OPERATORS

Dean Shuler

President, USCG 100 Ton Captain, PADI MSDT, DAN Instructor, PADI Tec Deep Instructor, PADI Tec Sidemount Instructor, EFR Instructor, PADI Tec/Rec Gas Blender Instructor

Dean is an accomplished United States Coast Guard licensed Captain and technical diving Instructor.  He gained experience working throughout the dive industry before founding the original company, Pura Vida Adventures, in 2002.

He saw an opportunity to offer the Palm Beaches a unique dive operation that focused on customer service, safety, community and conservation.

Over the years, Dean custom built and grew our comprehensive Fill Station, one of the largest in Florida.  When he’s not behind the helm, he maintains the functionality of our vessels, compressors, and network systems. Dean is the driving force advancing the vision of Pura Vida Divers.

Dean is a leader for the local diving community through his role as an active Board Member of the Palm Beach County Diving Association.  He has served on Florida’s Boating Advisory Council since his appointment by the Governor in 2013. 

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

Operator, Environmental Conservation Advisor, PADI Staff Instructor, DAN Instructor, EFR Instructor

Shana holds degrees in both Marine Biology and Environmental Science from the College of Charleston in South Carolina.  She moved to Florida to pursue 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.

Shana is the Administrator of the Palm Beach County Diving Association.  As part of her efforts to promote marine conservation, Shana volunteers as the Diving Vice Chair for the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative, and served as an appointee to Palm Beach County’s Artificial Reef and Environmental Enhancement Committee. 

You will find Shana hard at work behind the scenes, orchestrating the administrative side of Pura Vida.  She is key to our business development, generating and maintaining ties to businesses, nonprofits and governmental agencies throughout the Palm Beaches.

Shana’s commitment to conservation is the motivation behind Pura Vida’s involvement in many environmental initiatives on local, state and federal levels.

RETAIL & FILL STATION MANAGER

Justin Newton

Retail Store & Fill Station Manager, PADI MSDT, PADI Tec Deep Instructor, PADI Tec Sidemount Instructor, EFR Instructor, PADI Tec/Rec Gas Blender Instructor

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, where he earned his PADI Divemaster certification and numerous specialties including Ice Diver and Search and Recovery Diver

Justin 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.

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.  During his time in South Florida, Justin earned his 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.

DIRECTOR OF TRAINING

Jillian Blakkan-Strauss

Director of Training, PADI Course Director, EFR Instructor Trainer, DAN DFA Pro Instructor, PADI Tec Sidemount and Tec 40 Diver 

Jillian began diving as a bucket list adventure with a Discover SCUBA Diving session in Hawaii, where she earned a Masters of Fine Arts in Theatre from the University of Hawaii in 2012.  Jillian laid the foundation for her future as a SCUBA instructor by teaching acting students in masterclasses, as well as at the university level.

After graduation, Jillian completed her Open Water SCUBA certification just steps from Times Square in New York.

It wasn’t until she returned to Hawaii years later as a vacationer that Jillian dove the tropical waters and realized what she had been missing!  With her passion for diving re-ignited, Jillian pursued her professional dive ratings throughout the Caribbean.  Jillian first joined Pura Vida Divers as a student.  Sparked by her interest in technical diving, she completed the PADI Sidemount and Tec Sidemount courses here before advancing her professional certifications.

Jillian’s enthusiasm for teaching is instantly conveyed through her quick smile and upbeat attitude. She is motivated by the philosophy that the more she learns, the greater the wealth of knowledge she has to pass on to her students and fellow divers.

When Jillian isn’t in the water teaching, you will find her returning to her shore diving roots and exploring the Blue Heron Bridge. She loves the diversity of wildlife found there, where no matter how many times you return to the site, each dive is exciting and different from the last.

MARKETING DIRECTOR

Melissa Johnson

Marketing Coordinator & Logistics, PADI Divemaster, DAN O2 Provider, Emergency First Responder, PADI Tec 45

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 age 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 Florida Atlantic University, with specializations in American and British Literature.  After joining the Pura Vida Divers’ team in 2016, Melissa continued pursuing her underwater education and earned her PADI Divemaster certification.

Inspired by the growing technical diving program at Pura Vida Divers, she completed the PADI Tec 40 and Tec 45 courses to begin exploring Palm Beach’s deep wrecks and reefs.

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.

COURSE DIRECTOR

Barbara DeClerque

PADI 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.

INSTRUCTORS

Emma Rigolo

Photo Pro, Reservations Specialist, PADI Staff Instructor

Growing up in an ocean-loving family inspired Emma’s passion for the sea. Her interest in marine life extended into her college education, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, with a concentration in Marine Biology, from Florida Atlantic University.  While working toward her degree, Emma also pursued her first professional dive certification.  She earned her PADI Divemaster rating through Pura Vida Divers’ professional program in 2018, and joined our team at the start of 2019.

Driven by the reward she felt when working with divers to improve their skills and knowledge, Emma earned her OWSI and later her MSDT ratings under the tutelage of Course Director Barbara.  

During her time at Pura Vida Divers, Emma distinguished herself as an accomplished photographer.  You will find her beautiful images frequently on display throughout our Instagram page.  Emma’s keen eye for finding and identifying marine creatures makes her an exceptional Instructor for our exclusive Blackwater Drift Diver and Blue Heron Bridge Diver specialty courses.  

Zach Nolan

PADI Staff Instructor, USCG 200 Ton Captain, Photo Pro

Zach has been a United States Coast Guard Captain for over 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.

Zach is an avid photographer above and below the water. 

You will see him frequently at Blue Heron Bridge searching underwater for exciting wildlife to photograph, or flying his drone topside to capture aerial images of our favorite shore diving site. 

Zach’s photos are featured frequently 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.

ASSISTANT RETAIL MANAGER

CARLY GOMEZ

Carly GomezAssistant Retail Manager, PADI Rescue Diver, PFI Freediver

A native South Floridian, Carly grew up snorkeling and freediving in the Florida Keys. She joined the Pura Vida Divers staff in 2017, and is generally the friendly voice on the other end of the phone sharing exciting news of the arrival of your special ordered items. Carly Gomez Underwater

Carly earned her Open Water SCUBA certification in 2016, and is a certified Performance Freediving International Freediver. She recently beat her personal best depth goal, and dove to 120 feet! Carly plans to continue challenging herself to set more personal freediving records. 

Currently, Carly is enrolled at Florida Atlantic University, where she plans to continue pursuing a Master’s Degree in Marketing. At any given time, you’ll find Carly out and about exploring Florida’s freshwater springs, and searching for new freediving spots. 

STAFF

JULIE BLAIR

Julie BlairPADI Assistant Instructor, Sales Associate, Marketing Associate

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 Blair Underwater

In 2018, Julie earned her PADI Divemaster rating and later her Assistant Instructor certification. Now she’s in pursuit of her next goal, obtaining a Captain’s license.

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!