Some of us at the shop grew up in places that were not so conducive to diving. Arguably some of the most landlocked places in the world. In fact, we’d say it was lucky we ended up as divers at all.
If you’ve only just been certified or were looking to begin, choosing dive destinations and organizing trips can be intimidating. If you don’t already have a buddy or someone to try it with, it can also be a bit lonely. Of course you will always be able to meet great friends wherever you end up, but sometimes it’s nice to have some help along the way. Whether it’s in your community or on your social media there are tons of places to meet up with other divers. One such group we have come to know and love are the Dive Rats of Tulsa.
The Dive Rats- self-named- formed back in 2001 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The original crew Mike, Gary, Brian, and John were just coworkers looking for people to dive with. Being based in Tulsa, there were dive schools, but it wasn’t exactly the destination they were looking for.
Brian is the quiet one, as an ex-water ski champion he had always loved the water. Diving was a natural thing for him to try and in college in 1993 he became certified Naui. He continued making trips when he could with his friends, trying to keep up his skill
John is described as the intellectual of the group, but still a hippy at heart. Certified way back in the 70’s. He is the OG
Gary is the dive boss, originally certified in the early 1980’s he has been certified in PADI, NAUI, and TDI. Reaching varying levels of certification from MSDT to full TEC and Cave diver. He’s also a real character.
Mike was the newest to the diving world, receiving his certification in 2000, but is the life of the party. He’s in charge of organizing trips for the group from hotels to flights, Mike always tries to optimize the fun.
At first it had been a bit of a boys club, boasting trips of up to 27 dudes. Honourable mention at this time goes to 5th member Jerry Wilson, the Party Boy Award Winner (That’s right, they have awards). Apparently he is good at two things; partying and photography. If you check them out on Facebook a lot of the pictures you see are Jerry’s work.
The group has now grown and evolved to include ladies and gentlemen of all ages. Though they called it ‘getting old’ they said they really enjoy having a mixture of people. Diver Tammy, met the group through work, at a time when she really needed to get away and the Rats welcomed her with open arms, she has been back twice since. No matter what kind of dynamic they have on each trip they continue to invite divers of all certification levels, and continue to encourage training and growth.
The Rats ensure each trip feels like a celebration. T-shirts, badges, hats, and awards are all part of the experience. It is important to them to include activities that make their members feel as though they are really involved in something special. With any group, nicknames are naturally a huge part of it.
J dub, Hickey, Paddle Foot, Bernie, Mclovin, Big Nasty, Spider Monkey, Bam-bam, Skippy, and Professor P Diddle- just to name a few. When I asked for some of the sources Mike responded,
“Sorry, I can’t tell you who is which, I’d have to kill you.”
The first couple of trips were in Cozumel/Playa Del Carmen but, they have now branched out all over. Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Belize, Nicaragua, Fiji, Roatan, and more. If they like a place, they will always return. It’s not just about the diving for them, its about getting to know the local culture. They like to make sure they have the beat on a place, where to stay, what to eat, what to do. Making them pretty nice friends to have when you are a little apprehensive about trip planning.
We asked how their group continues to grow and how they all knew each other. Most of the answers we received were, coworkers, through family, or through posters in their local dive shop. Mike’s answer is that anyone interested will receive an email invite. He tells you times, dates, and costs and all you do is RSVP.
They offer trips in spring and fall, usually saving fall for Roatan. It’s ‘slow season’ here during that time and they take advantage of quieter boats and hotels. Although, we are at our hottest weather wise, the water remains refreshing and the diving fantastic. The group came to Coconut Tree Divers around 6 years ago, preferring the speed of West End to West Bay and quickly made themselves at home. They like to stay close by and have chosen some modest accommodations as the majority of your time on Roatan is spent outside, or in the water.
Breakfast favourite for the Rats is definitely Fresh Bakery. Owner Lisa, delivers fresh baked goods, bagels and sandwiches everyday but Sunday right to Coconut Tree Divers. Coffee is available at the shop every morning starting early, making it a simple way to start the day. Lunch favourites will be determined by whether they need a quick lunch before the third dive, or a nice sit down if done for the day. Choices such as Keith’s BBQ, Bean Crazy and Dos Hermanas next door become the staples. For dinner they have three main recommendations Pazzos, Rotisserie Chicken and C-Level Pizza. Pazzos for homemade Italian deliciousness, Rotisserie for home cooked sides and desserts and C-Level for build your own pizzas.
Joining clubs and being part of teams are things that we encourage children and youth to do but as adults for some reason we hesitate. Having a community that we belong to is important at any age. If you can find one that fits you, it’s easy to feel encouraged, supported, and part of something bigger. But, I do warn you, if you run with the Rats you better be able to handle a little teasing. Their primary languages being sarcasm and lampoonery.
If you are interested in joining you can always contact the Rats through their facebook page. Being from Tulsa is not a requirement, the crew is now located all over the U.S. meeting up when they can. As always, you can contact us for more information about diving and Roatan in general at [email protected]
A cutie little video of the Garden Eels at El Agila