Meet James Lapenta from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Diver, Instructor, Author and owner of UDM Aquatic Services and today’s featured diver.
Full Name: James A Lapenta
Live In: Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
Working For: Owner UDM Aquatic Services www.udmaquatics.com / and my day job as a waterjet operator in a metal fabrication company
Diver Qualifications: SEI Instructor # 204, SDI/TDI Instructor # 16810, CMAS 2 Star Instructor # USAF0012000204
When and where did you start diving?
June 2004 in Southwest Pennsylvania
Why did you start diving?
Mike Nelson and Jacques Cousteau were childhood heroes. Finally found myself in a position where I could attempt to emulate them.
What made you choose to become a dive professional?
I have always enjoyed passing my passions on to others. Teaching SCUBA seemed to come naturally. For the first time in my life I was able to do something that made a meaningful difference in people lives.
Which is your favourite dive site and why?
The St James in Lake Erie so far. The shipwreck that is so well preserved. I have always been a history buff. Being able to swim on and thru it 150 feet down is my idea of heaven.
What has been the most memorable dive of your life and why?
In all actuality it was a simple dive in a quarry. A student who had not dived in a long time showed up and decided to join us. She had not been in the water in over a year. So I insisted she buddy up with me. Within 5 minutes she was horizontal, neutral, and moving as if she had been diving regularly the whole time. When I commented on it her response was “it’s because I had the best instructor to teach me the basics in my 8 week OW class”. That was my most memorable dive. When you see your efforts pay off in someone else.
If you would come back as a marine life form in your next life, what would that be?
It would have to be a Megalodon Shark. It would enable me to even the score perhaps with those who have no respect for sharks. Take a fin, I eat your boat. :=) And maybe a little payback for other marine life in Taiji Cove.
Who is your dream dive buddy?
On recreational dives my girlfriend. I trust her and she trusts me. As far as other diving in general among the living I have already dived with him. Steve Lewis. My sidemount instructor and good friend. Deceased it would be Lloyd Bridges
What dive locations are on your dream “bucket list” and why?
Truk, Scapa Flow, Empress of Ireland, Bikini Atoll, Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan. Wrecks what else?!
What is on your bedside table right now?
Along with my .44 cap and ball revolver is a copy of Mark Powell’s Deco for Divers
What is your favourite piece of diving equipment and why?
My Sidemount rig. It has opened up a new world of possibilities for me. And my students who may no longer be ok with lugging back mount tanks around. I have one couple in their mid 60’s who may be able to dive another ten years if they can just clip on a tank to a harness in the water and go.
If you were to launch a campaign to raise awareness on a specific issue that affects divers, the oceans or marine life, what issue would you target and why?
The benefits of local diving. I have an entire chapter in my book devoted to it. We are losing untold numbers of divers every year due to economics, travel restrictions, poor training geared towards vacation only divers, and a lack of emphasis on the benefits local diving has. Not only for the diver themselves but to local economies, the local environment, and the industry as a whole. Local divers buy gear, rent tanks, support shops and instructors, and tend to be more skilled. Vacation divers may buy gear once, if at all. Local divers are an ongoing concern who buy multiple times. As they increase in skill and knowledge they need more items and training. They along with the independent instructor who pushes local diving are the backbone of the industry. Too bad much of the industry, and DEMA especially, don’t seem to see that. Local divers also tend to be more conservation minded. They have to be in order to have access to many sites.
Where will you be in 10 years and what will you be doing?
Hopefully getting ready to retire from my day job to teach scuba on some tropical island with lots of wrecks a short boat ride away.