Zack Smith has received numerous quizzical looks when he tells people he’s opening a scuba dive shop in Sunriver.
Once he shares how it has been his dream to open a dive shop in Sunriver and how he has many years working as an international research diver, the questions start flooding in with people wondering where they can dive in Central Oregon or how they can sign up for dive classes.
With a smile and a laugh, he graciously invites people to attend his grand opening of The Den Dive Shop from 10 am to 6 pm Saturday, July 16. From 11 am to 1 pm, there will be a raffle and giveaway, a barbecue and live music. There also will be discounts on items throughout the day and opportunities to sign up for dive classes. The ribbon cutting is at noon.
Zack enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge with others on where to dive to explore lakes, rivers and oceans.
“My enthusiasm for diving is off the charts. I would live in water if it were possible. I am a seeker, so I pursue as much knowledge as possible in every realm of my life. This includes scuba diving and marine life,” Zack said.
Zack created The Den Dive Shop to promote exploration and care of local lakes and rivers by offering lessons, classes and equipment to those interested in scuba diving.
“There are so many beautiful places to go diving in Central Oregon,” he said. “A few of my favorite places are Cultus and Crescent lakes.”
Zack, 26, grew up in Sunriver, attending Three Rivers Elementary School and graduating from La Pine High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree in criminology from Portland State University and was hired as a detective for Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.
“I saw a lot of things that were really dark, and I realized being a detective wasn’t for me,” he said.
He took a dive class and immediately knew he wanted to follow his childhood dream of studying marine life, especially sharks.
“Growing up I did all the outdoor sports like surfing and wakeboarding,” he said. “I nearly lost my mind the first time I went diving. I fell in love with diving and knew I wanted to do something where diving was part of my career.”
An international research diver, Zack’s company ZLS Research specializes in studying sharks. His diving research company receives private contracts, and he sends research teams to locations throughout the world including Costa Rica, Hawaii and Australia. Zack’s focus is studying about 20 shark species including Mako and Great White sharks.
“People ask if it’s dangerous to study sharks, and I often tell them it’s less dangerous than what I was doing as a detective,” he said. “Sharks are misunderstood, and I would rather work with them than dolphins.”
Last year, he and his friend Nathan Werner started The Mountain Muskrats Dive Club. There are currently more than 20 members who explore local rivers and lakes. The club meets at 5:30 pm the first Saturday of the month at the dive shop.
“We always clean garbage from waterways wherever we dive,” he said.
He teaches Discover Scuba Diving classes in Sunriver. An experienced diver, Zack has logged more than 4,000 dives. The Discover Scuba Diving class teaches people the skills needed to use diving gear and explore waterways in a recreational environment.
Zack’s enthusiasm about diving is apparent, as well as his eagerness to share his knowledge with others.
“I like to joke that I went from being a detective to being a shark detective,” he said. “When I was little, I was told I couldn’t make a career studying sharks. The dive shop and my research company allow me to do what I am passionate about.”