A Deep Dive: Alumnus Reflects on Lifelong Scuba Diving Career

By Erin Alvarado

J.D. Duff ’78 A.S. grew up with a passion for scuba diving.

Originally from Maryland, Duff became a certified scuba diver at age 17, after he was inspired by the television show “Sea Hunt.”

“I grew up diving in the Maryland area, but the conditions were terrible,” Duff says. “I wanted to go away from home for college and started looking at schools in Florida and ended up picking Florida Tech’s Jensen Beach campus for its underwater technology program.”

While attending Florida Tech, Duff and his friends would spend their weekends driving to West Palm Beach, Florida, and diving at The Scuba Club, a popular establishment for diving enthusiasts.

After multiple trips to the club, Duff and his friends caught the attention of its owners, who offered them part-time employment in exchange for free diving. Once graduation came, Duff said goodbye to The Scuba Club and moved back to Maryland to start working for a small commercial diving company.

Six months later, Duff received a phone call from The Scuba Club’s owners, offering him a full-time position at their new facility. Duff accepted the position and moved back to Florida less than a month later.

J.D. Duff ’78 A.S. diving with a sea turtle.
J.D. Duff ’78 A.S. scuba diving with a sea turtle.

Duff went on to work at The Scuba Club for over 35 years and eventually purchased the store with a close friend in 2015.

“I wore all the hats and did everything behind the scenes, including our social media, captaining the store’s boat, chartering international dive trips, managing the retail store, staffing and teaching certification classes on-site and at local colleges.”

After more than 42 years in the industry, Duff decided it was time to retire and sold The Scuba Club to new management in March.

Duff now owns and operates a scuba tour agency in North Palm Beach, Florida, where he teaches professional scuba classes, certifies boat captains, provides dive business consulting services, charters international dive trips and captures underwater photography/videography for various publications, such as National Geographic and Animal Planet.

Throughout his career, Duff has certified over 5,000 students, led more than 75 international dive trips, spent more than 40 years as a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captain and completed 10,000-plus dives, with no plans of stopping anytime soon.

“Stick with whatever you want to do,” Duff advises fellow Panthers. “People told me, ‘Oh, you won’t make any money in the dive business; it’s just a stepping stone to go somewhere else.’ But, here I am!”


FLORIDA TECH CONNECTION: ’78 A.S. underwater technology
IF YOU COULD BE AN ANIMAL: Hammerhead shark
FAVORITE HOBBY: Traveling with my wife in our RV
LAST MOVIE YOU SAW: “Top Gun: Maverick”
FAVORITE FLORIDA TECH MEMORY: Having the opportunity to wear a U.S. Navy Mark V dive helmet during a whole quarter for a summer surface-supplied dive class.

This piece was featured in the fall 2023 edition of Florida Tech Magazine.

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