The amphibious pros at Splash Dive Center guide merpeople of all skill levels into the water with a roster of beginner- and certification-level courses. In the Discover Scuba class, beginning divers and recently evolved dolphins strap on specially fitted equipment provided by the facility before plunging into the pool and soaking up two hours of scuba fundamentals. The PADI Open Water Diver basic scuba-diving course entails three days of diving toward the goal of certification as a scuba diver. The tri-tiered program kicks off with classroom or Internet lessons, after successful completion of online PADI course materials, and concludes with checkout dives, during which instructors evaluate form and sea-lamprey mating calls. Successful candidates receive certification from PADI. All subaquatic students receive discounts on gear purchases, as well as free tank rentals and free air fills.
Vertical Rock’s expansive, air-conditioned facility welcomes climbers ranging from novices to experts with routes suited to every level of ability. The climbing wall towers to more than 50 feet, crisscrossed by numerous lead-only and top-rope routes with difficulty grades falling between 5.5 and 5.13. A mighty arch of more than 125 feet spans the space, littered with treacherous horizontal hangs to entice advanced climbers as well as those who have been banned from the St. Louis Arch. First-timers can start out with open climbs, which include an expert’s assistance with putting on the harness, tying the safety knot, and belaying for three separate climbs. From there, committed climbers advance through the outfit’s lineup of expert-led classes, starting with basic safety skills and techniques in the Learning the Ropes intro course and running all the way up to advanced classes on crack climbing, functional movements, and escaping from prison.
Laser tag typically summons images of bulky plastic guns, LED vests that flash red like broken alarm clocks, and cheesy black lights. In the parlance of machismo, Sudden Combat eats joints like that for breakfast. Its extreme laser-tag skirmishes are closer to real military sorties than strip-mall fracas. Sudden Combat is the first gaming spot in Northern Virgina to employ the iCombat/irTactical system—the same laser-training system used by military and law-enforcements agencies and featured on the Outdoor Channel's Elite Tactical Unit: SWAT. Locked and loaded with realistic gear that has the look, feel, and recoil of military M4s and M16s, the advanced weaponry enhances the game's intensity and realism. For the electromagnetic averse, Sudden Combat ups the paintball experience with indoor paintball Reball, which delivers the thrills and stings of a paintball match, but doesn't leave players looking like the ate at a Sherwin Williams buffet.
As a child, Michael O’Daniel would sometimes spend his days among giant aircraft in a hangar as his father, a Pan Am pilot out of Miami, was at work. Michael found himself daydreaming about one day being able to fly; by 1980 he was a private pilot. Eventually he became taken with another form of flight—paragliding. He founded Powered Paragliding USA and over the years has spread his wings over Peru, Costa Rica, and he once completed a flight across the entire length of the Panama Canal.
A few years ago, Michael was joined at Powered Paragliding by Brian Goff, another pilot. Goff has hundreds of hours of flying experience; he's been behind the controls of everything from helicopters and airplanes to aerobatic planes and hot air balloons. Today, Michael and Brian man flights for clients of all experience levels. They can fly tandem with beginners, or train budding para-pilots on technique, safety, and how to switch lanes with birds. Expert flyers can take to the skies by purchasing their own paragliders and paramotors from the company.
Springfield residents have been bringing their towels and tennis racquets to Springfield Swimming and Racquet Club since 1955. The club, which was significantly revamped in 1992, now boasts four regulation-size tennis courts and three outdoor pools, including a kid's pool and a 25-meter pool with six lanes, two diving boards, and one friendly beluga whale. The center's swim team, the Springfield Tigersharks, coordinates youth swim meets and fitness classes. The club complements its activities with amenities such as a bath house and a shaded pavilion with picnic tables and grills.
Master falconer and bird-of-prey expert Mike Dupuy shares his love of the 4,000-year-old sport of falconry during exciting and informative demonstrations with his avian costars. A professional public speaker, Mike entertains his audiences with personal anecdotes and motivational speeches that use falconry as a metaphor to encourage them to follow their dreams. Guests also get to learn about each feathered raptor while it surveys the crowd for wild Energizer bunnies, and Mike encourages audience interaction by inviting volunteers from the audience to hold the hawk and try in vain to teach it to bark like a dog.