Underwater adventurer

Rich Ashley

Photo by vic cantu

Some people make life into a great adventure. Take Rich Ashley, who was born and raised in England. The 38-year-old husband and father of two began running a vacation resort in Honduras eight years ago, and now finds himself the owner of the newly opened Scuba Hut, one of two scuba diving shops in Chico. Find out more about Ashley and his latest venture by visiting his shop at 2540 Esplanade, Ste. 14, or online at www.ScubaHut.org.

How did you get into scuba diving?

I learned to dive while traveling in western Australia in 1996, and pretty much fell in love with it. I also met my wife, Debbie, through diving. I was a diving instructor teaching others to be diving instructors, and Debbie was in my class. The old instructor-student story.

What do you like about scuba diving?

I like the freedom that it gives, and the fact that it's so life-transforming. We know so little about what's in our oceans. We call our planet “Earth,” but we really should call it “Ocean” because 70 percent of it is water. I like the ability to travel to new locations and see new cultures—from beautiful coral reefs to history from wrecks to cave diving.

Is it expensive?

Not really. You can get certified for life for only $450, and you can buy a set of equipment for about $1,000 or rent if for much less. It's comparable to golf or other sports.

I’ve heard diving can be therapeutic.

Oh yes, I used to do a lot of training of people with disabilities. It's so good, for instance, for helping people with spina bifida, whose muscles are all locked in and contracted. Give them five minutes in the water and those muscles all start to relax. It's amazing seeing the release and the relief that they get.

Why open a scuba place in Chico?

My wife, Debbie, and I were running a beach and diving resort called Coral View Beach Resort on a Honduras island, which we still run. Several years ago, Debbie got island fever and we decided to move to Chico since she graduated from Chico State and has friends and family nearby. Debbie said I had to get a real job and we had our grand opening eight weeks ago.

Who are your biggest customers?

It's hard to know since it's so early. Scuba appeals to so many over the age of 10. Some like it as part of a vacation, and I use it as my underwater yoga.

What kinds of products and services do you offer?

We sell, rent and service scuba and snorkeling equipment and teach lessons to everyone from beginners to professionals. I train people at Chico Junior High's Shapiro Pool, Whiskeytown Lake near Redding, and even in people's private pools.

What are your future plans for Scuba Hut?

I plan to help the disabled as I did before and organize scuba trips nationally and worldwide, to places like Indonesia.