The following article is a paid collaboration with Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.
Landlocked states don’t have a reputation for diving. But one local wasn’t going to let that stop her from chasing her passion.
“My dad got me started in diving,” Melody Metz said. “He used to work in the coal mines and overheard one of the bosses saying that he was going to get his instructor’s license for being a diver. We’ve always been very active. We used to do rock climbing a lot and things like that, so we had always been into outdoor sports. He called me and said, ‘well, you want to learn to scuba dive?’ I had never really thought about it before, but I said yes, and it all started from there.”
Diving quickly became a pastime the entire family could enjoy. Melody earned her certification the same time as her brother and her father, Charlie.
“When we first started, we did a lot of local diving,” Melody said. “Then we went to Florida. My dad has been to Roatan and Hawaii, but most of our diving is right here in West Virginia.”
Even Melody’s own children joined in. Two of her daughters are certified and a third, who just turned 10 years old, is now old enough, too.
“I love for my daughters to be involved. That gives us something that not a lot of people do. It’s kind of our little thing.”
Her love for the sport grew so strong, Melody decided to start her own business. My Dive Shop opened in the Morgantown suburb of Westover in March 2014. This shop gained a following while also fulfilling a life-long dream of Charlie’s.
“In the 1970s, there was a dive shop here, so dad always wanted to do it,” Melody said. “However, me and my sister were born, and life got in the way.” Now, with Charlie as an instructor and Melody’s partner, Daniel Langdon, assisting in day-to-day operations, the business really is a family affair.
My Dive Shop has classes from Open Water for beginners, all the way through Divemaster courses. You can learn dry suit diving, full face diving, public safety diving and advanced rescue with a variety of specialties. The shop also has classes in Emergency First Response CPR and First Aid.
My Dive Shop is also a full-service Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) shop, meaning everything you might need for diving is available locally.
“We have all of the equipment, we rent the equipment, we can fill your air tank, we can visually inspect your air tank. Anything that you would need for diving and to take care of it, we can do that here.”
One of the most popular options is the Try Scuba.
“We gear you up, tell you a little bit about the equipment and put you in the water,” Melody said. If you’re hooked after that first experience, you can put the $30 you invested in Try Scuba towards an Open Water course.
My Dive Shop is also the place to go if you are looking for a more tropical dive experience.
“We plan about four trips annually. This past year, 26 of us went to Cozumel in March.” Besides Cozumel in Mexico, trips have been to places like Roatan off of Honduras, Blue Heron Bridge near West Palm Beach, Florida, and Turks & Caicos.
If you already have experience with ocean diving, you will immediately describe the difference between the ocean and West Virginia in one word: visibility. More like lack of visibility. Melody, however, sees that as an advantage.
“I think that learning to dive here makes you a better diver,” Melody said. “You are used to low visibility, so when you go to the ocean you are like, ‘Oh, my God, I can see.’ ”
Another advantage of learning to dive in the Mountain State is something called a thermocline. Thermoclines are steep temperature gradients, meaning the surface area is warm, but water cools the deeper you dive— sometimes changing 20-30 degrees within 1-3 feet!
“Generally, in the ocean you don’t have thermoclines,” Melody said. “I’ve seen it once, and actually one of the guys that was in my group kind of wigged out because he didn’t know what was going on. He ended up going up to the surface and I was just thinking, ‘Oh, it’s a thermocline. It’s not a huge deal.’ ”
Novice divers also learn the importance of avoiding the bottom.
“In the ocean, you don’t want to touch anything,” Melody said. “They have fire coral and fire worms and scorpion fish and things that can really injure you. We have very few fish that you can get close enough to even see, whereas the ocean, they are so used to divers I have had them bump me before. It’s a huge difference.”
Learning the basics while discovering the waters of West Virginia sets divers up for success anywhere. It’s why Melody and her family thrive sharing their newfound love with others.
“It’s a huge passion for me. I just think that it’s amazing.”
Discover more scuba diving in West Virginia.
Originally written for West Virginia .