Seattle Dive Tours

PADI Master Scuba Diver Rating

  • PADI Dry Suit Diver

PADI Master Scuba Diver Rating

The PADI Master Scuba Diver rating is a path towards perfecting your diving skills. Earning the rating means that you have spent significant time underwater learning and practicing your dive skills in a variety of dive environments. To get the most out of your experience, I always recommend charting a course based on interests that you develop during your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver. These could include photography, fish & marine life, or adventure. Having plan for which courses to take will help you to stay motivated and on track to reach your PADI Master Scuba Diver goal.

Last fall, PADI interviewed Northwest diver and photographer Janna Nichols, who talks about earning the PADI Master Scuba Diver rating while diving in the Pacific Northwest, and what the rating meant to her:

As Janna mentions in the video, she had an interest in being an underwater naturalist that helped her to choose which courses to take in order to complete her PADI Master Scuba Diver rating.

Getting Started

To start working towards the PADI Master Scuba Diver rating, a diver first needs to earn the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver. In this class, divers will try 5 Adventure Dives- Underwater Navigator, Deep Diver, plus 3 elective Adventure Dives. The PADI Advanced Open Water Diver allows divers to receive additional training and explore areas of interest within scuba diving, such as fish identification, photography, or search & recovery diving.

After the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course is PADI Rescue Diver, where you’ll learn to prevent and manage problems in the water, and become more confident in your skills as a diver. Additional requirements for the PADI Master Scuba Diver rating are a minimum 12 years or older and have 50 logged dives. If you have fallen behind on logging your dives, now is a good to to start by logging them on ScubaEarth.

Next is the fun part, deciding on which 5 speciality courses to take. I recommend that you decide on your main interest(s) and build a course schedule around it. Here are three groups of courses to take based on some common diver interests:

PADI Dry Suit Diver

Divers completing their PADI Dry Suit Diver course

Naturalist Diver
AWARE – Fish Identification
AWARE – Coral Reef Conservation
Peak Performance Buoyancy
Digital Underwater Photography
Underwater Naturalist

Northwest Diver
Night Diver
Deep Diver
Dry Suit Diver
Underwater Navigator
Enriched Air Diver

Adventurer Diver
Underwater Navigator
Search and Recovery Diver
Wreck Diver
Drift Diver
Enriched Air Diver

Course schedules could also be built around interests such as photography; cold water, ice & altitude; or travel. In addition, popular courses such as Enriched Air Diver or Peak Performance Buoyancy can be substituted for another course or even taken as a 6th speciality.

At Seattle Dive Tours, we can put together a complete PADI Master Scuba Diver program for any diver, taking as little as two weeks or several months depending on the diver’s schedule and interests. Ready to start your PADI Master Scuba Diver rating? Call us at (206) 265-0006, or e-mail to get started today!

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Easy ways to Peak Performance Buoyancy

  • Scuba divers in Clear Lake, OR
Scuba divers in Clear Lake, OR

Scuba divers practicing peak performance buoyancy in Clear Lake, OR

Easy ways to Peak Performance Buoyancy

The dive starts off well enough, your descent starts off easily but then you start to find yourself sinking too quickly and adding air to your BCD to compensate. You still crash to the bottom and stir up a cloud of sand and silt around you. Once you recover, you start the dive but now find yourself constantly adding air to your BCD to stay off the bottom. Around you other divers in your group seem to be having no problems while you become more frustrated and tired as the dive wears on. As the Divemaster heads to shallower depths to start the safety stop, you’re constantly venting air from your BCD in order to not get above the group. The safety stop itself becomes a non stop cycle of inflate/deflate to maintain 15 feet. You get on the boat tired, frustrated, and ready to go back to shore.

We’ve all been there; the overweighted diver struggling to stay off the bottom. Why not try a few easy ways to improve your buoyancy on your next dive?

Estimate your buoyancy- Start with a chart, such as PADI’s Basic Weight Guidelines, to estimate your weighting. For Seattle Dive Tours, factoring in gear and cylinders, we use 10% of your body weight plus 10 pounds, then adjust on the second dive.

Take time to try a buoyancy check at the surface- Can you float at eye level with an empty BCD while holding a normal breath? Don’t be afraid to add or subtract a couple of pounds before the dive.

Relax and practice proper descent techniques- The most common reason for overweighting is not being able to descend. Remember to stop kicking, hold your arms still, exhale and allow yourself to slip below the water. See my post on descending here.

Add as little air to your BCD as possible- Your BCD should be used primarily for surface flotation. Only add just enough air while underwater to achieve neutral buoyancy.

Remember breath control- Want to get a bit higher to see something? Take an extra big breath instead to adding air to your BCD. You’ll rise up a bit in the water column and not have to add air to your BCD. Do not hold your breath!

Pay attention to trim- Center the weight around your front hip bones. In cold water where more weight is necessary, distribute the weight between your BCD integrated weight pockets and a weight belt or weight harness. Avoid using anything more than 1 or 2 pounds in back trim pockets.

Ditch the ankle weights- Switch to a heavier fin instead.

Develop a smooth kick stroke- Are you bicycle-pedaling in the water? Make sure you are horizontal, using a scissor kick with your hip flexors moving your legs.

Streamline your gear- Computers, dive lights, and slates should be clipped to your BCD or tucked in a pocket.

Try a class– We schedule the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy course monthly, plus we can teach the class any day of the week for divers visiting Seattle. Call us at (206) 265-0006 or e-mail us to set up your custom class date.

February Advanced Open Water Certification Becomes a Snow Dive

Mike and Eric warming up

Mike and Eric warming up

We took a break from our regular dive tours in mid-February to teach the PADI Advanced Open Water certification course, and even had a rare Seattle snowstorm in the middle of the course. Our divers for the weekend were Mike, taking both the PADI Advanced Open Water certification and Dry Suit Diver courses, and Eric, taking the Dry Suit Diver course.

The first day (Saturday) started off at Redondo Beach, very popular for it’s well marked dive site and easy access. Plus we’ve had good luck finding GPO’s (Giant pacific octopus) and Wolf eel at the site. The day started off cold, but I had brought a propane heater to help keep everyone warm between dives. The first Adventure Dive of the weekend was Dry Suit Diver, which helped Mike & Eric to orient themselves to their dry suits, and also to work out weighting issues and buoyancy. After some snacks, Mike & Eric went back in to try the second Adventure Dive, Underwater Navigator. The dive had Mike navigate out and back to find a small boat on the dive site at approximately 45’, fist using natural navigation techniques, then using his compass. We had gone out to the boat on the first Adventure Dive, so he had a general idea of where it was and what was around it, plus a map for reference. Mike reported after the dive that using the compass was actually harder than using natural navigation, as there was more task loading involved, such as watching the compass & keeping it level, searching ahead, and keeping track of his buddy. Mike finished off the dive with a square pattern underwater, navigating back at the starting point. For divers using navigation, remember the key is to cooperate with your buddy, one diver navigating while the other diver searches. A dive slate can really help with communication underwater as well.

Seattle skyline by Mitchell Tillison

Seattle skyline at Alki Seacrest Park by Mitchell Tillison

After a dinner break we met back up at Alki Seacrest Park (Cove 2) across from downtown Seattle for our night dive. After a dive site briefing, we entered the water under clear skies and a beautiful nighttime view of the Seattle skyline. Playful Harbor seals followed us on our dive, using our lights to hunt for fish & invertebrates. As we surfaced, the weather topside had changed to snow showers!

Sunday morning brought 3 inches of snow to the Seattle area, and we decided to return to Alki Seacrest Park (Cove 2) instead of our original plan of Three Tree Point. First Adventure Dive was Deep Diver, followed by Search & Recovery Diver, and finally a second dry suit dive to complete the Dry Suit Diver speciality course. During the deep dive, Mike got to see how pressure effects gasses, colors, and even thinking and judgement. The search & recovery dive involved learning how to rig and use a lift bag (Mike said this was his favorite part of the weekend), tie knots, and use search patters to find Spiderman and his friends. The dry suit dive had both Mike & Eric practice buoyancy and demonstrate removing and reattaching their dry suit inflator hoses while underwater. We had our post weekend lunch and wrap up next door at Marination Ma Kai, my favorite because of the SPAM sliders & coleslaw.

Congratulations Mike & Eric!

Congratulations Mike & Eric!

Thought about earning your Advanced Open Water? Our PADI Advanced Open Water course is scheduled on the second weekend of each month, plus we can we can teach it any other day (weekends or weekdays) for divers visiting Seattle. Check out our calendar or contact us to set up your own class. We teach all of our classes with as few as one student, so that you can get the instruction you want on your schedule.

Peak Performance Buoyancy in the Northwest

  • Learn Peak Performance Buoyancy with Seattle Dive Tours


Learn Peak Performance Buoyancy with Seattle Dive Tours

Peak Performance Buoyancy with Seattle Dive Tours

As all divers know, one of the most important aspects of a great dive is being able to float effortlessly underwater while not feeling as if you are constantly drifting downward or floating upward. Seattle Dive Tours puts a lot of time and effort in making sure our divers have a comfortable and relaxing dive day. One aspect of this is helping our divers to achieve and maintain good buoyancy, neither too heavy and drifting down, or too light and drifting upward.

Once you book your Seattle Dive Tours dive, we’ll reach out to you confirming details and asking for your sizing information. We use this information to make sure we bing the correct gear sizes, and to calculate your estimated required weighting. We factor in the diver’s weight, cylinder buoyancy characteristics, and exposure suit. Using our standard setup and super warm 2-piece 7mm Neo Sport wetsuits, the typical diver will need 10% of their body weight plus 10-14 pounds of weight. That means a 180 pound male would use around 28-32 pounds of weight while a 140 pound female would use around 24-28 pounds of weight.

After you are fitted with your dive gear and in the water, your dive leader will conduct a buoyancy check at the surface, just like divers were trained in open water class. This way your dive leader can add or subtract a bit of weight to help our divers achieve good buoyancy though out the dive. We also pay attention to your trim, so that your body will be horizontal in the water without your fins feeling as if they are dragging on the bottom, or floating up above your body. We do this by distributing the weight between the diver’s BCD (buoyancy control device) and weight harness. We don’t use weight belts and instead use weight harnesses which are more comfortable and won’t slip off the divers waist.

Divers can also help themselves with buoyancy by remembering a few basic skills learned in open water. One is to do a pre-dive safety check on themselves and their buddy before entering the water, making sure they are streamlined by tucking in loose items such as a console and/or alternate air source. Next, when descending, remember to relax and breathe normally. Finning and sculling will create upward movement that will cause you not sink. Also try to maintain an efficient kick style through out the dive. Remember to kick smoothly and evenly with your hip flexors, and avoid a “bicycle kick” using your knees.

Our daily tours are open to both certified and non-certified divers, the non-certified version called a PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience. When you are ready, book online to start your adventure with us.