OPERATORS

DEAN SHULER

Capt Dean ShulerPresident, USCG 100 Ton Captain, PADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer, DAN Instructor

Dean is an accomplished United States Coast Guard-licensed 100 Ton Captain, PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Emergency First Responder Instructor, DAN O2 Provider Instructor, and TDI Instructor.

Dean generously serves the diving community as an deanactive Board Member of the Palm Beach County Diving Association. He was also appointed by the Governor to Florida’s Boating Advisory Council.

Dean is an avid Technical Diver, and holds a Full Cave certification under many agencies. He is Rebreather certified on multiple units, and currently favors his closed-circuit Megalodon 15 Rebreather.  Dean enjoys diving the caves and caverns of Florida and Mexico, but his favorite dive sites are Atlantis and Paul’s Reef, off of Palm Beach.

SHANA PHELAN

Shana PhelanOperator, Environmental Conservation Advisor, PADI Staff Instructor, DAN Instructor, EFR Instructor

Originally from Columbus, Indiana, Shana graduated from the College of Charleston in South Carolina with Marine Biology and Environmental Science Degrees. She moved to Florida to begin pursuing a career in diving, but returned briefly to the Carolinas to complete her Masters Degree in Coastal Environmental Management at Duke University.

Shana’s passion for protecting marine life extends far beyond diving. She served as a Marine Biologist and Researcher at the Loggerhead Marine Life Center, studying endangered and threatened sea turtles, including the elusive Leatherback. In 2002, Shana was interviewed by The Discovery Channel in regards to her research, and in 2005 she worked with WIDECAST to create a Sea Turtle Trauma Response Field Guide, which is now used throughout the Caribbean.sd

Aside from managing Pura Vida Divers’ daily operations, Shana is the Administrator of the Palm Beach County Diving Association.  As part of her efforts to promote marine conservation, Shana volunteers as a Team Member for the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative, and has served as an appointee to Palm Beach County’s Artificial Reef and Environmental Enhancement Committee since 2015.  

COURSE DIRECTORS

BARBARA DECLERQUE

BarbaraPADI Course Director, DAN Instructor Trainer, EFR Instructor Trainer, Former USCG 100 Ton Captain

Before becoming a PADI SCUBA Instructor, Barbara taught mathematics as a Professor at Fordham University in New York City. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from Fordham University, and a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from Columbia University.

Barbara began her professional diving career in Manhattan, New York, but decided early on to move south to enjoy warmer climates and endless diving opportunities. She traveled extensively and taught classes throughout the American and British Virgin Islands, eventually choosing South Florida as her “base of operations.”

Barbara holds the highest PADI dive professional certification as a Course Director. She relishes the opportunity to transform recreational divers into professional instructors for PADI, Diver Alert Network (DAN), and Emergency First Responder (EFR) programs. Barbara worked closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish Pura Vida Divers as a VA-approved Education Facility capable of offering our Veterans career opportunities in the SCUBA diving industry. Barbara guides Veterans and professional students through the PADI Pro certification process.

When not in the classroom teaching new Instructors, you will find Barbara underwater on her favorite dive sites, the Mizpah wreck or the Blue Heron Bridge.

FILL STATION

JUSTIN NEWTON

Fill Station Manager, PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, PADI Tec Deep Instructor, PADI Tec Sidemount Instructor, EFR Instructor, PADI Tec/Rec Gas Blender

Justin’s passion for SCUBA diving began in the Florida Keys, where he completed his Open Water Certification. Justin continued advancing his dive education back home in upstate New York, eventually earning a Divemaster certification and numerous specialties including Ice Diver and Search and Recovery Diver.

Justin also put his diving skills to use as a volunteer for several underwater search and recovery agencies in New York, training in the murky waters of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers. justinprofile

In 2016, Justin moved south to take full advantage of Florida’s beautiful diving. Shortly after arriving he pursed his passion for cave and technical deep diving, earning PADI Tec Trimix Diver and TDI Full Cave Diver certifications. He is currently pursuing his PADI Tec Trimix Instructor Rating.

When he isn’t behind-the-scenes coordinating Pura Vida Divers’ Fill Station, Justin can be found offshore enjoying his favorite sites the Ande and the Danny / Spud Barge, or diving the caves of North Florida.

INSTRUCTORS

ANDREA WHITAKER

Photo Pro, PADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer, EFR Instructor, Gas Blender, REEF Fish Counts Coordinator, PADI Reef Check Specialist

Andrea has been with Pura Vida Divers since 2012, and currently helps aspiring Photographers improve their skills as the PVD Photo Pro. 

Andrea was born in Iowa. She traveled to coastal North Carolina, where she graduated from UNC Charlotte with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, with concentrations in Ecology and Environmental Biology. She began her professional diving career in college, where she co-managed a dive center. After graduation, Andrea spent several years working in Washington State as a Wetland Biologist. She moved to South Florida in 2012 to pursue a Masters in Marine Biology, motivated in large part by the warm weather and ample diving offered here.26239880_10155923704976760_186201066210991977_n

Andrea continued her environmental pursuits in Florida. She served as a volunteer for the Florida International University on a project researching Bull Sharks, and collects Lionfish specimens for research.  Andrea also works as a Sea Turtle Nesting Surveyor, collecting data to track the nesting habits of several species of endangered Sea Turtles along Florida’s coast.  

Andrea was a pioneer of Pura Vida Divers’ Blackwater Diving, and a co-creator of our Blackwater Diving PADI Specialty course. When she isn’t teaching divers or guiding photographers, you will find Andrea at the Blue Heron Bridge, pursuing her love of Macro Photography, or offshore on her favorite dive sites, The Corridor and Juno Ledge.

TITO OLIVERAS

Tito OliverasPADI Staff Instructor, DAN Instructor, EFR Instructor

Tito relocated to Palm Beach from New Jersey in 2014 and joined Pura Vida Divers’ Instructional Staff.  Although Tito has a regular “day job,” you will find him teaching divers of all levels on the weekends.11169986_10153124840416760_5581014200772569712_n

Tito holds more than 30 PADI Specialty Instructor ratings. They stand as a testament to his commitment to continue his own diving education, in order to better instruct students. Tito is a patient and passionate Instructor, who educates students of every level, from Open Water all the way to Assistant Instructor.

When he is not in the water with students, Tito enjoys Technical Diving. He is a certified PADI Tec Rec Trimix diver, and is easy to spot underwater when diving Sidemount.  Tito is already planning the next step in his own comprehensive dive education and plans to don a Rebreather in the very near future.

MARC KAUFMAN

Marc KaufmanPADI Master Instructor, DAN Instructor, EFR Instructor

Marc Kaufman was born and raised in New York City.  He became fascinated with diving as a young boy, when he first watched The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.  In 1988, while earning his degree as an Optician, Marc achieved his PADI Open Water certification.

Marc’s repertoire began to grow as he explored the wrecks offshore of Long Island and New Jersey. Always a student, Marc yearned to further develop his knowledge and skill in technical diving. He challenged himself with learning the techniques of Deep Wreck Diving in the cold North Atlantic.  In 1992, after extensive preparation, Marc dove the infamous Andrea Doria shipwreck.

Pura Vida Divers offers him the opportunity to share his passion for diving as a PADI Staff Instructor teaching all levels of scuba diving. Marc recently shared his love of SCUBA diving with his son, Ian, through PADI’s Bubblemaker program. His favorite dive sites are the Blue Heron Bridge and Breakers Reef.

EMILIO MENDEZ

Emilio MendezPADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer, EFR Instructor

Emilio joined the Pura Vida Divers team after gaining extensive experience as an Instructor and Dive Guide throughout South Florida, North Carolina and his hometown of Xcalak, Mexico. He enjoys working closely with students of every level to help improve their SCUBA skills and comfort underwater. In 2011, Emilio was honored with the national level PADI Diver Acquisition Award at DEMA. Since he began teaching is 2010, Emilio has helped over 900 students begin their Open Water journey and advance their certifications._DSC7206

Emilio is an avid outdoorsman. He led trips as a Flyfishing Guide in the coastal lagoon ecosystem along the Mezoamerican Barrier Reef, and was an official member of a fishing cooperative in the Mexican Carribbean before he moved to the US.

If he is not underwater instructing students, you’ll find Emilio enjoying his days off beachside with his wife and young son. His favorite dive sites are Paul’s Reef, 4th Window, and of course the reefs of his former home in Xcalak.

CAPTAINS

ZACH NOLAN

Captain Zach NolanUSCG 200 Ton Captain, PADI Staff Instructor, Underwater Photographer

Zach has been a United States Coast Guard Captain for 15 years. He currently holds a 200 Ton Master Captain license. Bringing along his local knowledge, friendly demeanor and infectious laugh, Captain Zach is a welcome addition to the Pura Vida team of Instructors, and to the crew of the M/V Sirena.

He enjoys photography above and below the water. You will find his photos featured often on Pura Vida Divers’ Facebook page.

You can usually find Zach in and around the ocean in his free time, still trying to choose one of too many dive sites to list as his most favorite.

MARKETING

MELISSA JOHNSON

MelissaMarketing Coordinator, PADI Rescue Diver, PADI Tec/Rec Gas Blender, DAN O2 Provider, Emergency First Responder

Melissa grew up exploring the waterways of Jupiter, Florida under the guidance of her parents, both professional SCUBA divers. She earned her PADI Junior Open Water Diver certification at the age of 12, and began crewing on local dive boats as soon as she was able in her teens. Since then, Melissa has expanded her scuba diving adventures throughout the Florida Keys, Mexico, Thailand and the Bahamas.

She received her Bachelor’s Degree in English from FloridaIMG_7367 Atlantic University, with specializations in both American and British Literature. Melissa threaded her passion for environmental stewardship into the workplace, where she served as a Community Outreach Coordinator in the Environmental Education field and as the Marketing Coordinator for an eco-friendly, land-based Aquaculture venture, before diving back into the SCUBA industry.

You’ll find Melissa on the beach at sunrise, as she gathers data for Sea Turtle nesting surveys before heading to Pura Vida Divers to arrange another exciting event! She is an avid shark tooth collector, and has found them on many of her favorite sites including Midreef, the Mizpah, and Flower Garden.

STAFF

CAROL UPTERGROVE

Carol UptergroveReservations Specialist, PADI Rescue Diver

Carol moved from Colorado to Florida at the age of 10, and grew up surfing South Florida’s shoreline. She joined the Pura Vida team in 2015 to share her love for surfing, the ocean, and the Florida lifestyle with locals and visitors alike.

Carol Uptergrove 2In her free time, Carol enjoys surfing, hanging out at the beach, snorkeling, and pursuing her dive education. She is a competitive surfer, and recently spent 3 months catching waves and continuing her college education Costa Rica. She will graduate soon from Palm Beach State College with an Associate’s degree in Accounting.

At the shop, Carol is the pleasant voice at the end of the phone line and the smiling face behind the counter. When the surf is up, you’ll find her catching waves in front of Pump-House at the Palm Beach Inlet.

JULIE BLAIR

Julie BlairSales Associate, PADI Rescue Diver

Even as a baby, Julie loved being on the ocean. She would ride on the bow of her parent’s boat in a play pen, and she earned her “sea legs” with the very first steps she took. At age 4, Julie learned to surf Florida’s east coast waves, a passion she continues pursuing today.

Julie began working at Pura Vida Divers in 2017 as an Open Water Diver. She completed her first Boat dive during our 2017 Ladies Dive Day, and instantly fell in love with being a SCUBA mermaid. She quickly continued her underwater education to include Advanced, Nitrox and Rescue certifications under the tutelage of our talented Instructors.  Julie Surfing 1

Julie plans to pursue a professional Divemaster certification soon, and hopes to one day crew onboard the charter vessel Sirena. When she’s not the smiling face greeting you at the shop, you’ll find Julie diving local reefs in search of Lobster, or catching waves at the Pumphouse. She plans to travel to Colorado to see snow in the coming year, and one day surf the shores of Costa Rica…living the Pura Vida life!  

SOPHIA GUMBARDO

Sophia GumbardoPADI Divemaster, DAN O2 Provider, Emergency First Responder, Manatee Awareness Specialty Diver

Sophia grew up diving in the cold waters of Connecticut. She was certified as a Junior Open Water Diver at age 10, and pursued  her passion throughout her travels. Sophia graduated from Roger Williams University with a degree in Marine Biology in 2015. She spent much of the next year SCUBA diving and surfing throughout Australia.Sophia

Sophia completed her Divemaster certification in Fiji in 2016, and joined the Pura Vida Divers crew in late 2017.

Sophia’s love for the ocean extends to the multitude of marine animals living in its depths. She assisted with a Manatee conservation and tagging project in Belize, and volunteered at Mystic Aquarium in their Stranded Seal Clinic. She is a brand ambassador for Respect the Fin, and loves to spot her favorite animal, the Bull Shark, on local dive sites including Shark Canyon, Juno Ledge and Paul’s Reef.