Unicorns of Diving seeks to diversify interest in underwater adventures

Justin Lovett and his students are jumping into a pool in their scuba gear as they prepare for a deeper dive.

"In our advanced classes we really hone in on buoyancy, trim and making sure that when you do enter the water you're keeping everything around you safe", explained Lovett.

A few years ago he established the Unicorns of Diving.

"Because unicorn is unique. It's something that you don't see every day and as being an African-American diver that's something that you just don't see every day when you go on your dive trips. Oftentimes when getting on a dive boat I realized that I was the only person on that boat that looked like me. It goes back to stereotypes that black people can't swim and some of that carries over for generations and generations and unfortunately it is true. A lot of African Americans don't learn to swim in the inner cities where pools may not be available," said Lovett.

"It was so exciting to find the Unicorns of Diving, a group of people that look like me. Diving together has been just a wonderful experience. A lot of women are joining in. They're learning how to dive and it's very exciting to see you know women participate," said student Ruth Beltran.

Lovett's first step in training is to put any fears to rest.

"One is sharks. A lot of students when it comes to scuba diving they automatically think "Jaws" and you know I just have to constantly tell them that we're not on the shark's menu, you know, we blow bubbles and shark's food doesn't blow bubbles and that just really gives us an advantage," he said.

Another fear is being claustrophobic. A lot of people feel that when they're in the water, the water's kind of closing down on them.

"My motto for when I teach scuba diving is relax. It's just water," said Lovett.

"It's a stress reliever too. I think it's something we all need to find an outlet. So this sport provides that in addition to the fellowship we have found and community with other people," said Beltran.

Last year, the Unicorns of Diving joined the National Association of Black Scuba Divers.

"We actually won dive club of the year through our efforts of giving away scholarships, mentoring", said Lovett.

For him, there's a thrill in guiding someone new into this diving adventure.

"It's amazing the feeling that I get when I get to watch somebody breathe underwater for the first time. It's something that they've never done and their eyes open up underwater. You can see it through their mask and they're so excited about what they're doing and now at that point I'm getting them to calm down because they're so excited about what they're able to do," said Lovett.

Lovett said that they can take scuba diving students as young as 10-years-old but they also provide swimming and snorkeling lessons for all ages.

For more information about the Unicorns of Diving, you can email Justin Lovett at unicornsofdiving@gmail.com

The Unicorns of Diving also have a Facebook group.