Tom and Liana Carpenter, founders of The Beach Diver, Beach Diver Inc, South Florida Beach Divers, and Christian Scuba Divers of South Florida. This photo is from Liana's final open water certification dive - a beach dive, of course - at the Erojacks off Dania Beach, FL.
Tom’s interest in diving began as many in his time – by watching the adventures of Mike Nelson on Sea Hunt episodes and Jacques Cousteau Undersea World specials. He got hooked by an introductory lesson in 1965 and spent his teenage years exploring the Atlantic surf and the Chesapeake Bay in his native state of Maryland. In 1973, Tom took his mask and fins into the U.S. Navy with him, where they trained and equipped him for combat search and rescue – not exactly recreational diving but he got paid to jump into salty water. In his off hours, he dove beneath the waves off Spain, Italy, France, Greece, North Africa, Scotland, and much of the Caribbean. After sea duty, Tom continued diving but only occasionally as vacations and locations allowed.
After moving to Southeast Florida in 2008, Tom was eager to dust off his scuba gear and begin diving again on a regular basis. He found dive charters were plentiful but expensive and their schedules seldom matched his demanding job as a professional educator. Dive shops offered instructors and dive masters for guided tours but that was also beyond his budget and he learned few of them knew any dive sites other than those visited by the boats. It seemed no one knew much of anything about shore diving.
Not to be deterred, Tom strapped on his gear and waded into the surf off Hollywood Beach. He discovered a world of marvels just beyond the sandbar, including near shore reefs, rock piles, and abandoned structures serving as artificial habitat. He began logging and mapping those sites for future visits. While researching near shore topography and history, Tom learned about Dr. Ray McAllister, a pioneer in ocean research and a local authority on beach diving. Dr. Mac’s insight led Tom to additional dive sites from Fort Lauderdale up through Deerfield Beach.
In 2009, Tom attended one of the final meetings of an old scuba club, whose veteran divers had been combing the reefs off Southeast Florida since the 1950’s. One of the divers, along with his brother, had discovered the remains of a Spanish ship just offshore – a site now designated as an archeological heritage. Tom figured those pioneers had probably forgotten more about beach diving sites than he already knew, so he asked for advice. Not only did they begin listing sites and locations but one of the septuagenarians grabbed his kayak and paddled out to give the newcomer a tour.
Looking for other divers to share these explorations, Tom made inquiries at dive shops and online scuba sites. He found a few intrepid divers who, like him, had an appetite for scuba that exceeded their budget for boats. Beach diving was the answer they all sought. Soon, Tom was joined by Dan, Steven, and Kim. Together, they launched from the beach to prove the information gained from Dr. Mac, the old veterans, and Tom’s earlier research.
Almost every time the small band of divers shuffled through the sand in their gear, they attracted bystanders armed with questions and cameras. They also attracted the attention of other divers who, like themselves, were looking for an economical, convenient, and interesting way to dive more often. The group increased in size rapidly as word spread. Beach diving was catching on up and down the coast.
About this time, Liana decided it was time to get certified and join the fun. After her first plunge with mask and fins, she felt she had been baptized into a new world – one filled with beauty, mystery, and adventure. She completed her certification on a beach dive, of course, and began building her skills and experience with countless surf entries. Now, as a divemaster herself, she specializes in assisting new divers and those new to beach diving. She emphasizes the preparation, planning, and careful entry that are basic techniques divers learn for safe and successful near shore scuba.
Tom and Liana have established three scuba clubs and two businesses dedicated to beach diving. Hundreds of divers have come to appreciate their patience, knowledge, and warm, friendly manner; thousands follow their messages, videos, tutorials, and posts on social media. Their organizations promote safety and competence among the diving community with a strong message of marine conservation and responsible stewardship of precious maritime resources.
Beach diving is growing fast in popularity among those who want to take their time exploring the wonders of reefs, wrecks, and other near shore resources. The Beach Diver is dedicated to promoting safe shore diving as a way of increasing diving opportunities for those seeking to increase their experience, as well as for those veterans who appreciate the convenience, economy, and diversity.