If you’re looking to tour a home in Greensboro on a Friday morning, Allen Tate Realtor® Wayne Young will need to reschedule. He’s busy then – swimming with sharks.
For the past year, Young has spent almost every Friday morning as a volunteer diver at the Greensboro Science Center, where he spends one hour in the 90,000-gallon aquarium filled with 300 marine animals, including five sharks.
Young, a certified SCUBA diver, has been diving since he was a teenager in Texas. He earned a degree in marine biology at Texas A&M University, then spent some time in the Merchant Marines before embarking on what would become a 21-year career as a middle school science teacher
“Then it was time to teach someone else, so I became a Realtor,” said Young.
Six years ago, Young joined Allen Tate Realtors in the Greensboro-N. Elm office. Around that time, he also became a docent at the Greensboro Science Center, interacting with guests and answering questions about the animals.
In 2015, Young had the opportunity to become a member of the dive team that enters the aquarium tank each day to educate visitors, assess the animals and clean. After a rigorous medical exam and training, Young began his job.
At 11 a.m., he begins a 20-minute presentation to school children and other guests gathered at the window of the tank. His specially designed mask is fitted with a microphone so he can talk while under water.
“I love talking with the kids. They are so funny and ask such interesting questions,” he said.
After his presentation, Young remains in the tank, meticulously scrubbing the glass and coral with what appears to be a large toothbrush. He also observes and assesses the health of each animal, but he never touches them.
“It’s not natural for these creatures to be touched by humans. It might startle them and cause them to hurt themselves,” said Young.
That said, sometimes the animals do the touching.
One day, when Young was cleaning the front window, he felt something push his stomach. He looked down and saw a 6-foot sandbar shark.
Fortunately, the shark just wanted to swim next to the window and Young was in the way.
“It was a bit humbling,” he said.
Young is fairly comfortable around the sharks, because they are fed three to four times each week, much more frequently than in the wild. They are “pole fed,” which involves placing a fish on the end of a pole and guiding it directly to the shark. This allows the Science Center staff to control how much food each shark eats, as well as give them vitamins or other medicine.
“And they never feed the sharks while there is a diver in the tank,” said Young.
Young enjoys the close interaction with the marine animals.
“There are beautiful colored fish and the sharks have massive muscles.”
His favorite animals are a pair of porcupine puffer fish with “cute eyes and big smiling mouths” who expand to the size of a beach ball when threatened by predators.
“I’m always careful around the queen triggerfish, who is very territorial and likes to nip on ears. My mask has earphones that cover my ears, so I take advantage of that,” said Young.
“Diving is very relaxing. You feel weightless, like being in space. When I’m in the tank, that’s all I’m thinking about.”
While he doesn’t use his diving skills to show clients underwater property, Young says his volunteer job provides balance to his real estate career.
“Being able to do this gives me energy, helps me recharge my batteries. It also gives me something interesting to talk about when I’m in the car with a client, showing properties – one of the neat things to do in Greensboro,” said Young.
Young is excited about expansion plans for the aquarium, and he also has expanded his own interests by teaching real estate pre-licensing classes. You might say things are going quite swimmingly for him.