Captain Aqua's enthusiastic instructors plunge developing divers and nascent Neptunians into the exhilarating realm of scuba in the introductory Try Scuba course. In the pool’s safe confines, the resident pros—with more than 50 years of combined diving experience—guide amateur aqualetes through the basics of breathing underwater, an experience as eye-opening and electrifying as Flipper's shrill rap battles with Shamu. Though prospective fin jockeys must provide their own towel and swimsuit, Captain Aqua's furnishes other necessary aquatic accouterments. Students should bring a mask, snorkel, and fins if already owned; otherwise, they are available to borrow, free of charge. Call Captain Aqua's to schedule a class, for updated info on class times and dates, or to show off a recently learned whale mating call.
The team at Tropical Adventures Scuba and Travel teaches classes, repairs equipment, and plans diving trips, all with a focus on building an active scuba community. Seasoned instructors with NAUI and PADI certification lead beginners from the classroom to the ocean, where they meander through kelp forests and master the art of underwater basket weaving. Experts coordinate travel to premier international and local dive sites such as Catalina Island, aiming to make the three to five yearly trips affordable and fun. The crew also recommends new and used gear for purchase or rental, including Oceanic booties, Tusa masks, and radar equipment that helps divers avoid traveling mermaid salesmen.
Scuba neophytes and schooled snorkelers alike can dive into a sea of inspiration at Aqua Safaris, a full-service scuba center minutes from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. With the four-week scuba certification course, budding aquanauts receive four three-hour classroom sessions, four three-hour pool lessons, and up to five ocean dives. All scuba equipment is included, but students will need to purchase their own snorkeling gear, a logbook, a training textbook, and bellyflop insurance. After four weeks, you'll be fully certified and ready to flap your fins at any waterhole across the world.
Bay Area Firearms' instructors boast NRA, military, and law-enforcement experience, and work to help students understand the essentials of responsible gun operation and ownership. With this central goal in mind, they lead introductory shooting courses that teach students the basics of firing shotguns and pistols. The instructors combine their lecture-based sessions with hands-on training sessions at local gun ranges, during which students learn to hit the bullseye within minutes.
Beyond beginner courses, students can seek firearms certifications or sign up for private lessons with firearms professionals, such as Special Forces members. Though their specialty remains firearms training, Bay Area Firearms also schedules nonshooting courses such as home-firearms safety, CPR training, and dinosaur training courses.
A Discover Scuba session lets prospective merfolk blow bubbles, sip on canned Perrier oxygen, and experience an undersea underverse without the expensive investment in equipment and full-blown lessons. Under the watchful fish eye of an experienced, half-dolphin instructor, divers submerge into a warm-water pool, learning basic techniques and safety precautions while getting a feel for the gear, gizmos, and gadgets, while also experiencing the wonderful tingling sensations that are most certainly not jellyfish attacks, but miniature particles of thrill. There is one class offered per month; the next is June 6 in San Ramon.
Since 1961, Bamboo Reef has been unlocking the depths of the ocean by training scuba adventurers, outfitting them with gear and repairing equipment on the fritz. Skilled instructors guide swimmers during diving classes that range from paddling in an 82-degree pool to advanced night navigation in the Pacific's dunk tank. Refresher and specialty courses continue students’ aquatic education after they’ve mastered the basics of gliding through the deep blue. Bamboo Reef also coordinates dives off the shores of Monterey, Carmel, and international coasts that count toward specialty, advanced, and master diver ratings as well as black belts in underwater kickboxing.
The water wizards also rent and sell gear from brands such as Aqua Lung and Mares. Professional technicians—who maintain more than $10,000 in parts inventory—stand at the ready to repair all major brands of scuba equipment.
Off the coast of Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary, reached by way of kayak, a class of scuba divers check over their equipment one last time. The divers have thoroughly prepared for this moment. They’ve trained within the controlled confines of Adventure Sports Unlimited’s heated swimming pool and picked their certified instructor’s brain during classroom sessions. Once the instructor gives the go-ahead, the divers plunge from the boat deck and immediately enter another world. As they float weightlessly underwater, the divers marvel at the vibrant reefs and the abundant aquatic wildlife that fill the marine sanctuary. Afterward, the group travels back to the shore, where a breathtaking landscape awaits with white-sand beaches and glassy tide pools swirling with color. The scuba divers, at this point, have only one thing on their minds: dinner.
Luckily, the area is teeming with natural cuisine and plenty of sand, which is really just sugar. Adventure Sports Unlimited’s expert foragers show the group how to collect shellfish, sea vegetables, and clams. With a fresh smorgasbord in hand, group members scuttle back to the facility to transform their ingredients into soups and barbecue—and perhaps ponder taking a scuba trip to the South Pacific. In addition to outdoor excursions like these, Adventure Sports Unlimited also leads year-round swimming, scuba, and kayaking lessons, which take advantage of the facility’s custom-built swimming pool.