Meet The Team: Captain John LaFlair

Captain John started in the scuba diving industry at the age of 18 years old, quickly finding a love for scuba diving and making it a career.

John’s passion earned him Course Director status in several scuba agencies, including PADI. His desire to learn every facet in the industry didn’t stop at professional instruction.

Captain John is also a 100 ton commercial captain, certified gear technician for over 10 brands, and even has his Master’s.

There isn’t a part of the industry he hasn’t touched. Let’s dive into Capt. John’s life story.

Key Takeaways:
  • Captain John has been in the scuba industry for over 25 years
  • Originally from Long Island, NY
  • Became a PADI certified Open Water scuba diver at 16 years old
  • Barry University alumni
  • Master’s in business with a focus on Human Resources

Early Career

John’s journey into the scuba industry began when he became a certified PADI Open water diver, along with his father and sister at the age of 16 in Long Island, New York, a pivotal moment that set the trajectory of John’s life for years to come.

Earning his Open Water certification led him to apply and be accepted to Barry University in Miami Beach, just two years later. There, he pursued his Bachelor’s in sports management with an emphasis in the scuba industry and a minor in business.

While in college, John completed the PADI Advanced Open Water course all the way through to Divemaster through Barry University’s scuba program. Quickly after earning his PADI Divemaster certification, he started to work at several local dive shops in Miami.

It was at this time John began to get familiar with servicing equipment. Barry didn’t have a technician to repair and service their gear, so John stepped up and became certified as a Scuba Pro tech.

Barry University opened up an array of lasting relationships to John, allowing him to network and become familiar with big players in the scuba industry local to South Florida.

Before he graduated from Barry, John became a PADI Open Water instructor at the age of 20 - no small feat!

Upon completing his Bachelor’s degree, John stayed at Barry University to pursue a Master’s degree in business under the umbrella of Human Resources.

Throughout this time, John also continued his education with scuba diving.

John became a teacher’s assistant (TA) at the university, assisting with teaching the scuba program that is exclusively offered at Barry.

As a TA, John learned the rigors of being an instructor, gaining tremendous experience dealing with college students, although he was still a student himself in his Master’s program.

John’s love for the ocean led him to seek more opportunities to not only get involved with scuba, but to learn other aspects of the industry.

It was during his pursuit of his Master’s that he chose to obtain his captain’s license and become a commercial marine vessel operator. He emerged with a 50 ton captain’s license and quickly chose to obtain his 100 ton license, expanding his horizons further.

Advancing His Career

By the time John was 25 years old, he had earned a master’s degree, became a PADI instructor, a 100 ton licensed commercial captain, and the manager of a diving resort in Key Largo.

John managed the dive resort and worked part time on the business’ charter boat.

Coincidentally during this time, the Scuba Network corporation was looking to expand, buying out Sharkey’s in Key Largo and subsequently visiting the resort John had been working for. John was offered a position as an assistant manager for a new location that was opening up in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

He relocated from Miami to the Lighthouse Point area and got to work. In one short year, John was promoted to manager of the Deerfield location. Later on, the corporate office offered John a chance to buy into the franchise, meaning he would become owner of the shop he was managing.

With enthusiasm, John took the offer and became an owner, where he held this position for six years. The executives knew how valuable John’s experience was and within that time he was also promoted to district manager, operating the Deerfield location as well as the Fort Lauderdale store.

Unfortunately, the recession in 2008 came with a vengeance, threatening the scuba industry and causing the Deerfield store to go under. The Deerfield Beach location was sold back to the corporation and John looked for a new venture.

New Avenues

With his extensive experience, John started his job at Dixie Divers, splitting his time between working as a part-time captain and service repair technician.

Even though John had worked at many dive shops in South Florida, he felt particularly invested in Dixie Divers. He felt like the atmosphere was family oriented and he recognized most of the staff from years past.

John worked at Dixie Divers as a service repair technician for 2 years before deciding to take a job as a manager at Office Depot in Wellington.

At the time, John thought this was best for himself and his family and he continued to drive the Lady Go Diver boat part-time - he could never let go of the industry completely.

What’s John Up to Now?

After a 3 and a half year hiatus from Dixie Divers, John determined that making a living outside of the scuba diving industry was not for him. He longed for the days that were filled with boat maintenance, teaching classes, and tinkering with diving gear.

On a quest for personal fulfillment, John returned to Dixie Divers in 2017, once again feeling like he was home.

Since then, Captain John has been elevated to “Marine Manager”, otherwise known as Head Captain for the Lady Go Diver.

He is in charge of scheduling, picking out the dive spots, maintenance of the boat, and ensuring the vessel is safe in any and all conditions, complying with Coast Guard regulations.

Besides being the Marine Manager, John also spends his off-time from the boat doing service and repairs in the shop.

Ultimately, as John looks back on his decision to return to the industry and specifically Dixie Divers, he is extremely happy to live a full-time life on the water and surrounded by scuba gear at the shop.

If you want to see John in his natural habitat, you can find him in the captain’s chair or behind the bench here at Dixie Divers!

Leave a comment down below with your favorite Captain John story!

1 comment

Jeff Raffa

Jeff Raffa

John is a fantastic captain. We always feel safe when he is at the helm.

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