Pan Aqua Dive Center
460 West 43rd Street
42 West 18th Street
762 Grand Street, Brooklyn
It's just nice to be confident in your breathing ability -- especially when you're 100 feet underwater. So you want good scuba gear. And when you consider that getting properly outfitted for diving will cost about as much as a complete set of downhill-skiing equipment, that's just one more reason to find a scuba shop you can trust. Bernie Chowdhury, a co-publisher of the technical diving magazine Immersed who has led diving trips to Iceland, Scotland, the Arctic Circle, and the wreck of the Andrea Doria, recommends Pan Aqua Dive Center, a large dive shop where he worked in the early nineties. "Pan Aqua's got a very knowledgeable staff, with very active divers," says Chowdhury. The store sells top-of-the-line equipment from companies like Oceanic, Scubapro, and SeaQuest, and it's the best in town for beginners, offering classes on technical diving and equipment care; leading trips to Cozumel, Tortola, and the Bahamas every month; and providing all-important repair work. Eileen Hecht, another New Yorker who's been down to the Andrea Doria ("the Mount Everest of diving"), echoes Chowdhury's kind words for Pan Aqua and also points to Leisure Pro: "You need to know what you want, because they're not going to teach you, and they don't have as much merchandise -- but they have the best prices." Hecht does a lot of technical diving in local waters, which is "a whole different ball game: You have different equipment, you have to know more, and you even have to buy different mixes of air." For this kind of diving, she shops at Stingray Divers. Deep breath now.
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