Scuba divers never dive alone. A diving buddy is needed to make sure the diver is able to get out of the water quickly and safely, if the unexpected happens. Robbie Bogan, owner of Upstate Scuba in Clemson, says that same general rule also applies to running a successful business.
Robbie’s buddy? The Leisure Skills program managed by Clemson’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department, which helped him build and grow Upstate Scuba, a local scuba diving business that trains divers in more than nine counties throughout South Carolina and parts of Georgia.
Robbie, who’s been teaching a scuba diving course for the program since 2004, has always had a passion for diving and rescue.
“I started diving as a child, and worked as a firefighter for several years,” he says. “one of the areas I always wanted to explore was rescue diving – applying my scuba experience to underwater rescue and training others to do it too.”
On a trip to Clemson in 2004 and after discussions with people in the community, he realized the area had everything he needed to start a scuba diving business. There were no existing options to learn how to scuba dive in the region, giving him an untapped market.
Most importantly, says Clemson’s Leisure Skills program Director and Senior Lecturer Dan Anderson, a local scuba diving training option didn’t exist for Clemson University students who may need certification to build their careers, such as for some jobs in marine biology.
“When we spoke with Robbie, we saw an opportunity to help our students earn a certification that was otherwise locally unavailable,” he continued. “Scuba diving is a perfect fit for our Leisure Skills program, which helps Clemson students learn new skills, get more involved on campus and broaden their network opportunities.”
Students take leisure skills program for a number of reasons, including introducing themselves to new activities, and potential new hobbies or career options. More than 150 one-credit learning options were offered last spring in subjects such as dance, shotgun sports, yoga, fitness, outdoor recreation, sports and first aid. Class sections are taught by experts in the field, like Robbie.
The Leisure Skills scuba diving course teaches basic open water diving techniques and helps students gain the knowledge they need to meet requirements of an open water diving certification. Students take four classes to learn the basics of open water diving and practice what they’ve learned in three pool sessions.
At the end of the course, students are required to pass a swim test for certification by an internationally recognized and accepted certifying agency. The test requires them to complete three dives one day and two the next. When they pass the swim test, students earn one credit towards their undergraduate degree at Clemson University, while also gaining an international certification that they can use to dive anywhere in the world.
Students can maintain that certification for life, says Robbie.
“All they need to do to maintain their certification is to keep a log of their dives,” he says. “If they complete and record two dives per year, they keep their certification. If they don’t complete their dives, they have the option of taking a half-day update class to get them back up to speed and get re-certified.”
Robbie says that after starting to work with Leisure Skills to train Clemson students, he’s never looked back. His business continues to grow, having certified more than 3,000 students over the past 15 years, and is able to offer rescue diving training to first responders.
He credits his success to Clemson University.
“We’re now making a huge impact in the region by building underwater rescue capacity, but if it weren’t for the university’s leisure skills program, we wouldn’t be doing this,” he says. “The impact of the Leisure Skills program on my small business and so many others has impacted the Clemson community in ways that they may not even realize. We’re very fortunate and appreciative.”
He also says that the program helps people in more fields than you would originally expect.
“We’re seeing scuba diving being used in a number of different professions, such as for engineers doing underwater bridge inspectors, or even astronauts, as being underwater can mimic the experience of being in space,” he says. “Some of our former students have even become rescue divers themselves. Even if they don’t ever need to actually rescue anyone, the peace of mind knowing they’re ready to help is huge.”
Clemson’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department employs experts in leisure studies and outdoor recreation. Learn more about its Leisure Skills program.