Dawn Manning & Dawn’s High Desert Divers

If it hasn’t been made evident by now, we love people here at AAT! We love hearing about their stories and passions for our community, but we also love hearing about what our fellow locals do and why they do it! For example, we have some wonderful neighbors who own/manager some fantastic local businesses and serve our town tremendously by doing so! This fact is why AAT has partnered up with our good friends at B3 Glass and Duke’s Diesel Repair, to bring you all “Small Business Fridays!” Each week, we’ll feature a different, local small business and talk with its owner and hear about their journey, their business in general, as well as their heart for their customers and our city!

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This week, we’re joined by longtime scuba diving instructor and owner of Dawn’s High Desert Divers scuba shop, Dawn Manning! Saying that Dawn knows her stuff when it comes to exploring the waters would be an understatement. Dawn has been in the diving business for over three decades, and her husband Ken is a master diver (professional diver). If she’s not at a lake or pool teaching her students, you can find Dawn at High Desert Divers, where she has scuba retail items and provides services such as filling avalanche packs and paintball tanks.

Thank you so much for coming to the surface to chat with us this week, Dawn! We’d love to hear the story of how you became a dive center owner! Where did it all begin for you?

“I was thirty-eight when I learned to dive, and I was forty-one when I became an instructor. For twenty-two years, I was an operating nurse in Colorado. However, Nevada’s not a reciprocal state, so when we moved here to Elko thirty-two years ago, my choices were to open up a shop or give up diving. So, I went and got my instructor’s certification and we opened up a shop in our house for two or three years. After that, we were up in the Terraces, but the rent kept getting raised, so, twenty-two years ago, we bought the shop we’re still in now.”

How did you get into diving in the first place? What’s your favorite thing about living the scuba life?

“I tried it out in a swimming pool in Colorado and fell in love with it! As a Christian, when I go under the water, I get to see so much of God’s creation that so few people ever have the pleasure of seeing. It’s a very worshipful time for me; I thank Him for the beauty and detail I get to see.”

Where has been your favorite place in the world to dive?

“In thirty-two years, I’ve been to a lot of places, but my favorite place to dive is called Chuuk Lagoon in Micronesia. It’s where the Japanese fleet sank in World War II.”

Wow! That’s fascinating! Now, I’m sure most of your students can’t make that kind of long voyage to dive, so where do you take your pupils when it’s time for you to put on the scuba instructor goggles?

“I take people out to Blue Lake, which is a geothermal lake south of Wendover. It used to be fun to dive there, but someone put tilapia in the water and it destroyed the ecosystem. They ate every piece of vegetation in the lake, so the visibility is poor. So, the other place we’ll go is in Midway, Utah, where the water is ninety-three degrees!”

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What are the first steps one would need to take to master exploring the deep?

“The first step is learning all the skills. You learn how to recover and clear your regulator if it gets knocked out of your mouth. As soon as you’ve mastered that, we move on to clearing your mask and getting water out of it, which is the hardest thing people learn in class because fear can get in the way. Twenty percent of my classes are learning skills and eighty percent is learning what to do if you have a problem. It took me about three years to work up the ranks and become an instructor.”

Wonderful! Well, before we let you get back under the water, is there anything you’d like to share about yourself, passion, or business? 

“I still love teaching and will continue until I’m physically unable to do so. This is a labor of love for me. I’ve never paid myself in this business; it pretty much only pays for itself, which is okay because we’ve always been financially sound. When I was working in the operating room, I got so burnt out and there was no joy in it; this is what I have joy in.

“I’m not a young stud instructor. I’m not macho and I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. So, if it takes three weeks or a year to certify you, I’m going to work with you until we’re done.”

Intern Alina’s Thoughts

Somehow in my following of AAT I must have missed this article the first time it was published. As someone who has lived in Elko for fifteen years, I had no idea we had a diving shop, or were lucky enough to have this kind of instruction in our little town! 

Reading about Dawn was quite an exciting thing for me. I feel like it’s so rare, no matter where you are, to find someone with the dedication to sit with someone for possibly two weeks up to a year to accomplish a goal, especially when done as a ‘labor of love’ as she mentioned. Dawn is quite the inspiration to follow our passions despite the economical return. I hope all of us reading this can take that spirit with us into our new ventures of life. And what perfect time to take on that attitude than early in the new year? 

See you next week for another small business feature of the week, Anthony Around Town-ers

You can stay caught up on everything going on around here at AAT by checking out our “Stay Connected” page! Make sure you never miss a feature!

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Until next time, we’ll see you around, Elko!

Contributor: Alina Croft (Instagram: lina_gail, Twitter: alina_croft)

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