By Tracy Shevlin
Nestled on the Occoquan waterfront, Patriot Scuba is a unique store providing a one-stop shop for all things scuba. Owned by Jeff and Merial Currer, this family business opened over seven years ago in a 200 square-foot storefront when Jeff retired from the U.S. Navy. After several temporary locations, they opened in Occoquan four years ago and opened a second location at Ft. Belvoir two years later. Remarkably, they have made each move in establishing their business without incurring additional debt.
Jeff is a retired submariner and diving instructor, and Merial has a business and fashion merchandising background. The scuba shop combines both of their talents. Patriot Scuba has a staff of 12 instructors and offers lessons, equipment and diving adventures for scuba enthusiasts of all levels. Patriot Scuba is a hybrid business where the lessons and scuba events also support the retail store.
Prince William Living visited with the Currers to learn more about Patriot Scuba and what it takes to make their operation a success.
Scuba Basics for All Ages
Patriot Scuba offers a variety of classes for youth and adults, including introductory Discover Scuba courses, Open Water certification courses, and Advanced Open Water courses. The introductory course gives people a taste of scuba to help them determine if it is an activity they would like to pursue. In these two-hour courses, all equipment is provided.
Certification courses for open water and advanced open water are based on the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) standards. Certifications are performance-based, and Patriot Scuba understands that each diver comes to the class with a different mindset and skill set. They take pride in their ability to meet each student’s needs whether it means overcoming fears or working on skills. Certifications can be obtained in as little time as a three-day weekend or can take as long as a student needs to master the skills required. Their personalized teaching and flexible scheduling are part of their service philosophy.
While the purchase of scuba equipment can be costly, it is included in course fees for beginning courses. However, divers who pursue scuba will want to purchase the equipment that works best for them. Patriot Scuba offers beginning packages as low as $299 and strives to keep its equipment reasonably priced as not to be cost prohibitive. It is important to note that scuba equipment is not unilaterally appropriate for all users. Divers have many options for personalizing their equipment. For example, divers who wear glasses can have their prescriptions put into their masks for better vision while diving, and divers who have less strength or mobility may find a particular type of fin easier to use. Equipment choices are important and affect the diver’s ability to enjoy the diving experience.
Scuba Diving with Disabilities
As their name suggests, the Currers support the military community as part of their core values. They work with Ft. Belvoir’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation Program and enjoy helping military personnel and their families learn to dive. They specialize in helping disabled divers and those with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) enjoy the benefits of diving. Merial Currer said that sometimes people think their disabilities are too great to return to the water, but find it’s extremely liberating for them when they learn to dive. Her comments are supported in a 2011 study by Kaplan and Becker of Johns Hopkins University, which found “dramatic results” in the reduction of PTSD symptoms among their study sample. According to the study, for those with PTSD, scuba instills confidence and allows people to concentrate on the dive process and environment instead of reliving the experience of their trauma.
Firsthand experience in seeing the healing effects of scuba while working with disabled divers inspired Jeff Currer to create a nonprofit organization, Patriots for Disabled Divers (PFDD) in 2013. Through the nonprofit, disabled divers can learn to dive at no cost to themselves. To support that objective, Patriot Scuba also participates in fundraising efforts to cover the necessary costs of the programs. One way in which they support PFDD is through hosting a concert series at the Occoquan location. These events, which will begin in April, feature live musical or comedic performances throughout the spring and summer, and profits will go to PFDD.
As the 2017 season kicks off, the Currers continue with two shops, classes and scuba trips. Upcoming events include a sponsored diving cruise in April and a Caribbean trip in July. New ideas that they are developing for the future include a program for digital underwater art therapy.
For additional information regarding schedules and events, contact Merial Currer at 703- 490-1175 or email@example.com.
For information on Patriots for Disabled Divers, contact Jeff Currer at firstname.lastname@example.org. To support Patriots for Disabled Divers, visit patriotsfordisableddivers.org.
Tracy Shevlin (email@example.com) is a native Virginian and long-time Manassas area resident. She is a graduate of George Mason University where she is also an office manager. Follow her on Twitter @nvalady1.