The Best Scuba Dive Training: Make All Your Dives Stress Free Dives

One of the best things about scuba diving is that it is easy to do yet it is fun and exciting.  Scuba divers can be as young as ten years old and many divers are in their retirement years and are still scuba diving on a regular basis.  At Aquatic Adventures Scuba Academy, a PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Dive Center in Alexandria, Virginia we train a very large range of divers from young to older on a regular basis.

Since scuba diving is done in many different underwater environments, a wide variety of conditions can be experienced.  One of the best ways to insure your fun, excitement and safety is to make every dive a stress free dive.  Today we will discuss some simple tricks to accomplish that goal.

Use an Appropriate Dive Entry and Exit: 
Choosing an appropriate entry and exit comes easier the more experienced you are.  One easy tip is to listen to the Divemaster when he or she gives the boat and dive briefing.  They will tell you the best way to enter and exit the water from the boat that you are on.  If you are diving from shore feel free to ask the Divemaster at the Dive Center at the resort what entries and exits that they recommend.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Assistance:
It is not a good idea to jump into the water while holding your camera or other extra dive equipment.  Ask the Divemaster to hand it down to you once you enter the water.  If you find it difficult to climb out with all your equipment on ask the Divemaster if you can hand it up to them and then climb out.  If you are diving from shore and there is no Divemaster, your dive buddy can hand your camera down to you.  If necessary you can use a line with a clip.  Clip your camera to the line and lower it in the water.  Once you enter you can take your camera and complete your dive.  Since the line is still there you can use it when you return at the end of your dive for exiting the water.

Evaluate The Conditions:
Double check the current and conditions prior to your dive.  If strong currents are present you may want to rethink your plans prior to entering the water.  Kicking against a strong current will not only tire you but may cause your to use your air faster.  That is something that you should plan for prior to the dive.  If you are uncomfortable with the current consider an alternate dive site or plan your dive as a drift dive.

In addition to evaluating currents you should take the water temperature into consideration as well.  If you overheat or are chilled on the dive you will not enjoy it as much and consequently might find the dive more stressful.  I make it a point to check water temperature prior to any dive trip that I take and to bring along appropriate exposure protection.

Divemasters are Great Dive Guides:
One of the best things about diving from a boat is that there is often a Divemaster to lead the dive.  Following someone who knows the area greatly reduces stress on the dive.  Most dive resorts have several Divemasters on staff and if you are uncomfortable diving without a dive guide you can often ask the dive center if they can provide one for you.  The extra cost is worth the peace of mind.

Choose a Compatible Dive Buddy:
Your dive buddy should be someone that you are compatible with.  If your buddy wants to dive deep and you are not comfortable doing so it can cause undo stress on the dive.  Other factors to consider is how fast you fin, whether or not one of you is taking underwater photographs or your navigation skills.

Good dive buddies stay together.  Often times underwater photographers want to go slowly and take pictures.  The non photographer dive buddy has to slow down and keep the team together.  If one of you prefers to cover greater areas and one wants to take pictures this can add stress.  If one diver is much stronger then he or she has to slow down for the other buddy.  Make sure that this is not an issue prior to the dive.

If you are diving without the assistance of a Divemaster one of you will need to navigate.  If both of you are challenged in navigation your dive will be more stressful. One of you should be more comfortable with a compass to make your dives more stress free.

Maintain Your Scuba Equipment:
Many dive problems are the result of equipment issues.  By having your own scuba equipment and having it serviced on a regular basis it will prevent many equipment related issues that could cause stress during your dive.  Just being familiar with your equipment will go a long way in helping you relax while scuba diving.

Dive Frequently & Continue Your Diving Education:
The more you scuba dive the more comfortable you will be during your dives.  Taking additional courses like underwater Navigation, Night Diving or others will add to your dive skills and will in turn make your dives less stressful.

Scuba Diving is a fun sport and if you take a little bit of time to think about what you are doing you will find that it also a relaxing and stress free sport.  This in turn will help make your dives more enjoyable Aquatic Adventures.

Divers on a Boat

Use an appropriate dive entry

Learn Underwater Navigation at Aquatic Adventures Scuba Academy

Dive Buddy Teams should stay together

Underwater Photography requires good buoyancy control

Underwater Photography adds enjoyment to your diving

Self Reliant Divers know how to navigate

Underwater Navigation is a useful skill

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Learn to Scuba Dive Northern Virginia

Learn to Scuba Dive Northern Virginia

Scuba Diving is becoming an increasingly more popular sport.  You can take Scuba Diving Lessons in No Va or many other places around the world.  How do you decide which Scuba Certifying Agency to utilize, which Dive Center to patronize and whether or not to take the on-line Scuba Courses like the PADI E Learning Scuba Course, or take the standard Open Water Course at the local Dive Center.

What Certifying Agency Should I Choose?

There are several very good Scuba Certification Agencies.   While there are several of them the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) is by far the largest.  In addition the educational materials that PADI uses, Manuals, DVDs, CD-ROMS, etc are far superior to anything else on the market today.  You can be sure that by completing your Scuba Diving Certification at a PADI Dive Center you are guaranteed the latest in technology and educational validity.  The best PADI Dive Center is the PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Dive Center, like Aquatic Adventures Scuba Academy in Alexandria Northern Virginia.  The PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Center designation means that they not only teach divers how to Scuba Dive but they train all levels including PADI Scuba Instructor Training.

We have already decided that we want to restrict our training to a PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Dive Center we also need to ask if the PADI Course Director, or Instructor Trainer, is on staff full time and not just putting in time as a hobby.

Should I take the PADI E Learning or Traditional Version at my PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Dive Center?

Each learning option has its own advantages and disadvantages.  The PADI E Learning is convenient.  You can go on line at your convenience and complete the classroom portion.  It is easy and you can access the  program at any time day or night.  The disadvantage is this program is more costly then the traditional class and pool sessions taken at the PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Dive Center.  In addition the E Learning is very generic and the student deals with a computer, while the traditional class has live Instructors to personalize the course and directly answer questions.  Many Scuba students are taking the Scuba Lessons in Northern Virginia because they have a Scuba Diving Vacation planned and want to Scuba Dive while there.  The traditional Scuba Classes in Northern Virginia are taught with live Instructors who can tell you what to expect while on this trip.  That is not available with the E Learning course.

Lastly, when you complete your E Learning you no longer have access to the on line course.  When you take the traditional Scuba Course you have your book and perhaps your DVD to look at in six months as a review when you go on your next Scuba Vacation.

At What PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Dive Center in Northern Virginia Should I Learn To Scuba Dive?

Selecting a Dive Center requires a little bit of homework on your part.  First you can look on line or ask friends what PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Dive Centers are in the area?  Once you find a few look at their webpages.  Today, almost everyone has a webpage but do they take the time to talk to you and answer questions right on line or do they make you call them for answers.  Do they break down each class offered and what is involved?  Do they tell you all of the cost involved?  Many Dive Centers will list the cost of the classes but will not list the cost for accessory items like the student kit or training materials.  Many will not tell you what to expect to pay for personal equipment.  A Dive Center that cares will let you know up front “what it will cost and how long it will take to obtain your Scuba Diving Certification.”

Look to see if you know anyone who has patronized the Dive Center and get their input.  A quality Dive Center, like Aquatic Adventures Scuba Academy in Northern Virginia, will have a long list of happy customers to recommend their services.

Last, perhaps the most important part is to talk to them yourself.  The best thing you can do is visit the PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Center yourself.  A quality Dive Center will be clean and neat and will have a very good assortment of Scuba Diving Classes and will have on hand a very good assortment perhaps the best assortment of  Scuba Diving Equipment Northern Virginia.  Do they offer Scuba Diving Travel?  Since we have decided that a PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Dive Center is the best we want to make sure that the PADI Course Director or Instructor Trainer works at the Dive Center full time not just as a hobby.

When you speak with them are they knowledgeable about Scuba Diving and Scuba Dive Training?  Do they answer your questions or just tell you what they offer not what you might want?  Are they interested in your or just the sale?  These might sound simplistic but if you find a Dive Center that passes all of these tests you have found a true keeper of a Dive Center.

Do I complete my Open Water Training Dives locally or On Vacation?

We said earlier that many people in this area are taking Scuba Lessons because they are going on a Scuba Diving Trip and they have the choice of completing their Open Water Course Dives either locally or while on their vacation.  Which is better?

This is another issue of there are advantages to each option.  Obviously diving in the Caribbean would be more fun but it is much more expensive to complete the Open Water Course dives on vacation then locally.  In addition if you do the dives on vacation you will spend two of your diving days doing skills rather then exploring the reefs.  When you complete your Open Water Course dives locally you are diving with the Instructor and Divemaster you had in the pool.  You know them and they know you, your strengths and weaknesses and are better able to work with you individually.  Lastly and perhaps most important, you will learn better by diving locally.  Since Northern Virginia has colder water then the Caribbean you will wear a full wetsuit when Scuba Diving here.  This will help you better learn your buoyancy and navigational skills then diving in the Caribbean would.

It’s Time To Get Out And Dive

Now that you know how and where to take your Scuba Diving Lessons, there is nothing stopping you.  It is time to get wet and take your Scuba Diving Lessons.  Remember your next Aquatic Adventure starts here.

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The Best Scuba Diving Equipment in Northern Virginia – Buying a BCD

The Best Scuba Diving Equipment in Northern Virginia – Buying a Buoyancy Control Device or BCD

Why Should I purchase a BCD and not rent one?

Deciding to purchase Scuba diving equipment rather then renting it is a big decision and on of the best ones that you as a Scuba Diver will ever make.  And of all of the major pieces of Scuba Equipment in Northern Virginia the first to purchase is your Buoyancy Control Device or BCD.   Why is the BCD even more important to purchase then a regulator?  The answer is that your BCD comes in sizes and regulators do not.  Since we are all built differently and no two of us are exactly alike finding a good buoyancy control device that fits properly is hard to do and almost all of us would be better off with our own.  One that fits us properly rather then just wearing a rental BCD that probably does not fit exactly as it should.  Another reason is that men and women are obviously built differently.  Most resorts have generic BCD’s available for rent.  When on vacation you use what they have on hand whether it fits perfectly or not.  Consequently, rental BCD’s do not give you the control that your own Buoyancy Control Device would.

Selecting Scuba Diving Equipment Northern Virginia – What Buoyancy Control Device should I purchase?

This is an important question because Scuba Diving Northern Virginia is different then scuba diving elsewhere.  Why?  For one thing the water locally in Northern Virginia is colder then elsewhere so Scuba Diving Northern Virginia requires a heavier wetsuit then elsewhere.  A heavier wetsuit means that the Scuba Diver needs more weight to counter the thicker wetsuit.  Consequently, since the diver is using more weight the Buoyancy Control Device in Northern Virginia needs more lift then a BCD used in warmer waters like the Caribbean.

The trained staff at a Northern Virginia Dive Center like Aquatic Adventures will know this and help you select a BCD that can be used locally as well as on a Scuba diving vacation or trip to places like the Caribbean.

What Type of Buoyancy Control Device Should I Purchase?

There are several types of Buoyancy Control Devices and selecting the proper one for yourself is not overly difficult.  Start by selecting a local dive center that has a good assortment of quality brands of Scuba Equipment.  Scuba Pro Dive Equipment and Zeagle Diving Equipment are two of the finer lines of Buoyancy Control Devices available.  Zeagle Diving Equipment specializes in rear inflation BCD”s while SCUBA PRO has both jacket style BCD’s and rear inflation BCD’s.

Jacket Style BCD’s are the most popular and part of the reason for that is they have been around longer.  Another reason is that most dive centers and resorts use less expensive jacket style BCD’s in their rental line and people very often tend to purchase what they are most familiar with.

Jacket style BCD’s tend to be less expensive then the rear inflation BCD’s.  Since the jacket style BCD has a bladder that wraps completely around the diver it sometimes squeezes the diver when inflated and creates more drag when diving.  The rear inflation BCD has a bladder behind the diver so it is more comfortable and has less drag and resistance in the water.

Both styles are acceptable.  If you want a more traditional BCD, are not concerned with drag and resistance, and like feeling the squeeze so you know how much air you are putting into the BCD and want something a little less expensive then the jacket style BCD is perfect for you.  If you want less drag and resistance, to be more horizontal at depth and desire a more streamlined BCD for both diving and for packing then the rear inflation BCD is the way to go.

What is the Most Important Feature of a Buoyancy Control Device?

The single most important feature is how well it fits followed closely by does it have enough lift?  You will spend a considerable amount of time in your BCD so it should fit very comfortably.  Women especially have problems with fit and unless they are close in size to a man they should look for a BCD specifically built for a women.  If the BCD is uncomfortable it will effect your diving.  If you are concentrating on the discomfort  you will not be concentrating on diving (time, depth, etc) and you will also not be enjoying yourself as much.  The issue of lift we spoke about earlier.  Since most of us scuba dive in many different areas we often have different exposure protection for different areas and that changes the amount of weight that we might wear on a dive.  Our Buoyancy Control Device must be able to accommodate all of these.  It is far better to have more lift then you need rather then too little.

What Are Some of the Best Buoyancy Control Devices Available Today?

In the jacket style BCD the Pro Glide BCD by Scuba Pro Dive Equipment is perhaps the finest on the market.  The Avid BCD by Sherwood Diving Equipment is also an excellent jacket style BCD.  In the rear inflation Buoyancy Control Devices the Knight Hawk is an excellent BCD designed for men.  The Lady Hawk is the women’s version and both are made by Scuba Pro Dive Equipment.  Zeagle Diving Equipment makes the Stiletto for men and the Zena for women.  Both of these are excellent BCD’s and are modular so they can be custom fitted by the Dive Center.

A Final Word About Buoyancy Control Devices:

Which ever Buoyancy Control Device that you select make sure that you have seen it, held it and tried it on before purchasing it.  Always buy from a Dive Center and not on-line, that way you know the people who are helping you are divers and know dive equipment and not telephone order takers, who probably are not.  Be sure that the Dive Center is an authorized dealer for the brand Buoyancy Control Device that you are buying, like Aquatic Adventures in No Va.  Last, but not least, make sure that the Dive Center fits and adjusts the BCD before you leave the Dive Center.

Now, go out and enjoy that next great Aquatic Adventure!

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Scuba Dive Equipment in Northern Virginia?

Scuba Dive Equipment in Northern Virginia?

Every Scuba Diver needs certain equipment to safely scuba dive and while most of the equipment is standard there are some variations in what is needed depending upon where you will scuba dive.  Today we will look at the regular scuba equipment needed and will also look at how it might differ in different locations such as Scuba Dive Equipment Northern Virginia.

Scuba Diving Mask

The human eye cannot focus in water.  The scuba mask provides an air space so your eyes can focus and you can see clearly underwater.  A properly fitted mask is not just a luxury item but your eyes to the underwater world.   There are several manufacturers of quality scuba masks: Sherwood Scuba, Scuba Pro, Mares and Aeris are just a few of the better brands available.


A snorkel lets you breathe with your face in the water, and to breathe more easily when waves are splashing about, without wasting air from your scuba tank. It’s especially useful when your cylinder is nearly empty and you have a long wait or swim to the boat or shore.  Snorkels come in several varieties and colors.

Scuba Fins

Fins are your means of propulsion while scuba diving.  Fins provide a large surface area to push against the water. This allows you to swim using your powerful leg muscles. This moves you more efficiently and frees your hands.

Fin Types:
Open heel adjustable
Open heel adjustable fins are the main fins used for scuba diving. They have the power to push you and your gear through the water. These fins require you to wear wet suit boots (booties). Booties also come in handy for shore dives to protect the bottoms of your feet when entering and exiting the water.

Full foot fins – Full foot fins aren’t adjustable and don’t require wet suit boots. They go on like slippers. Most smaller fins suited to snorkeling or very lightweight scuba diving are full foot fins

Scuba Exposure Suits

Water absorbs heat about 800 times faster than air does, so you cool rapidly in water. Also, the scuba diving environment sometimes has a potential for scrapes, stings and burns. Exposure suits help you retain heat and provide protection against incidental skin injuries and sunburn.  Scuba Divers in colder climates will use wetsuits that are thicker to provide extra warmth and protection.  While there are many manufacturers of quality exposure suits Henderson and Scuba Pro are among the finest.

Scuba Divers in exceptionally colder climates will use a dry suit when scuba diving. A dry suit will keep you warmer in colder climates since you are dry underneath.  This cuts down on the amount of heat conduction a scuba diver undergoes.  Most Dry Suit Divers will use a fabric suit with insulated underwear underneath appropriate to the local environment.  DUI Dry Suits are among the finest dry suits made.

Scuba Cylinder

A scuba cylinder (more commonly called “scuba tank”) holds compressed breathing air that you use during the dive. Modern scuba tanks are made from aluminum alloy or steel alloy and are rated to hold pressures as high as 200 bar/3000 psi.  Aluminum is by far the most common type of scuba cylinder in use due to its durability and lower cost.

Scuba Diving Regulator

The scuba regulator takes high pressure air from your scuba tank and adjusts it to the pressure you need for breathing. It supplies air only when you inhale (on demand), and directs your breath into the water when you exhale.

There are several different brands and types of scuba regulators available.  Divers in cold water areas like Northern Virginia will often select a scuba regulator that is environmentally sealed to prevent cold water freeze up or free flowing of the regulator.  Some of the better known and higher quality scuba regulators are the Sherwood SR-1 regulator and the Scuba Pro MK25/S600 regulator.  Mares and Zeagle also make quality regulators.

Buoyancy Control Device or BCD

The buoyancy control device or BCD allows you to add or release air from a bladder so that you can adjust your buoyancy. This lets you float, hover or descend slowly at will. The BCD is, or integrates with, the harness that holds the scuba cylinder on your back and unites this and the scuba regulator into a single scuba unit.

There are two main types of buoyancy control devices: the jacket style and the rear inflation style.

The Jacket Style BCD is the most popular style in recreational diving, this style BCD combines the harness and air bladder into a single compact, sleek unit. The bladder is primarily along your back, but sweeps forward under your arms for balance when inflated at the surface.  The Sherwood Avid and the Scuba Pro Glide Pro and two of the more popular Jacket Style BCD’s.

The Rear Inflation or Back Mount BCD is rapidly gaining in popularity.  Since the bladder is in the back it is more streamlined and offers less drag then the traditional Jacket Style BCD.  The Zeagle XZena and the Scuba Pro Lady Hawk are two very popular women’s rear inflation BCD’s.  The Zeagle Stiletto and the Scuba Pro Knight Hawk are popular mens rear inflation BCD’s.  All four are of exceptional quality and include integrated weight systems for easy use.

Dive Computer or Gauges

When ever you scuba dive you need to know how long you have been down, how much air you have left and what your remaining no decompression time is.  Do this and you will be a safe diver – neglect any of these and you are putting yourself and your dive buddy at risk.  While many scuba divers use standard gauges for air and depth, today more and more are using scuba diving computers to monitor this information.  There are several very good dive computers available today and fast becoming the most popular are the air integrated computers.  These will monitor both your remaining air time and your remaining no decompression time.  Two of the most popular models with hoses are the Sherwood Wisdom Computer and the Aeris AI Computer console.   Air Integrated Computers are also available in hoseless models as well.  In this case a radio transmitter sends the information from the regulator to the wrist computer.  The Aeris T-3 and the Scuba Pro Luna are two of the more popular of these units.

Whichever you choose make sure that you read the manual and monitor the computer frequently.  Next time we will look at Accessory Equipment that is part of your Scuba Dive Equipment Northern Virgnia.


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