Jerry Youtsey may have been destined to open a dive center.
The son of a Navy diver, Youtsey grew up on the California coast and started diving when he was 12 years old. With more than 30 years of diving experience, he has a long list of diver credentials and technical dive certifications.
But a dive center located in Cedar Rapids?
“Yes, I moved to a landlocked state to open a dive shop,” said Youtsey, who relocated to Iowa 12 years ago.
In addition his work as a general construction contractor, Youtsey started teaching diving certification classes about five years ago. John Jolley was one of his students.
Youtsey’s enthusiasm for diving rubbed off on Jolley, a retired Marine.
“Jerry and I got along really well,” Jolley said of his instructor. “And since I needed a dive buddy, we went diving together.”
The men traveled to the Florida Keys and other destinations to dive wrecks and reefs, and Jolley began collecting his own credentials. They serve as public safety divers on the Johnson County Metro Dive Team.
Youtsey and Jolley opened Ocean Reef Scuba to share their love of diving with everyone and to make diving affordable for the general public.
The business is a full-service dive center offering scuba lessons for divers at all levels, from recreational to public safety divers. Courses range from a $50 “Try Scuba” course for people who want to experience scuba without become a certified diver to professional-level certification courses.
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Ocean Reef Scuba also offers scuba gear sales, rental and repair and dive trips to destinations like Florida and the Great Lakes.
Ocean Reef Scuba opened on Dec. 1, a time of year when few Iowans are thinking about diving.
“We figured we’d get busy in the spring and summer and wanted to get open before then to get the kinks worked out,” Youtsey said.
But the store did better than they expected during the winter months.
“There are a lot of divers in Iowa who travel to dive destinations for winter vacations,” Jolley said. “They still need equipment, and it’s hard to find this time of year in regular sporting goods stores.”
People also can complete the coursework and pool components of their certification back home during the Iowa winter. Ocean Reef Scuba provides referrals to dive centers around the world so divers can complete the required open water dive components while on vacation.