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Ocean's Heaven

Did you know that Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is the Shore Diving Capital of the World? Sure, it doesn't look like much more than your basic, archetypal beach community, what with all the little surf shops, bars, and restaurants with names such as the Sea Ranch Diner, along with the beachfront motels and bungalows.

Still, diving, scuba or otherwise, has made this town famous in some circles -- the kind of circles within which everyone knows that we are currently in the midst of Scuba Month. And this weekend, Scuba Month comes to a head at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea's OceanFest.

The annual event brings divers from all around the world to the town. Each year, they try to break the Guinness world record for Most Divers Diving at Once. And each year, they usually do it by breaking the record they set the year before.

But OceanFest is so much more than a bunch of guys and girls with tanks on their backs. The three-day festival includes dive-related seminars, demonstrations, and a presentation by Jean-Michel Cousteau, the famed oceanographer and environmentalist who can claim a lovely resort in the Fiji Islands as a namesake. Of course, the resort was possible only after his genius father, Jacques, conveniently died in the midst of a protracted legal battle over the Cousteau name, but Jean-Michel probably won't get into that at his presentation.

If people who get into legal wrangles with their own parents don't appeal to you, there's plenty more to see at OceanFest. Along with an underwater photo contest and a treasure hunt, the festival includes a Dive Trade Show, with more than 200 exhibits under tents at the edge of the Atlantic; a food court area; a night beach dive and party; and live reggae, jazz, rock, and calypso music. And just so you know how seriously they take their snorkeling up there in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea: The music will be piped underwater through a high-tech speaker system, so even when you're diving, you can jam out.

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Dan Sweeney
Contact: Dan Sweeney

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