Nautical Adventures Scuba offers Lake Tenkiller training
Younger divers receive scuba instruction at Nautical Adventures Scuba near Cookson. In the onsite training pool, scuba instructor Josh Fowler offers advice to Tenkiller School students Noah Goad, 13, and Abby Goad, 10. D. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
COOKSON – If someone wants to learn to scuba dive, there’s no need to travel to Hawaii to pick up the skills. Several levels of scuba training are available at Nautical Adventures Scuba, located at 32320 Highway 82 on Lake Tenkiller.
Nautical Adventures Scuba offers open water entry courses and instructor or dive master programs, and is used for training by regional public safety dive teams.
“From a recreational standpoint, the majority of our customers come from as far away as Oklahoma City and Tulsa,” Cherokee Nation citizen Tim Knight, owner and instructor, said. “They come from south Kansas, north Texas, western Arkansas. Some of our dive teams have come from as far away as Lubbock, Texas.”
Trainees can get their feet wet in the controlled environment of an onsite pool. A three-day basic entry open water certification is held Friday through Sunday with classroom and pool instruction, and by the end of the second day, students will have typically taken two of four dives in Lake Tenkiller.
“I personally teach for four different agencies, all recognized worldwide,” Knight said. “All my instructors teach for at least one, if not two or more. It’s a pretty good challenge to get up to instructor level. We work with a lot of church groups, Boy Scouts, people from all over. People being landlocked in Oklahoma don’t really think about scuba diving, and what we have to offer. We have these groups come through and offer them something a little bit different than what they are used to seeing or reading about.”
Nautical Adventures Scuba can fully equip divers with rental equipment and provide air fills – allowing occasional divers to skip the expense of full purchases. The business, in its 24th year, added a second location at Tenkiller State Park in 2017. Visitors can book cabins, which Knight said Cookson Refuge hunters often rent in the fall.
“Tenkiller is the largest dive destination in a three-state area,” he said. “Other dive shops will come here to do their certification dives. We don’t have hard numbers, but we believe there are anywhere from 8,000 to 12,000 divers who come to the lake. The main draw is the clarity and visibility. On the south end, we average in the summer 12 to 20 feet of visibility – almost double that in the late spring and early fall.”
Knight said diving adds to the area’s tourism draw and that Tenkiller hides some interesting remnants of the 225 homesites that were covered when the lake was built in 1953.
“There is a lot of history down there,” he said. “Before statehood, this area was pretty well developed. The homesites were moved, torn down or burned, but a couple of bridges are still standing. Most of the people who lived here were farmers, and it is around barns and outbuildings stood that you find things. We find horseshoes, blow points, antique bottles.”
The basic open water certification is $350, which includes all certification fees and an online training program. Other courses are specialty instruction with mixed gases, advanced open water, rescue diving, search and recovery and even spearfishing of catfish and non-game fish.
Knight said physical limitations need not keep a person from diving.
“Of course, you need to be able to swim, but you really just need to be comfortable in the water,” he said. “The basic open water course is designed to teach you what to expect when diving and how to handle emergencies. This is what we have in our own back yard. They can get certified right here.”
Recreational scuba training does not exceed depths of 130 feet. On Lake Tenkiller, training is typically between 40 to 60 feet.
“We have three instructors full-time through the summer, and we have others who work for us on the weekends. We certify about 150 to 170 each year in all aspects of diving,” Knight said.
Josh Fowler has been diving since age 13, and received his advanced training from Knight. He taught scuba diving in Florida, but returned to Nautical Adventures Scuba while furthering his education.
“I learn as much from my students as they learn from me,” Fowler said. “It is really mesmerizing to be underwater for long periods of time to see fish in their natural habitat, teach the sport I learned at a young age and get kids and adults into the sport of scuba diving.”
Call 918-457-3483 or visit nauticaladventuresscuba.com
for more information.