BEMIDJI -- Always wanted to learn how to scuba dive? You don't have to go far, and on top of that you can go anytime of the year at The Dive Depot.

Owned and operated by Dan and Michelle Carlson, The Dive Depot is a unique business operating out of Bemidji with quite an interesting backstory.

In 1987 Dan Carlson joined the U.S. Navy and was later stationed in Hawaii at the Pearl Harbor U.S. Navy Submarine Fleet where he fell in love with diving. Carlson said he had the opportunity to dive in Guam during his time in the service.

After completing his service and leaving the Navy, he moved back to Minnesota and started working at a dive shop in Ely, where he met Michelle.

“I managed the dive store for four years while going to school at BSU,” Carlson said. "My wife was getting tired of moving twice a year and we had met quite a few divers in Bemidji, so we decided to give it a try and move.”

The couple moved to town in 2001, and by December had rented a location and opened up their own small diving shop. By 2005, they had purchased their own building to operate out of, which is located at 1615 Fern St. NW.

Dan Carlson dives in Swenson Lake. Submitted photo.
Dan Carlson dives in Swenson Lake. Submitted photo.

When asked how their business name came about, Carlson chuckled and said, “We had been bouncing names back and forth, but we always thought that they were too long,” Carlson said. “My wife and son came and picked me up from working at the middle school and I asked my son what should we name it and he said The Dive Depot, we looked at each other and it was done.”

Over their 19 years in business, Dan and Michelle -- along with their staff of dive masters and instructors -- have helped about 1,500 people become certified to scuba dive.

During the pandemic, like many other businesses, The Dive Depot was greatly affected. The business was totally closed down for a while and at one point they were unsure how the summer would pan out, as it is usually their busiest time of year.

“We canceled our normal North Shore (diving) trip since camping was still closed, so we had to rearrange how to do everything and bring in more cleaning,” Carlson said “We were not sure how the summer would go but once the 90-degree weather hit it was crazy busy.”

As a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) 5 Star Dive Center, Dive Depot specializes in scuba diving and snorkeling education, offering a variety of classes and certifications. They even offer classes for children.

Dan Carlson teaches a children's diving class. Submitted photo.
Dan Carlson teaches a children's diving class. Submitted photo.

“Working with kids and teaching them how to dive really builds their confidence. By taking on those challenges under water, such as taking their mask off underwater, putting it back on and clearing the water out of it,” Carlson said.

According to their website, their mission is to become the dive and snorkeling resource for the Bemidji area and northwest Minnesota, offering honesty, integrity and the best in scuba and snorkeling education, equipment, experiences and travel opportunities.

“The thing that makes us unique is our staff, they are so kind and patient, they make the classes fun and our students always have a good time going out diving,” Carlson said. “Also, being local to northern Minnesota we know the lakes and the best places for training.”

Carlson explained that while diving you get to see many things that one wouldn't normally, such as different kinds of fish and aquatic life that are on the bottom of lakes and rivers. Many people love the excitement of not knowing what they will find or see on their next dive, he said.

“For so many of us diving is an escape from this world, you get away from the schedules and meetings and things you need to get done, when you get under water it all disappears, and for some people it's so relaxing,” Carlson said.

For more information about The Dive Depot, visit their website www.thedivedepot.com.