Outside The Asylum Diving & Travel (aka OTA Diving & Travel) is Houston’s newest Dive Center located in West Houston near Cinco Ranch. The shop is well placed on Westheimer Road with plenty of parking available.
The showroom has an open floor plan that feels inviting and allows you to visually navigate the store from the entryway. A unique aspect of the store is the large, hand-painted murals by local Houston artist, Sammy Hassan. A mural of divers descending on a reef greets you to the right and a frolicking dolphin mural is on the left as you walk in the front door. Continue on to the diver education center with its life-size dock and palm trees to grab your books and plan your dive training.
Across the way, the Travel Center invites you with a beach scene and driftwood sign meant to inspire your travel fantasies of diving and snorkeling destinations around the world. Here you’ll find books and maps and the latest travel packages on offer.
Step further into “Outside The Asylum” and you’ll find yourself in the Shark Cage. Grid wall displays over murals of Mako, Hammerhead, and Oceanic White Tip sharks create a cool illusion and highlight the gear you need to get you there.
The vacation theme reverberates throughout the store and is at the core of Outside The Asylum’s philosophy.
Jeanne Cinquegrana, OTA President and co-founder, explains, “This is supposed to be fun! Learning to dive, shopping for equipment, and planning trips should not be stress-filled and confusing.”
When asked why they opened their store in Houston Morad and Jeanne explain, “We spent several years training divers here in Houston. We then moved to a resort town on the Red Sea to experience what we were preparing our students for. We saw the industry from a completely different perspective and quickly realized that training people to dive in a lake is much different than diving on vacation. Divers training at home have an advantage over those training at a resort. The divers at home really get to know their instructors and can spend more time training than when they are on vacation, but there’s a distinct disconnect between training locally and what’s expected of them while on vacation.”
“So here at Outside The Asylum, we essentially simulate the vacation experience and approach dive training holistically, to prepare our guests not only for the lake, but for the boat, and their vacation destination while preparing them to take their diving to the next level with continuing education and experiences.”
“We make it easy for our guests to enjoy their courses and focus on learning and having fun by taking care of details like transporting tanks and gear. We don’t require our customers to buy weights they’ll never use again and we don’t ask them to haul their equipment around. While we strongly believe that all divers should own their own equipment, students do not have to purchase any equipment to do their Open Water Course. We firmly believe that they should have a chance to see where they want to go in diving before they invest in their own equipment.” adds Morad Hassan, Vice President and Training Director.
Outside The Asylum also distinguishes itself by focusing on dive trips and travel. Morad and Jeanne have traveled the world and spent several years teaching scuba and guiding in the Red Sea. Their passion is getting Outside The Asylum of everyday life and they want to take you along with them.
“Group trips are a great way to travel, meet new friends and connect with like-minded people” says Jeanne. “I strive to give travelers the benefit of my experience, with tips and advice that help them avoid common pitfalls and help them make the most of their precious vacation time.”
“We also offer lots of local events and diving here in Houston. We’ll be celebrating Women’s Dive Day on July 16th with a brunch where we’ll plan some local excursions to do throughout the year right here in the Houston area.”
Another important tenet in Outside The Asylum’s philosophy is community service and conservation. They volunteer their time to speak at local schools and clubs about marine conservation and the individual’s role and responsibility as a resident of planet Earth.
“As divers, we get a first person view of the state of the reefs, often called the rain forests of the sea,” states Morad, “there is no way you can go below the surface and not be impacted by the sight of a stunning, healthy reef. Conversely, a damaged reef or rubbish-strewn environment can propel one into action, to find out why this has happened and naturally leads to divers asking themselves, ‘what can I do about this.’”
“This is one of the most rewarding aspects of this job,” Jeanne says, “to create divers and watch them evolve and then share their love of the sea with others.”
Outside The Asylum Diving & Travel is a full service PADI Dive Center. They offer a full range of recreational, professional and Tec/Rec level courses, equipment consultations and sales, dive travel, and professional equipment service and repair. They also have a mobile dive shop and can bring the diving fun to your location. You can take courses or book a Scuba Party for your next special event where participants can try scuba and play underwater games in the comfort of your own pool.
Contact Outside The Asylum for more information:
Jeanne’s passion is underwater photography and videography. She’s traveled the world with her camera and enjoys telling the story of a place through her lens. She’s a PADI IDC Staff Instructor and enjoys introducing new divers to the wonders of the underwater world. Jeanne spent three years as an instructor, guide and professional underwater photographer and filmmaker in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt and has returned to Houston to open her Diving Center, Outside The Asylum Diving & Travel. Jeanne lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and beloved dog, Dahab.
Getting Outside the Asylum is Morad’s passion in life and diving. He loves to be underwater, whether it’s in a swimming pool or a tropical reef he’s most at home beneath the surface. He started his diving career in the crystal clear springs of Florida and is headed back there to start his cave diving courses. Morad spent several years teaching scuba diving in Houston, Texas before moving to his favorite dive destination: the Red Sea. He spent several more years in Egypt guiding, teaching and perfecting his diving skills with continuing education. He trained with some of the biggest names in the International technical diving world and now brings his experience, passion for diving, and zest for fun back to Houston.
Sammy Hassan is making his mark on the Houston Art Scene with his life size murals of cool underwater themes at OTA Diving & Travel. His canvass keeps growing as he works on a huge, multimedia project at the Vinson & Elkins Pavilion in Smither Park, Houston, TX. Sammy Hassan is an avid diver, artist and musician living, working and creating masterpieces in Houston, Texas.