Meet Dennis Jacobson
Dennis Jacobson is a PADI Divemaster and Discover Scuba Dive Leader, an accomplished trial lawyer, professor, writer, and author. Also known as Divemaster Dennis, he is extremely active in the scuba diving community, a regular contributor for ScubaDiverLife.com, and a voice of reason, sound advice and humor on ScubaBoard.com.
Dennis and his lovely wife, Debbie, have also authored the extremely popular books, Scuba Snobs’ Guide to Diving Etiquette and Scuba Snobs’ Guide to Diving Etiquette Book 2. What exactly is a Scuba Snob? You need to read his books and visit Scubasnobs.com to discover more.
Recently Divermaster Dennis has been diagnosed with late stage lung cancer, so he is not diving temporarily. The entire scuba diving community extends their support, thoughts and prayers to this amazing individual and his family as he begins his treatment.
Divemaster Dennis, how long have you been scuba diving?
I started scuba diving in 1997. My wife, Debbie, got me into it as a Christmas gift.
What is your current scuba certification?
In 2000 I received my initial professional credentials as a Divemaster. and I subsequently became what is called a Discover Scuba Dive Leader. So what I teach are snorkel classes and Scuba Refresher courses. I teach Discover Scuba Diving to students in the pool for people who have never been scuba diving but want to try it out.
In the Open Water I teach Discover Scuba Diving, taking people no deeper than 20 feet, no more than two at a time, which is what any instructor level does now too. During the summers I assist a lot with our Open Water weekend. My dive center is one of the most active in terms of numbers of certifications, and my primary job is to dive with the Advanced students. Sometimes I assist with new students, but I like to dive with the Advanced students more. Then I buddy up with one of the instructors so we do a lot of the rescue scenarios; I’m either an unconscious diver or just a really belligerent son-of-a-gun diver, and we have a lot of fun with those.
What is your most memorable dive?
My wife, Debbie, started diving in 2002 at the age of 50. It was such a wonderful thing. She got me into diving because we never took vacations, and we’ve been all over the planet, particularly since 2000, the first time I had sickness.
In July of 2002, Debbie’s very first dive after being certified was with me at the Columbia Wall in Cozumel, and we went down about 100 feet. It was memorable. It was my first dive with Debbie, and I’ve been on every dive Debbie has ever been on. (She has since been on hundreds of dives, and she is a great diver.) It was the middle of the day, it was just almost high noon in the middle of the summer. The sun was penetrating. The visibility was remarkable: it had to be 150 feet or better. The color of the ocean on days like that when you look away from the wall is an azure blue that cannot be described.
In fact, Debbie told me (later) at that moment on that dive, she thought, “This is going to be my deal too.” It was just a lovely dive. It was just four of us, and the divemaster. It was a moment when my life as a diver became complete because I had a live-in dive buddy. I’ve done some dives she has not done; I’ve gone on a couple of trips she hasn’t gone on because she doesn’t like the cold water. But that is by far my most memorable dive.
Where would you most like to dive (where you have not been yet)?
We have fantasized about the Red Sea, the visibility, the wildlife, and the health of the reefs. If I could only go one place we’ve never been, both Debbie and I would love to dive the Red Sea. If I get well enough, that may just have to be in the cards.
What is your favorite piece of dive gear or gadget?
I have so much dive gear and gadgets; it’s a vice with me. I’ve had my old gear from top to bottom since when I was in my first certification class.
I’m not a tech diver and don’t pretend to be, but of everything I’ve ever owned I have an AquaLung Legend regulator where you can adjust the flow, and I love it. Because I dive in water that is 50 degrees and 90 degrees, and I find that makes a big difference. I’ve learned how to use it right because I would get a little constant bleed and go through air too fast. But of all of the equipment I have ever owned, the AquaLung reg is my favorite, and I have a lot of stuff.
What is the latest dive gear you have purchased?
Interestingly enough, the last dive gear I purchased was a Sherwood regulator – a whole octo setup – for my nephew, who is named after me.
My best instructor buddy had a 12-year-old son – this was 1-1/2 years ago – and my nephew was 16 then, and we took off to Utah and certified my nephew and my instructor buddy’s son. We have, of course done a lot of diving here locally in cold water, crappy viz diving.
I just had to disappoint my nephew by canceling a dive trip due to my illness. Just he and I were going to go to the Keys in June to get him in the ocean for the first time. But the last gear I bought was a Wave BC for him and a Sherwood regulator and related peripherals, including the gear. His 18th birthday, my 60th, and his high school graduation all fell in a week, so it was for all those things together, but now we are not going to do the trip. Hopefully we can make it up to him.
What do you enjoy doing while not diving?
When I’m not diving, I enjoy writing about it, and I enjoy reading about other people’s experiences, especially when I’m in dry dock, like I am now.
My wife and I – we each have our own exercise regimen – but we love to walk together. There is an open space park in the western suburbs of Denver, the Golden area, with a pretty large lake, a mile and a quarter walk around the lake. We try, weather permitting, to walk each day. That’s our time together. It’s good exercise for 60-year-olds. We have coyotes and dogs and blue heron and muskrats and all kinds of wildlife there. The geese come in at night; they fly in several hundred and spend the night on the pond. There are foxes.
So when I’m not diving I like to write about diving and read about it, and go for walks with Debbie. During those walks, we generally plan our next trip. A lot of books were written while we were walking together. It’s a good time.
What is something that people may find surprising about you?
The first book I published was a book of poetry that had nothing to do with diving. The second book I published was related to my profession as a lawyer. It is a book about divorce. So I think what people might find surprising about me is that despite my wish to be nothing but a diver 24/7, I actually have to have a day job.
So tell us about what you do for a living.
My full-time work is as a trial lawyer. I have my own solo practice. I do civil, criminal and domestic trial work. Until a year ago, I was also a part-time professor at a local university where I taught law and ethics. I liked that but it became so computer oriented – and I’m not that way; I’m a classroom guy – so I don’t do that any more. My primary job is as an attorney.
I make a little bit of money as a divemaster, but the real reason I stay active as a divemaster is because being on the staff of my local shop, I get 20% off of all purchases, and I make a lot of purchases.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our dive community?
I think that ScubaDiverLife.com is a really fun website with tons of variety. You get everything from me telling you how to be polite on your first boat dive for recreational divers – that is the kind of thing I write about – or the time Debbie and I met up with a submarine. But you also get a lot of travel information and a lot of site reports. I’m big on that, and of course I’m a big ScubaBoard guy. I think this is such a wonderful resource for divers.
I want to mention one other resource to you. It is called Undercurrent.org. I love their paper Chapbook, and now it is online. They collect reviews from thousands of divers for hundreds of destinations every year. Also, their website and their newsletter are always very informative. They are not commercial. They don’t sell ads. They don’t have sponsors and such, so when they do reviews or articles on different locations, it is never sponsored by that location; somebody will go and write about it. I think those are great resources.
I’m very excited to have another one. I think when a person like you takes their individual interests and decides that they are going to be another online resource, there’s three million of us in America, there’s room for a whole lot more than we have.
Debbie and I have a column in the local newsletter of our local dive club, which is called Shark Bait. It has a Scuba Snob Etiquette Tip of the Month. It is always excerpted from one of our books, but we play with it a little bit more. It’s nice to be part of some resources.
I’m not famous like some people, but I hope that our books continue to sell. The first book still does well, and the second book is growing. We just haven’t had the energy and resources to promote the second book. The weird thing is (the books) do better in the Caribbean and Britain some days than here. They are sold internationally and they did very well, and we’re just really gratified. We have a lot of fun with them.
People ask: When will there be a third book? My answer is that if I get through this current struggle, I’ll find a reason to bring out a third book just so I can say thank you again to everyone who has been so supportive.