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.


Justin Newton

Retail & Fill Station Manager, PADI MSDT, PADI Tec Trimix 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 pursued his passion for cave and technical deep diving.  During his time in South Florida, Justin earned his PADI Tec Trimix Instructor and TDI Full Cave Diver certifications.  

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


Melissa Johnson

Marketing, Travel & Logistics, PADI Divemaster, DAN O2 Provider, Emergency First Responder, PADI Tec 50

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.


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.

Dave Wilemon

PADI Course Director, EFR Instructor Trainer, PADI Tec Trimix Diver, DiveRite CHOPTIMA Diver

Dave Wilemon traveled the world over the course of a distinguished career in the U.S. Marine Corps. He has explored underwater from the seascapes of Okinawa, Japan to the kelp forests of California. Dave has been diving with manta rays in Hawaii, and hunted for fossilized Megalodon teeth off the rugged coast of North Carolina.

Dave Wilemon holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Northeastern State University in his home state of Oklahoma.

Constantly seeking excellence, he tackled new challenges earning recreational and then professional and technical diver certifications. Dave is currently in pursuit of his PADI Tec Deep Instructor and Closed Circuit Rebreather Instructor certifications.

As of 2021, he is certified to dive the Hollis PRISM2 and the DiveRite Chest Mounted OPTIMA rebreathers.

As a PADI Course Director and military veteran, Dave shares his vast experience by mentoring Pura Vida Divers’ professional candidates. His passion for instruction is fueled by working closely with students in pursuit of their Divemaster and Open Water SCUBA Instructor ratings.  

Dave Wilemon’s favorite site to explore offshore is the Ana Cecilia, where you are likely to encounter a massive Goliath Grouper lurking on the wreck.

Jillian Blakkan-Strauss

PADI Course Director, DAN Instructor Trainer, EFR Instructor Trainer, 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.



PADI MSDT, EFR Instructor, PADI Tec 50

Dave Parker’s passion for the ocean was inspired by a summer visit to Hawaii with his grandparents as a child.  During a 21 year career in the Air Force, Dave snorkeled in locations all over the globe.  

After retiring from the Air Force as a Master Sergeant, Dave spent 10 years honing his teaching skills as an Instructor for a defense contractor.  

Dave’s professional diving career began in Costa Rica in 2017, where he and his family earned their PADI Open Water Diver certifications.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Adult Education from Bellevue University, which ties in well with this “third career” as a SCUBA Instructor.  

Now, Dave is a Master SCUBA Diver Trainer here at Pura Vida Divers.  As an MSDT, Dave is able to share his love for the underwater world with students by teaching a variety of PADI specialty courses.  

When he isn’t instructing, you will find Dave welcoming you aboard a charter, or advancing his technical diving skills in pursuit of his PADI Tec 50 certification.  Dave’s favorite dive site is Juno Ledge, a deeper site with a 10’-15’ ledge where you never know what new and amazing animal you will encounter.


PADI IDC Staff Instructor, DAN DFA Pro Instructor, EFR Instructor

Dave kicked off his SCUBA diving career here at Pura Vida Divers.  After retiring from a two decade long career in the U.S. Army, Dave Perkins enrolled in our Fast Track program and worked his way up from Open Water Diver to Divemaster under the guidance of our pros. 

He joined the PVD team in 2021, and soon after, Dave’s passion for diving and ambitious nature led him to take the next step in his professional development.

As a veteran, Dave put his GI Bill benefits to use for a second time and earned his Open Water SCUBA Instructor certification.  As Dave tutored new divers to develop their skills, he also continued advancing his own diving knowledge and abilities.  

In December of 2021, Dave Perkins completed the comprehensive Resort Operations course.  He gained experience in Fill Station operations, earned multiple PADI and DAN specialty Instructor ratings, and explored behind the scenes of a successful dive operation.


PADI MSDT, EFR Instructor, PADI Tec/Rec Gas Blender Instructor

As a SCUBA Instructor originally based out of land-locked Colorado, Susie traveled extensively to dive destinations around the world.  She explored throughout the Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico, and Australia before relocating here to the Palm Beaches.

Susie holds a BSC in Biology from McGill University in Montreal, and an MPA in Public Policy from the University of Colorado.  Before beginning her dive career, she worked in public affairs and project management in the renewable energy industry.  Now, Susie puts her background in biology to use learning about marine life native to the destinations she visits.

Susie was inspired to become a professional diver in order to share her love of the ocean with others.  If you haven’t yet had the chance to learn from Susie, you will know her as the helpful Reservations Specialist coordinating your upcoming trip. 

During Goliath Grouper season, Susie can be found playing hide-and-seek on the Danny wreck as she searches for these gentle giants taking refuge from the current.  An avid outdoorswoman, Susie enjoys cycling, paddleboarding, snow skiing, and kayaking when she is not underwater. 

Emma Rigolo

Marketing Assistant, 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.  


PADI IDC Staff Instructor, 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.

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.


PADI Master 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.

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.


R.T. Truesdell

Assistant Fill Station Manager, PADI Specialty Instructor, PADI Trimix Gas Blender, PSI Visual Inspector, PSI Valve Repair Technician

RT’s curiosity to explore the underwater world was a driving force behind his career in the dive industry.  A Texas native, RT swapped his cowboy boots for fins when he earned his Open Water SCUBA certification in 2016.  (Don’t worry, you will still frequently find him sporting his cowboy boots at Pura Vida Divers.)

RT fell in love with diving, and passionately pursued higher certification levels to become a PADI Open Water SCUBA Instructor.  RT’s Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from the University of Texas at Austin offers him unique insight into the advantages that being underwater has on the human physique.

RT joined the Pura Vida Divers team as an Instructor and Fill Station Operator in late 2020.  Over the years, RT advanced his gas blender knowledge, earning multiple certifications along the way. 

When he is not tutoring new team members in Fill Station Operations, you will find RT on the beach with his Golden Retriever, Maddie, or drifting over Fourth Window where he always encounters something exciting.



PADI Assistant Instructor, Sales Associate, Brand Ambassador

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.

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.