Article by John Tapley; images by Ken Kollwitz
Recently, Channel Islands Dive Adventures (CIDA) of Oxnard, California celebrated its 10thanniversary in business: helping scuba explorers and their friends and families organize trips to some of the most stellar dive locales in southern California and around the world. Combined with an emphasis on community, the business has become a beloved fixture for recreational scuba divers. This is its story.
As the old axiom goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and like many diving organizations and business, CIDA started with one young water enthusiast who dreamed of exploring the depths and unveiling this hidden world for others. Ken Kollwitz, owner and founder of CIDA, began his scuba diving journey in his youth while enjoying cove waters off Riverside, California with his family who were avid fishers. Watching scuba explorers go in and out of the waters and explore the majesty of his backyard sparked something, and after his introduction to the acclaimed show Sea Hunt, his future path as a diver, instructor, and community benefactor laid before him.
Soon after, at the age of 16, he earned his certification and spent much of the year exploring the splendorous environments off Catalina Island. Following what he describes as a “long surface interval” for 12 years, he heard the call of the underwater world and re-entered scuba diving through Ventura College’s NAUI dive program: earning open-water, safety, advanced, instructor, and dive master certifications. His fervor for teaching and instructing developed shortly afterwards, and he gladly reciprocated this gift of knowledge, assisting in the program for 15 years.
Following his dive master certification, Ken worked for a year-and-a-half on the Sun Fish dive boat out of Channel Islands Harbor, primarily planning trips and managing the company’s website. With this valuable logistical and computer program experience under his belt, and his newfound social networks, he decided to go into business for himself. In September 2007, Ken officially filed Channel Islands Dive Adventures, starting off operating eight trips during the first year. Since these humble beginnings, his business has expanded significantly with more boats; more trips; more excitement.
“For the last 25-plus years, I’ve been diving a lot,” he says. “I’m a cold water diver at heart and like sharing it with other people. I help out when I can, and it keeps me going. I love meeting so many fun people on trips, and I hope it’s [something] I’m always going to be doing.”
Today, CIDA organizes and plans nearly 40 trips per year to favored dive destinations within the Channel Islands, including oil rigs and wrecks, and some of Ken’s favorite hidden locales as well; and over the years has developed strong relationships with local charter boats, including the Peace, Truth, and Magician. Dive vacation packages to more exotic destinations, from Palau to Newfoundland are also routinely organized throughout the year.
“I’ve been diving a long time, and I try to bring some of my knowledge to the places we’re going to,” Ken explains. “It’s not just a typical charter to Ana Capa Island where the boats go to the same spot. We try to go to different places.”
Overall, the business’s four key goals reflect Ken’s extensive experiences in scuba diving: “to offer trips to specific dive destinations”; “to promote diver safety”; “to offer reasonable priced trips”; and “have fun with other like-minded divers.”
“We’re here to help them [develop] good diving habits; how to do more than just go on a basic trip to islands over and over; how to advance and try new things,” says Ken. “I’ll get new divers on the trips and they worry about not having a [buddy] diver. On trips we’re always there to be someone’s buddy or [partner] them up with someone we know to be a good buddy.”
With a focus on fellowship and teaching, Ken and CIDA have become mainstays in the SoCal diving world, and in their time, have greatly contributed to the community. Ken has supported six local dive clubs, from Ventura to Orange County, by donating gift certificates for holiday parties and get-togethers; and has sponsored the SoCal Shootout and Monterey Shootout competitions. Throughout the years, the aqua explorer and entrepreneur has also served as a dive coordinator for local dive and photo clubs in addition to holding presidential and council positions, particularly with the Channel Islands Divers Club in Oxnard – today the group continues to engage in core activities and events he founded years ago.
Out of these accomplishments, the CIDA Bug Fest may be the most popular. Founded in 2010, the event kicks off California’s spiny lobster season in October: giving seasoned bug hunters opportunities to enjoy the sport with their fellows, and offering newcomers valuable experience.
“I’m a hunter, a bug diver, a scallop collector, and a photographer – I just like to have fun and show people as many tricks and techniques I can based on what I’ve done over the years,” Ken says. “I’ll have new divers, old divers, bug divers, and all [types] on the trips. They follow me, and I give them tips on the boat: what kind of gear to use, how to grab bugs, what not to do, and how hard it really is.”
Looking ever forward, Ken and CIDA are expanding their itinerary to fulfill the social needs of scuba divers: through extra activities such as river rafting and camping, bonds between divers are able to breathe naturally: further strengthening an already robust dive community.
“I find, personally, that to meet people, socialize, and get to know them, something like hiking or camping where you’re talking all the time… for me, that’s the best. Club meetings and boat dives are great, but you’re preoccupied with something else – small talk. The other activities increase the bond you have with people; and now I have people all along the coast who want to go on [my] trips. For me, it’s the best I could hope for.”
From humble origins, Ken Kollwitz’s dream of sharing the intricate details of diving and a world concealed to most, have come to fruition; and he is proud of CIDA’s evolution from an idea into reality. We at Scuba H2O Adventure Magazinewould like to offer our congratulations to Ken, and wish him the best in his next 10 years.
For more information on Channel Islands Dive Adventures, including upcoming trip listings, visit www.channelislandsdiveadventures.com.