It is very importnat that when operating in near shore or kelp bed edges, to be extremely aware of divers, snorkelers or free divers. Some will be using divers down flags and some will not. You need to be very cautious when there are 'swimmers/divers' in the water..this is a good reminder and one that is quite valid.

Grand Haven engineer adds dive shop to business

Thu, Apr 3, 2008

Kurt Koella dives for a living, and the Robinson Township man has discovered many others who also enjoy diving Lake Michigan off the West Michigan shoreline.

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Koella is a partner with James Wilson, a professional engineer from Holland, in the Grand Haven-based Lakeshore Environmental Inc. Last fall, Koella started filling air tanks for other divers at the company's Grand Haven shop, 803 Verhoeks St. That led him to open a full-service scuba shop in a part of the Lakeshore Environmental building earlier this year.
"We are a good compliment to Lakeshore Environmental," Koella said of the scuba shop. "Grand Haven has a great dive community, the same with Muskegon, and there hasn't been a store (around here) for awhile. Grand Haven's had several stores, but the hardest thing to keep a store going is the overhead. We get treated so fair by Lakeshore Environmental that we have a greater probability of surviving."
Koella is a hydrogeologist — or a water geologist — who surveys underwater sites, consults and provides expert testimony. At Lakeshore Environmental, which opened for business in 1993, Koella used a corner of the shop to fill his scuba tanks with a high-pressure air compressor.
Lakeshore Scuba now has a line of dive suits, tanks, cold- and warm-water regulators, and accessories for sale. They also fill high-pressure air tanks for firefighters and industrial safety personnel.
Classes for beginners to advanced divers are arranged through Lakeshore Scuba. The classes are most often held at the Grand Haven High School Aquatic Center, which Koella said is an ideal training location because of the pool's large size and depth.
Scuba gear has come a long way in quality in recent years, Koella said.
"Compared to the stuff people used to dive on, and even myself, there's no comparison," he said. "It is way better and way safer."
Koella would like the new shop to also help promote diving as a family-friendly activity. He said his 15-year-old son, Nathan, "is an excellent diver" — and his younger son, Ross, 9, will soon join them.
"I think it's a great family sport, and a lot of times it's pushed more as a dangerous elitist sport where you have to be a highly trained professional," Koella said. "And that's not true, as long as you understand what you're doing."
As a diver, Koella has explored many of Michigan's inland lakes and rivers, as well as the waters of other states and countries.
In Michigan's lakes, Koella has explored numerous shipwrecks and has found several old cars, snowmobiles, boat motors and Christmas trees. He said he's found a lot of cell phones, boat anchors and sunglasses.
Koella has also found Lake Michigan off the Grand Haven shore to be a good place for diving. He said the lake here is pristine, with a gradual sandy-bottomed drop.
"North of here, Muskegon is very good," he said. "In Muskegon, we actually dive in the channel, because the river comes out and it's clear enough there. And there's a lot more shipwrecks from Muskegon to Whitehall to Pentwater."
While Koella believes diving itself isn't very dangerous, he said personal watercraft make exploring the inland lakes somewhat treacherous.
"Jet ski (operators) make me a little nervous because they don't know what a dive flag is," he explained. "And they go so fast, that if you pop up 20 feet from your flag you take a distinct chance of getting hit. So you look for the flag and you come up right at the flag, or you swim to the shore and come up, or you go on 'off' times."
Lakeshore Scuba is open Monday through Friday from 3-7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; otherwise, divers can call Koella at 638-3496 for an appointment.
"If someone calls my cell phone number, then I'll come down to the shop," he said.
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