolphin Rebreather Instructor Trainer, as well as a Tec-Deep Instructor Trainer. As one of only a dozen PADI Course Directors in the state of California, he has a reputation for extensive experience, vast dive knowledge, and strong, honest business practices.
"He is a great diver and instructor," said Omaira Moore, Customer Service representative for The Scuba Center. "Everything I know and learn I get from him and the stories he tells about his experiences," said Moore, 27, from Venezuela.
Before students hop off the boat and into the ocean, they have to start small. Simon starts his course in the swimming pool so that his pupils can get used to the scuba gear and get over their fears if they have any.
"I knew very little about dry suit use," said Emma A. Williams, 56, from Escondido, Calif., about the new equipment she was using. A dry suit prevents water from entering and is used for the cold water associated with scuba diving. "I relied on Ray's experience and help to find an appropriate suit for a beginner. I needed something that would not add extra buoyancy to complicate my underwater photography, especially since I was not used to diving with any weights at all."
Simon's course has many stages which include multiple hours of cold water instruction, technical diving and some salvage diving.
"Since I was unaccustomed to using the [dry suit], Ray had to catch me a few times before I learned the best position for fine tuning my buoyancy," Williams said.
"If you can imagine being weightless in an undersea adventure," Simon says to the students before they take their plunge into the depths of the pool, "you have taken the first step into scuba diving."