The Big Little Island in Diving……………

BonaireBonaire, if you are a diver you certainly know where it is but to the rest of the world it is unknown.  When asked “Where is your favorite place to dive?” I usually answer with Bonaire.   Which more often than not is followed with “Where is that?”.  By mentioning Aruba or Curacao they usually figure out quickly where Bonaire is, part of the ABC islands in the Dutch Caribbean.  It was just voted for the 10th year in a row as the best dive location in the world.  This tiny little island 50 miles north of Venezuela that is only 24 miles long and 3-5 miles wide reigns supreme in the dive community.  It is a right of passage for a diver to dive in Bonaire.  Dry and arid it could be said that it is not a very pretty island with cactus and scrub brush, but those of us that flock to the island know that the beauty of Bonaire is underwater.  The entire island is one big dive site to explore to our hearts content 24 hours a day.  Squid, turtles, stingrays, and even a manta ray will greet you as you play in the aqua blue waters off Bonaire.  As the dive center heads off to Bonaire the first week of March, I truly don’t know how many times I have been there but I do know it will never be enough.  The call of the little yellow rocks that line the road with the name of the dive site printed by hand on them is so strong that I have to go.  It’s like going home again.  Look for our photos on the website mid-March and share our experience with us.

Better yet go to Bonaire yourself and experience what diving freedom is all about.

Happy Diving…………..from all of us at Aquatic Realm

Aquatic Realm Logo k web

Spring is a time for new beginnings…………

Aquatic Realm Scuba Center

Here in the Midwest we await the arrival of Spring with the same patience as a 6 year old waiting for Santa Claus.  We plan all of the things we are going to do once the weather warms up and things are new and alive again.  Our human spirit yearns for new beginnings.   At the dive shop we are busy getting ready for our local diving and all the season will bring.

PADI Divemaster

For a special few divers, they have spent the winter months deciding to take their love of diving to the next level.  Their new beginnings will be to go professional.  The call of sharing their knowledge and helping other people come to know and love this awesome activity is finally too strong for them to ignore.  And so they have enrolled in the PADI Divemaster course and will start their path to the most rewarding challenge in diving.  We will chronicle two of the divers here in our blog over the next few months and share their journey with you. These two gentlemen will become staff members of Aquatic Realm Scuba Center and we are excited to start their training.  Visit our Facebook page and website for the journey in pictures and videos. Class one is now under their belt and they have done their 400  and 800 yd. swims, the float, and rescue tows.  In 2 weeks they start learning how to transform their good skills into demonstration quality ones.

We hope you will follow their progress with us and perhaps decide the professional path is for you too!  Happy Diving!


In Support of the Warriors in Pink

Breast Cancer Awarness RibbonEvery year October brings the call to action to support and find the cure for Breast Cancer.  Most of us have loved ones, friends, and co-workers that have been affected by this awful disease and we know the awareness for us is every month. Sadly, my family is no exception.  Breast Cancer declares war on women of all ages and races and once that war is declared these brave women become fierce warriors in the battle for their lives.  They call women the weaker sex but for those of us who have witnessed the strength and courage these warriors display you would know they are anything but. The staff of Aquatic Realm Scuba Center is dedicated to helping find the cure in whatever small way we can.

During October 2012 we are committed to help by donating 10% off all of the courses purchased to Breast Cancer Research.  Buy Discover Scuba Experiences for your friends and family or celebrate life and take that dive class you have been promising yourself to take someday.  All courses qualify including some courses for non-divers too.

Please visit our website for more information about our “Take a Course for a Cause Campaign”.

However you choose to support the cause, we thank you………………………

Twenty Shades of Blue……..Dive Travel

Have you ever wondered when or why we started using colors to describe feelings, emotions or attitudes?  If we say a person is black and white it usually means rigid, non-flexible.  We associate red with anger, gray with indifference and blue with sad.  When we start adding in the “shades” of a color then we are trying to infer that different people will have varying degrees of that emotion.

And so for group dive travel we have twenty shades of blue.   The reasons divers do or don’t participate in group dive travel are as varied as the locations we travel to.  For some it just goes against their nature.  After all we are explorers of the earth’s last uncharted frontier.  That doesn’t mesh with structured group travel or does it?

By definition scuba diving is a solitary activity that we always do with someone else.  Once we step off the back of the boat and dissolve into the shades of blue tranquility of our world whether we are part of a group or not doesn’t have much impact on the dive itself.  As a person that has gone on solitary dive trips, joined other group trips and for the last twelve years organized and run group dive travel, I have experienced the pros and cons of all of them.  My opinion is there are no cons to organized group dive travel.

So here are ten shades of why Aquatic Realm group dive travel just makes sense……………

  1. The divers in our group are the family we choose.  They get us and what we love to do.  Some of us only see each other once a year but the bond runs deep and is everlasting.  Some of us aren’t even divers but that doesn’t matter around the dinner table with family.
  2. Unlimited dive buddies.  This takes the pressure off when one buddy wants to do more diving than the other, no problem with unlimited buddies.
  3. It is much more fun to share your photos, sightings and stories with people that really care about you and your adventures.
  4. As a brand new diver, joining group travel offers you the opportunity to dive with more experienced and seasoned divers.  Being good buddies is what we do so taking a new diver under our wings and guiding them is expected.
  5. As a seasoned experience diver, group travel usually has professional and seasoned advanced  divers ready to offer diving to any level you desire.
  6. Specialty training is usually part of group travel.  What a great way to experience new diving situations like deep, drift, night or even boat for the first time.  Divers introduced to a new dive activity with the proper techniques enjoy the dive more.  Training often means no stress or worry about what to expect and you will find that you will more than likely do that type of dive again.
  7. Safety in numbers.  Planes wait for you when you have the majority of the flight.  Resorts give special considerations to groups.  Having the whole dive boat means diving the sites you want and diving with people that share your attitudes about safety.  Someone is always watching out for you.
  8. For our group travel, we always include a scuba refresher.  Make sure the equipment is up to speed and if anything goes wrong on the trip you have an entire boat full of people ready to help out.  I went on a trip where my clothing luggage did not arrive.  I was supplied with clothes, bathing suits and all my needs before the sun set on that day.
  9. We always have a trip meeting.  Here you get to meet the travelers and find out all the details about the upcoming trip.  We do all the research for group travel and there are usually no surprises when you get there.  You know what to pack and what to expect.
  10. We respect each others privacy and don’t intrude on quiet time.  We celebrate milestones together even if it’s just logging your 20th dive.  We celebrate who we are and what we love to do.

2012 will see us in San Salvador to dive with the Sharks and Cozumel to drift our dives away.  2013 is our year to return to Little Cayman, the ultimate in pampered diving, and the exotic location of the Philippines for unparalleled diving. Visit our website for more information about our travels past and future.

Regardless of your thoughts about group travel remember, the world is just one big beautiful ocean with twenty shades of blue and it belongs to us.  Let’s go diving!

Let’s Look at Scuba and Kids


Aquatic Realm  - Kids in DivingIt’s Friday night at Aquatic Realm and divers can be heard poolside assembling their gear, doing their buddy checks, preparing for the upcoming pool dive.  Of course they are also talking about boys, girls, video games and school because these divers, many of whom have years of diving experience, range in age from 8 to 14 years old.


It has always be a topic of contention in the diving community about kids and diving and while the adults and experts continue to argue and debate it out, the kids are quietly becoming awesome divers and their numbers are growing worldwide.   As someone who has dedicated over 15 years to teaching kids to dive I have put a lot of time and energy into researching and developing dive programs for children.  For the sake of simplicity let’s assume that the RSTC and the majority of the training agencies have reviewed and covered the issues about ages for diving by issuing the recommended depth restrictions, supervision controls and general health and development guidelines and not get into that part of the argument.

Why do I think kids adapt to becoming divers as well if not better than some adults?  Diving is all about rules and knowledge. Applying the knowledge and following the rules means diving should be a safe and enjoyable activity for all ages. Here is where kids have the advantage over adults…..

  • Kids are natural born rule followers.  Rules are how they live their lives. They have rules at home, at school and in the games and sports they play.  Learning and accepting the rules associated with diving come second nature to them and they rarely vary from what they have learned even years after they are certified, I still see my kids (now adults) following safe diving rules unlike some of the adults I have trained that promptly threw the rules out the window.
  • Kids expect to answer to and follow direction from an adult.  They trust adults to provide guidance and hopefully they are being raised to respect and listen to an adult.  They answer to a parent at home, a teacher at school and a coach in their hobbies and sports.  Listening to and following the direction of a Scuba Instructor comes very natural to the kids and they are rarely a supervision problem.
  • Kids have one job from birth to young adulthood – Learning. Going to school, doing homework and getting an education is their primary purpose for most of their waking hours.  Along the way they are expected to become responsible, caring people and learn how to get along with others.  The academics and training that comes with becoming a diver usually doesn’t present much problem for kids, they are natural students, (Assuming the parent did their due diligence ahead of time and verified the child was academically prepared for the course. More on this subject later.)  Kids are prepared to read books, do homework, take tests and meet deadlines unlike some adults we train that haven’t seen a test or classroom in many years. The buddy systems are a core part of Scuba and they require kids to learn to become responsible to and for another person.  This builds confidence and responsibility.
  • Kids that become divers do so for different reasons than adults.  They aren’t checking off a bucket list or looking for an adrenaline high.  They aren’t doing it for their spouse, significant other or to get a great job in the Caribbean somewhere.  They are doing it because they love the water or want to become a Marine Biologist. Lots of times they have a dream to dive with a parent, grand parent or sibling.

So, now that you might be thinking that maybe diving would be OK for your kids,  how do you know if your child is ready for Scuba?  Ask or review these questions……..

  • Is the idea of becoming a diver yours or the child’s? The child has to do this alone so make sure he or she really wants to do this for themselves and not just to please you.
  • When you talk about it are they engaged and full of positive questions or quiet and just listen to you talk about diving.  Sometimes not saying anything speaks volumes.  This is where a trained PADI professional with experience in kids can really be helpful.
  • If you aren’t a diver (a large percentage of diving kids don’t have diving parents) are you knowledgeable enough to talk about the subject to them?  Do you have any preconceived negative ideas or fears about diving that you might pass on to the child?  Kids bring no perceived fears or ideas to the table. This makes training kids a double edge sword.  Their trust is unwavering so please, again, seek out a professional you trust and learn all you can.
  • Does the child ask questions about fearful things like sharks, drowning, running out of air, deep water?  This would be a red flag that the child has some fears that would not be conducive to diving at this time.
  • Is your child a very good swimmer with little or no fear of being in water over their head?  Can they use a mask and snorkel?  Surprisingly the number one misconception is that if your child is on the swim team he/she will be a natural for scuba.  Trust me when I tell you it does not cross over.  Swimming and diving are not that much alike.
  • Have you looked at your child’s schedule and commitments before deciding to add the classroom, pool and open water training requirements for the class to their life?   You can set them up to fail if you don’t take the amount of work required into consideration before starting the course.

I have actually written a few articles on this subject and a flow chart was reprinted in the April 2012 Issue of Sport Diver with more on the above suggestions.

OK, so now that you have decided that diving is right for your kids, what’s the next step?

  • Find a dive professional that specializes in training kids.  Meet with them, talk to them, put as much time into choosing this person as you would a babysitter, teacher or coach.  At Aquatic Realm we not only teach kids to dive we specialize in it.  The majority of our staff members have taken specialized Instructor Courses in training kids.
  • Allow the instructor to introduce scuba to your child without you being involved.  Enroll them in a PADI Bubblemaker (8 & 9 year old) or Discover Scuba (10 and up).  Have the child evaluated without the pressures of pleasing or displeasing you the parent.  Listen to the recommendations of the instructor.  Even if your child is not quite ready the great thing about kids is that a few months can make a huge difference so they just get to come back and go diving again!
  • Pick the right program for your child’s maturity level.  PADI Seal team is perfect for 8, 9 and up if they just want the fun of pool diving with friends while they learn their dive skills.  PADI Junior Open Water for 10 and up, if they are ready, is a nice transition from the Seal course to diver. See the link below for more information on all kids diving programs.

One of these days when I look back at my professional dive career I will look at all of the great people I have had the privledge of introducing to this magnificent activity but most of all I will remember all of the kids.  They are my proudest accomplishment.  I planted the seed of diving deep in their hearts and I watered and cared for it regularly.  I watched them grow into the most wonderful lifelong divers in the world and my love of diving will live forever in their hearts.  I would dive with any of them any time. What an awesome feeling to take away from any career.

For more information on programs available for Kids at Aquatic Realm Scuba Center click here.


The Dive Tribe

Divemasters MotivateSplashing could be heard resounding off the walls of our pool this week as a new group of tribe members began the process of the Divemaster program. Along with the good natured complaining and moaning (at times it was real) was the underlying sense of excitement and pride that each of them exuded.  They were doing it, they were actually on their way to becoming a Divemaster. Watching them meet their watermanship skill requirements, I realized that I was really looking forward to see what I would learn from this new group as they transform into Aquatic Realm Tribe Members.

By definition a Tribe is a group or family that shares common interests, beliefs or religion usually with one leader. Following that concept, a Dive Tribe would be a group of dive professionals that share a passion for diving, values and concern for the overall health of the worlds underwater environment.  At Aquatic Realm, our Tribe is a family of dedicated dive professionals and it is strengthened with the infusion of new tribe members that share our passion and commitment.  As a PADI Course Director I am proud to be their leader.

The process of becoming a Dive Tribe member begins with Divemaster.  While those of us in the dive community all recognize the term Divemaster, just what exactly does having that rating mean?

Most of us already know the basic requirements. To enroll in the PADI Divemaster program you must be at a minimum a Rescue Diver, 18 years of age, have 40 dives to enter the program and 60 dives to exit, be current in CPR and FA and complete all of the course training and requirements.

But what drives a diver to take the professional path?  It generally breaks down into 2 motivating factors:

  • a passion for advanced skills and knowledge for personal gratification
  • the desire to work in the industry and help other divers on their journey

You can do the program for only one or both of the reasons above, it is totally up to the individual. The Divemaster rating is the foundation for all levels of PADI professional training. Regardless of our ratings we all started our careers as Divemasters. Once enrolled, you are in a program not a course, become a candidate instead of a student and the Instructors involved in your training become your mentors.  Mentors that will guide you to:

  • Advanced dive knowledge in dive skills, the environment, equipment, dive planning, dive theory, physics and physiology
  • Exemplary dive skills
  • Training in Search and Recovery, Navigation and Deep Diving
  • Training and supervising techniques in working with both student divers and certified divers
  • Professional level rescue skills
  • The ability to anticipate, recognize and respond to the needs involved in training and supervising.
  • The skills to manage a dive site or dive boat efficiently and safely
  • Take your personal diving to a level of confidence and ability that you never knew was possible
  • To make a difference in someones dive and/or life

The path to professional is an individual journey with a  Dive Tribe guiding and supporting you every step of the way.  You learn a lot about yourself during this journey and realize you are part of a pretty amazing thing.  It isn’t just a slogan, we really do transform lives in the dive industry.  What a great job description! As an added bonus your training for professional will cross over into your non-diving life and enrich it too.

For some of us the path began with our first breath on SCUBA and for others it may have started during rescue training wondering if they could become a dive professional.  But where it starts doesn’t matter, all that really matters is that you go with it.  You will never regret the decision. A PADI professional is the most sought after dive rating in the world and  it isn’t given to us, we earn it.  So what are you waiting for……………


Now is the time to join the Dive Tribe!

Divemaster Orientation class is Free but requires registration. Call today at 937-428-9836 to register or visit the website for dates.