418 Dive Training Center opened on Sept. 5 in Phoebus. (WYDaily/ Julia Marsigliano) HAMPTON — Those interested in learning how to scuba dive may be in luck — 418 Dive Training Center recently opened its doors in Phoebus. “We’re here and we’re here to stay,” said David Sowers, dive shop owner and Army veteran. In his shop,
HAMPTON — Those interested in learning how to scuba dive may be in luck — 418 Dive Training Center recently opened its doors in Phoebus.
“We’re here and we’re here to stay,” said David Sowers, dive shop owner and Army veteran.
In his shop, the walls are decorated with diving gear from one-piece swimsuits and rental equipment to shop apparel like t-shirts and sweatshirts.
And in the left-hand corner of the store, a Warrior’s Memorial for fallen soldiers, a nod to Sowers’ friends and all those who have served.
Sowers said his love of diving began when he was 14 after his uncle introduced him to the lifestyle. But after he joined the Army, he stopped diving only to pick it up at Eastern Carolina State University many years later.
After college, he worked at Victory Life Church in Hampton and would spend his weekends diving. His friends kept asking them for diving lessons and how to become certified, so he left the church and pursued his own business.
“We literally started this business with nothing,” Sowers said, noting he did not even have equipment.
A dozen of his friends wanted to get certified to dive so they surprised Sowers by buying their own equipment and donating it to him.
“All of them got together and donated the money,” he said.
He worked out of the church garage for a while before moving to Patrick Henry Mall in Newport News to his own shop in Phoebus.
“I love it,” Sowers said of diving. “I mean my superpower is breathing underwater.”
He said he gets to see things other people don’t like exploring shipwrecks and hanging out with sharks. Sowers even uses his underwater camera to capture his experiences and dive expeditions.
He, along with other instructors, have open water classes and his favorite part is seeing a student stick their head under water for the first time.
“The look on their face –– it’s amazing and [they] realize they’re breathing underwater,” he said.
Classes are taught over the course of several days and cost $495 which includes equipment rental.
The dive center has water training portions of the class at the Fort Monroe Community Center, the Hampton Aquatics Center, the Wythe Pool and the Northampton Pool.
Those who get certified have the opportunity to sign up for trips.
Sowers said each year the center will have 12 trips such as to Key Largo, Florida and the Bahamas, shark expeditions in Morehead City, North Carolina and Truk Lagoon in Micronesia, where an entire Japanese fleet in WWII sunk.
Other future plans include having Hero’s Dive each year in Key Largo to benefit the Nine Line Foundation, a nonprofit that takes care of veterans. Sowers also wants to set up a veterans village in Hampton similar to one in Georgia by the Nine Line Foundation.
he also wants to buy another dive shop in Key Largo.
So why call it 418 Dive Training Center?
“I get that question a lot,” Sowers said. “It’s the date I got certified as an instructor –– the first time.”
The business, 418 Dive Training Center, 11 E Mellen St., is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Class times are flexible and are by appointment.
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