Tag Archives: DiVentures

600 Dives and Counting

February 14, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Native North Dakotan Shirley Ortman was 19 before she learned to swim.

“I’m a pretty good swimmer, but I don’t enjoy it,” she says. “And I do not like to lie on the beach; I’m bored silly.”

Ortman isn’t happy next to the water or splashing around in it because the sweet spot for her is several meters beneath the surface, “where you see the most.” She’s a scuba diver with master diver certification and approximately 600 dives under her (weighted) belt since she took up the activity in 1995.

“I’ve been to a lot of places but my all-time favorite is the Galapagos,” she says. “It’s for advanced diving; it’s heavy currents and you have to drop down quickly and hang on to a rock to watch stuff go by.”

She’s seen an incredible variety of flora and fauna, including countless species of fish and hammerhead sharks, but she especially enjoys seeing sea turtles in their element. “I get goosebumps thinking about it,” she says.

Ortman was in her 40s when she tried scuba for the first time. At 68, she is still an active diver.

Shirley Ortman in full scuba gear

Shirley Ortman

“I’ve dove with people up to their mid-80s,” says Dean Hollis, who founded DiVentures, an aquatics and scuba center in Omaha (now with six locations in five states). “We offer a lot of aquatic activities suitable for older adults.”

Water exercise classes and lap swimming are low-impact with minimal pressure on the joints, Hollis says, and the DiVentures pool is a warm 88 degrees. The center also offers snorkeling and scuba instruction, and trial classes for the hesitant or curious.

“You can get in the pool and breathe underwater, and just see what it’s like to experience scuba,” he says.

“You can get your toe wet, so to speak,” Ortman adds.

Although scuba diving isn’t a practical regular fitness regimen, especially in the Midwest, it’s a great way to stay active and engaged at any age, Ortman says.

“The nice thing about diving is that it’s all about relaxing,” she says. “There’s not a lot of stress put on the body.”

And there’s always more to learn. Ortman recently took a stress-and-rescue course to sharpen up.

“You really need to hone your skills so you don’t get sloppy,” Ortman explains. “Now I feel that I have better ability to take care of myself. Or, if I see somebody else in distress, I could identify that and assist.”

The quarry in Iowa where stress-and-rescue instruction took place was one of the few times she has dived inland—outside of the 14-foot pool at DiVentures.

“The water at the quarry was murky and cold, but I’m a little bit of a snob,” she says. Most of her dives have taken place in warmer ocean waters, like Hawaii, Tahiti, or the Bahamas.

Ortman has booked group scuba excursions through DiVentures and companies like LiveAboard, where she can share stories with other scuba divers and enjoy the diving subculture.

Landlubbers often ask how deep she’s gone (close to 130 feet, about the size of a 12-story building and the maximum depth for recreational diving), she says, but other divers understand that it’s more about what you see.

“These are immersive trips,” Ortman says. “Everyone is always excited to talk about their experiences, and the trips are always fun.”


Visit diventures.com for more information.

This article first appeared in the March/April 2019 edition of 60PLUS in Omaha MagazineTo receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Swimming Safety

June 20, 2013 by

Always swim with a buddy. Don’t run around the pool. Only swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards. Never leave a child alone near water. Don’t dive into water that’s not at least eight feet deep.

You’ve heard these rules before, but they are never more important than when supervising children around water.

According to the National Safety Council, Nebraska Chapter, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated an annual average of 5,200 pool- or spa-related submersion injuries for children younger than 15 from 2009 to 2011, with 66 percent of those injuries being represented by children between ages 1-3. Even more frightening is that most drowning and near-drowning incidents occur when children are left alone in the water or fall into the water without knowing how to swim.

Parents should always be cautious and constantly watching children around water, but there’s another way to prevent water-related injuries—swimming lessons.

There are plenty of places around Omaha where you can sign your family up for swimming lessons—including Aqua-Tots Swim Schools, Swimtastic Swim School, DiVentures, The Salvation Army Kroc Center, Little Waves Family Swimming School, and more.

When is the best time to get children into swimming lessons? “I believe the earlier, the better,” says Mike McKamy, owner and manager of Little Waves Family Swim School in West Omaha. “We start children at 6 months [because] children as young as 1 can learn to float on their backs if they fall in the water. We see a lot of 3- and 4-year-olds starting, too.”

“We start children at 6 months [because] children as young as 1 can learn to float on their backs if they fall in the water.” – Mike McKamy, owner of Little Waves Family Swim School

Little Waves strives to provide a fun, comfortable, and safe environment for families to learn swimming techniques. Lessons are available for all ages—babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kids, and adults. There are even pre-competitive classes and triathlon stroke clinics for more advanced swimmers.

When it comes to swimming, McKamy agrees that children should never swim without supervision; however, he does think that the supervision can be less hands-on as children’s swimming skills improve.

“They can get in the pool by themselves when they are able to float on their back and swim comfortably across the pool and back, [and] they should be able to breathe without effort when swimming over and back. But I always tell children they should never get in the water unless an adult is watching them.”

As for lifejackets and flotation devices, McKamy believes they’re necessary for non-swimmers to be safe around pools or lakes, but they’re not helpful to a child learning how to swim.

“A child who learns to swim with a flotation device can become very comfortable in the water with one. But when they become too comfortable with one and forget they don’t have it on, they [might] jump in without knowing how to swim. It’s best for children to learn how to float and swim without one so, if they fall in, they know exactly what to do.”

McKamy also thinks it’s a good idea for parents to receive CPR training. “Hopefully, you’ll never use it, but a 4- to 8-hour class may help you save the life of your own child or some other child or adult.”

For more information about Little Waves Family Swim School, visit littlewavesfamilyswimschool.com or call 402-932-2030.