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Omaha Magazine

The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea: How Omaha Native Eric Oberembt Fell in Love with Scuba Diving

Jul 24, 2020 08:48AM ● By Houston Wiltsey
Eric Oberembt in ball cap

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Eric Oberembt, like many Nebraskans, loves being outdoors. While many in Nebraska enjoy hunting, hiking, or spending the day on a lake, Oberembt’s idea of a perfect day in nature takes place a few thousand feet underwater.

“I’ve always been the guy that wants to go where he’s not supposed to,” said Oberembt over the phone. The 40-year-old owns D&M Roofing, a company started by his grandfather, Delton Mares. Oberembt was calling B2B from the Cayman Islands and preparing for a few dives later in the week. “I think it’s that sort of mentality that drew me to diving in the first place.”

Oberembt said he first got interested in diving ahead of his wedding in 2013. “My wife and I were going to honeymoon in Hawaii so we decided to get scuba certified before the trip,” Oberembt said. The couple went to Diventures in Omaha to get the necessary training—taking the time to learn about the equipment, how to stay buoyant, how to control their descents, and important hand signals. A few months later they completed their first and only dive together. “I was immediately hooked and she hated it,” said Oberembt with a laugh. “Whenever I go on a dive now she just heads to the beach and says ‘I’ll see you at lunch.’”

Oberembt has since logged hundreds of dives and achieved Master Scuba Diver status which, according to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, is a level reached by less than 2% of divers. 

Oberembt has built a formidable portfolio of locales that have led to some of the most memorable experiences of his life—from diving with Manta Rays in the Cayman Islands to sharks in the Bahamas, off the coast of Belize and in Riviera Maya in Mexico, from shipwrecks to underwater caves.

“Being able to see these parts of the world that the general public doesn’t get to see is the coolest part of diving for me,” Oberembt said. “It opens you up to a different world.” One that’s not bereft of danger. 

“On one of the shark dives in the Bahamas, I was down about 50 feet and my computer malfunctioned so I didn’t know how much oxygen I had left,” Oberembt said. “I figured I would head up and swap out tanks because I didn’t have a backup, but on the way up I realized that the tank was empty, I’d taken my last breath of oxygen.” A seasoned diver at that point, Oberembt was able to stay calm, remember his training, and safely make his way back to the surface. 

Along with the dives, Oberembt said what he enjoys most is the people he meets along the way.

“I’ve made more friends across the world because of this hobby than I ever thought imaginable,” Oberembt said. “We met an English couple in the Caymans who drove 800 miles to visit us in Omaha while they were in the states on an entirely different trip. The amount of interesting, lasting friends we’ve made like that is wild.”

Oberembt said the combination of the experience and the people have heavily impacted his worldview.

“I love living in Omaha, but I think that Americans live in a little bit of a bubble,” he said. “I’ve learned more in the last 10 years of traveling than I did going to school. Visiting these places just opens you up to new ways of thinking.”

This article was in the August/September 2020 issue of B2B.