Professor dives despite chilly climate

 

The sound of shallow breathing accompanied the images of 60-foot-deep water on the television screen as a homemade movie is projected.

Chip Perry, scuba diving instructor and co-owner of Waterfront Diving Center, is playing the video of his most recent dive at the Websterville Quarry near Barre.

Perry is one of the instructors for the UVM scuba class, PEAC 47, which teaches students the basics of scuba diving.

When Perry was a UVM student majoring in business, he said it took time for him to find his passion of scuba diving.

It started as his part-time job in college 13 years ago and he “got hooked on it,” Perry said.

“I like the comradery, the people, and being around the diving equipment,” Perry said.

Perry has traveled all over the world, from the Florida Keys and the Cayman Islands to Lake Champlain, to scuba dive. 

“There’s so much life underwater that most of the world doesn’t see,” Perry said. “There are tons of shipwrecks.”

When asked where his dream dive location would be he said the Maldives off of the coast of India.

“It’s an island nation … no more than two to three feet above sea level and the diving’s supposed to be phenomenal,” Perry said.

Another thing on this advanced diver’s bucket list: “Diving in a cave with great white sharks.”

After receiving his certification and traveling, he decided to come back to Vermont and teach.

“I missed Vermont, which is why I’ve come back,” he said. 

That is what brought him to where he is today: teaching scuba classes and helping run the Waterfront Diving Center on Pine Street in Burlington.

Perry said he loves seeing his student’s faces when they come up from their first dive.

“I had a group come up today and it was cold and dreary and they all came up with the biggest smiles on their faces and said it was awesome,” he said. 

Perry said the course is a basic level, 60 feet or shallow dive, and holds up to 48 students per class, but often isn’t full.

“I would like to see the UVM course grow to the point where it’s full each semester,” Perry said.  He also said he would like to see UVM offer more upper-level scuba courses.

Over the years, Perry’s students spread the word about his scuba class to their friends, he said.

“Honestly, meeting Chip has been the most rewarding part of having taken scuba at UVM,” former student Whitney Montgomery-Nassif said. “He helped me get a job with another diver in the area.”

When students pass the course and take the certification test, it is valid anywhere in the world and does not expire, Perry said.

Once you are certified, you are eligible to participate in any of the dive trips that the Waterfront Diving Center coordinates each winter, he said.

 Possible destinations include the Cayman Islands, Indonesia and Central America, he said. 

“I decided to take the scuba class because I have always wanted to know how to scuba dive,” junior Olivia Zeltner said. “I am also studying abroad in Madagascar next semester and hoped to do some diving there.”

When UVM dropped the physical education requirement for students, the class has still appeared popular thanks to word of mouth, Perry said.

“He makes the class so fun,” sophomore Morgan Nichols said.  “He also makes sure were comfortable in the water.”

“I think if anyone has had the inkling ‘should I take it?’ they should try it,” Perry said. “I’m happy to talk to anyone.”