Somewhere off the coast of Galveston, out in the Gulf of Mexico, there is a whole new world waiting for you under the sea. Just a short boat ride will take you out to a place with 100-foot visibility underwater. There you will find brightly colored Caribbean fish, sea turtles, manta rays and, very likely, the owner of Texas Scuba Adventures, Kristen Maples.
Maples, 42, has co-owned and operated Texas Scuba Adventures with business partner Craig Shannon since they opened their Galveston shop in 2019. Maples, who identifies as lesbian, is not a native to Galveston but got there as soon as she could after living all over the world—both above and below the ocean’s surface.
“I am from all over the place! I’ve lived in Houston, Austin, Australia, North Carolina, New Orleans, Albuquerque, and along the Oregon coast. Each place has a unique meaning to me. However, I moved to Galveston in 2004 and it has been a place that I definitely refer to as home. I have always loved the water, ever since flipping through my first Jacques Cousteau book at around 5 or 6. Galveston gives me a home near the water within a beautiful community,” she says.
Maples received her first diving certification at the age of 14. From there, she was in the water every chance she got.
“As I spent more and more time in the water, diving started to pique my curiosity even more, and I started wondering about taking additional certification courses,” she explains. “After that, I worked as a fishery biologist for years. I completed monitoring dives along the Oregon coast, the Colorado River, and worked in a large shark exhibit in an aquarium. It was during this career that I started seeing the value of experiential education, and this led me to pursue my dive-instructor certification.”
Prior to opening Texas Scuba Adventures, Maples and Shannon worked together for five years focusing on private scuba instruction and a dive/science program that they developed for Space Center Houston and other local schools. Then one day, while enjoying some adult beverages, the two thought it would be a great idea to open up their own school on the Island.
“We both share a love for Gulf diving, sharing our passion with others, and teaching. We realized the Island was missing a dive shop. We decided to start looking for a storefront, and two months later we were opening our doors. The shop has grown exponentially, and we could not be happier. We have a fantastic team! We teach all levels of scuba certification, offer retail, rentals, equipment servicing, charters, international trips and, of course, still focus on our dive/science program for youth,” says Maples.
Teaching others brings her an enormous amount of joy, and is one of her favorite things about diving. She says there is nothing better than seeing the excitement on someone’s face after they have tried diving.
Another favorite thing about diving for Maples is being able to do it alongside her wife, Lauren, 32.
“She is a professional diver as well. Just to brag on her, she dives for NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, and if we aren’t diving for work then we are traveling and diving. We have made some amazing memories, all due to places we have [visited in order] to get underwater,” says Maples.
Texas Scuba Adventures trains divers of all skill levels, and has some advice for beginners who may be nervous about going below the surface. “Every diver you meet, including your instructor, was new and nervous at one point in their dive journey. Talk to us, and I can guarantee we can tell you a funny story about something we were nervous about. Diving isn’t instantly natural, but certification classes teach you how to dive safely, which helps calm the nerves over time. You learn how to take care of yourself and a buddy underwater.”
Maples says that she and the team at Texas Scuba Adventures are always there to help acclimate and encourage new divers. They also host group dives like this month’s Women’s Dive Day on July 16. For folks who have already gotten their feet wet, they host international trips and dive with the attendees.
“The more bubbles you blow, the more comfortable you will be. We aren’t just here for the class, we are a constant contact for anyone who wants to reach out,” says Maples. “It’s never too late or too early to try diving. We have certified divers from as young as 10 to as young as 87! We’re happy to answer questions, provide more info, and help with anything you need.”
This article appears in the July 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.