“Experience” says it all
Tired of going diving and find that the dive master was new to the area, and hadn’t a clue what you would be seeing? Then come join us at Dive Experience, where our dive masters have been diving the beautiful blue waters of St. Croix for years!
Michelle Pugh, Owner, Master Scuba Diver Instructor
Michelle took her first dive in Malibu California at the age of 16. From that time on, diving has been her life. In 1977 she moved to the island of St. Croix to teach diving for 3 months, she had not left the island yet. That’s a lot of years of diving in St. Croix!
In 1978 she was the first woman photographer to film killer whales underwater in the wilds in Canada. See the book A Whale called Killer, by Eric Hoyt. In 1983 she started her own dive company, Dive Experience Inc. This is the oldest originally owned dive business on St. Croix. She was the first dive operator on St. Croix to achieve the PADI 5 Star IDC rating. In 1989 she spearheaded “Project Anchors Away”, a 75 mooring buoy system surrounding St. Croix to protect the coral reefs from anchor damage. Board member, St. Croix Fisheries Advisory, since the late 80s, which advises the commissioner of Planning and Natural Resources on fish and game regulations. Board member for the East End Marine Park.
In 1997 Michelle was asked to teach at the Moscow Sea School in Moscow Russia. She started a recreational dive center and trained open water divers as well as instructors.
In 2004 Michelle was inducted in the Woman Divers Hall of Fame, being the first American woman to teach diving in Russia, diving with the killer whales and establishing the mooring system on St. Croix.
Michelle still dives most everyday and is extremely active on Environmental situations on the island of St. Croix. In 2007, Michelle earned the Environmental Advocacy Award from St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA), for her work on trying to ban gill net fishing around St. Croix.
Sam Halvorson – Captain, Instructor, Dive Master, Videographer
Sam has been with Dive Experience for more than 34 years. Diving with Sam is exceptional – he’s even been awarded the Tommy Star ‘Activities and Attractions Associate’ Award. He’s an excellent instructor and is a favorite with Discover Scuba divers. He knows all our reefs and the secret locations of many of your favorite fish. For a special treat, have Sam video you and your dive group for a one of a kind souvenir. Or check out his watercolor paintings, available at the dice shop.
Michele Stone – Captain, Instructor, Dive Master
Michele discovered scuba diving in 1992 in Grand Cayman at Stingray City and has been addicted to diving ever since. She spent many years traveling the caribbean for dive vacations before finally deciding to become a professional & introduce others to the sport. She moved to St Croix & has been diving our clear waters since 2006. When not diving, she owns and manages a small apartment building on the West End.
Shane Crag – Instructor, Dive Master
Shane started diving in Colorado 2013. He received his Dive Master Certification in the Cayman Islands in 2016 and Open Water SCUBA Instructor in West Palm Beach, FL in 2017. In May of 2021 he decided to quit his corporate job as a VP and move here to live out his dream of working as a dive instructor on an island. He has been diving all over the world including Indonesia, Fiji, and to most dive destinations in the Caribbean. He is also dry suit certified diver and instructor and have dove in the Cenotes of Mexico, Bonne Terre Mine, and many of the reservoirs surrounding Colorado. Being from Colorado he has an addiction to adventure sports including skiing, mountain biking, and rock climbing. Shane is also aspiring to become an underwater photographer. You can see all his photography on Instagram @sjc032.
Bret Eschmeyer – Instructor, Dive Master
Bret started diving in 2003 due to encouragement from his brother to be ready to dive at his destination wedding on St. John the following year. After that Bret was hooked and he would try to take an annual trip somewhere tropical, typically in the winter as he was living in landlocked Denver area. Those trips stopped with the Great Recession, but his love for the water never did as he was also a competitive swimmer, life guard, swim teacher, swim coach and triathlete growing up. After many years not diving, in mid-2018 Bret decided he needed a “life reset” as he calls it, and picked up and moved to St. Croix in September 2018 because he read the diving was great here. Not knowing what he wanted to do when he grew up, he came across our shop one day looking for additional work as he was also a kayak guide, and decided he should go for it and make it a career. He officially joined Dive Experience in March 2019 as a Dive Master and became an Instructor in August 2019. He’s quickly learned some of the best spots for all of your favorite creatures and Michelle insists he’s the dolphin and spotted eagle ray whisperer.
Barbara DeClerque – IDC Staff instructor and Course Director
Barbara is the IDC instructor for Dive Experience. Barbara has been training divers for 30 years and instructors for more than 20 years. She teaches all diver level PADI courses and many specialties, including: Deep, Wreck, Naturalist, Night, Navigation, Search and Recovery, UW Photography, Coral Reef Ecology, Enriched Air Nitrox, SCR Rebreather, Resort Operations, Emergency First Response. Emergency First Response Care for Children. Barbara also teaches DAN emergency courses.
See our IDC training page for dates and information about her classes.
All of the staff at Dive Experience are PADI instructors or Divemasters. Our most seasoned instructor has been teaching for more than 25 years!