So you want to learn to Scuba Diving? Awesome! Welcome to the amazing world of the Scuba Diving fraternity. You will learns some skills that will stay with you for life, meet some fabulous people from around the world, making life long friendships.
It’s important when you’re interested in any new hobby, that you research it carefully. Scuba diving, like many hobbies or sports, can be dangerous but also well worth the time and money invested to do it right.
Scuba diving – whether in a simulated pool environment, just off-shore, or open-water – needs to be taught by certified instructors.
Online research can show you the places that are available for the type of diving instruction you want, where they are located, as well as the ratings and reviews they’ve received from other professionals and students.
Take all of this into consideration when ranking the places you’d most like to go, and then call them. Or better yet, go there to see those places in person so you can experience the customer service and view the facilities.
Take notes. Let them know you are shopping for a place for instruction and that you would like to know what they offer.
Yes, you will get a sales pitch, but there is a lot to learn from how they pitch to you as well. Are you a potential lifelong customer or a credit card swipe to them? Only once you have seen your potential picks, you can make your decision and commit to becoming a Scuba diver with a reputable school.
There are many specialties in the Diving World.
MAKING SURE YOUR INSTRUCTOR IS CURRENTLY CERTIFIED
Learning to dive is an exciting adventure and also has its dangers. It is so important to learn from Professional Instructors. These Professionals have many years of experience both in teaching scuba students and time underwater. Your instructor will be teaching you many skills both for your enjoyment whilst diving but also for your safety. To check to see if the school you choose hires instructors that have a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Membership, you can check their membership number – which they should gladly give you, or it should be visible on a certificate shown at the front desk – you can go to PADI Pro Check.
You need a bit more information about the instructor to see if they are certified with NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors). You will need their first and last name, along with date of birth. If you make it clear you are asking for this information to verify that they are, indeed, a NAUI certified instructor, they should have no problem giving it to you. After all, if they are current, they want you to know so that you come back for instruction. You can verify their certification right on the NAUI site.
The are other Diver Training Organisations around the world, please take your time and research both the Dive School and the Instructors. Remember this is your journey into the undersea world – DIVE SAFE.
It is worth a bit of time for some research to read reviews from past students, this will reassure you the Instructor you have selected is the right fit for you.
WHAT DOES AN ENTRY LEVEL CERTIFICATION COVER?
Getting an entry level certification in Scuba diving is very different whether you get it from a PADI instructor or a NAUI instructor, but what that certification covers is pretty similar. Both certifications are accepted world-wide and allow dives up to 18 meters (60 feet).
However, with a PADI certification, you must always dive with a PADI certified professional diver. When you have a NAUI certification, you can dive alone as long as the dive you are doing is similar or easier than those done in your instruction. A PADI or NAUI entry level certification lasts for life. You can get one or both.
Learning to Scuba Dive is a skill that will last a lifetime.
Here is the equipment you will need to either buy or rent. You don’t need to buy everything at once. I recommend just starting off with a quality dive mask, and fins and go from there.
Dive Mask and Snorkel.
A dive mask creates a space between your eyes and the water allowing you to see clearly while you’re diving while also helping your ears and sinuses equalize the pressure as you dive. The snorkel attaches on the left side of the mask and is optional but good to have.
This piece attaches to your air tank and pushes air to you when you inhale. There is also a secondary regulator that is your back-up in case your primary malfunctions. The ‘octopus’ as it’s called is always bright yellow so it can be found quickly in case of emergency. They are both routed to your mask on the right side of your body.
They come in two types, wetsuits and skins. Wetsuits are typically made of foam neoprene rubber and are thicker than skins, which are typically made from spandex or Lycra (though some come with linings).
The importance of a wetsuit is for protection against water temperature as water lowers the body temperature 20 times faster than air. Skins may protect you from scratches and abrasions but they will not help control your temperature.
Know the temperature where you’re diving to ensure what type of suit you need. However, the most important part is fit and comfort. Dive protection gear should fit properly (which is snugly) without restricting movement or breathing.
Choosing the right dive fins can make a big difference in your diving experience. Water is 800 times denser than air so it takes strength and conditioning to move around.
Fins basically translate your leg muscle movements into power that helps you move through the water. There are several different types of fins in terms of size and rigidity. Experienced divers with strengthened leg and hip muscles would do fine with a longer, more rigid fin while a new diver would be better to choose a lighter, more flexible fin.
There is also the choice between open heel fins and full foot. Open heel fins require the use of a bootie. The most important feature though once again is fit. Properly fitting fins will fit snugly while not binding your foot in any way. Just like a comfortable shoe, you should be able to wiggle your toes in them.
The Scuba tanks, also known as bottles or cylinders, are the most important part of your dive equipment because they contain the air that will keep you breathing underwater.
Because of this, they must be checked regularly and those codes on them must be kept current as they are inspected, because then no reputable dive shop will fill them with air for you.
This is the exact same thing with fire extinguishers in your home. You wouldn’t want one to fail in an emergency so you check them regularly.
Buoyancy Control Device (BCD).
Often referred to as just the ‘BC’ is one of the most important pieces of your dive equipment. The main use of your BC is to assist you moving in the water. You can control your position by either adding or releasing air in the system.
The unit will allow you to achieve neutral buoyancy at any depth. It fits just like a backpack and attaches to your air tank. Look for one with quick release buckles and adjustable straps that feels snug but not tight. It’s always best to try the one you’d like to purchase on with the wetsuit you use most often to test for fit and operational ease.
Make sure you check over the inflator hose to ensure it will reach over your head. Are the inflate and deflate buttons clearly marked so they are easily differentiated with one handed operation?
A weight belt helps a diver get to their chosen depth at a smooth pace, maintain that depth, and stay even in the water by adjusting where the weights are on the belt.
It is very similar to the BCD but this is a little simpler to use once in the water. Before you get in the water, however, there is some math to be done.
You will have to calculate your weight, your wetsuit, the depth you wish you stay buoyant at, your tanks (as they are heavy but also filled with air), and also your experience as a diver. You must know how to adjust the belt to be able to maneuver in the water.
Submersible Pressure Gauge (SPG).
The SPG measures how much air you have in your tanks so you know when to safely end your dive and start your ascent without running out of air. There are two types of Submersible Pressure Gauges: analog and integrated.
The analog ones are what you would typically see with any traditional gauge. It would have a face with numbers and a needle which would show you how much is left in the tank. It would be up to you to determine how much time that amount of air would last you for an ascent.
The integrated SPGs are combined with dive computers or any other instruments you may have with you while under water. SPGs are also known as air gauge console, integrated computer, pressure gauge, or instrument console.
The good thing about a dive computer is that there are ones for every price range. You can start out with an entry-level one and upgrade as you get more into the hobby and your skills increase. Basic Scuba diving computers will tell you depth, direction, and have a tank gauge.
Then there are significantly more advanced ones that even give you access to upgrades over time so you know you won’t have to buy a whole new computer when it is time for a new one, you just have to upgrade the software.
Because these are a big investment, and worth the money you spend, make sure you do your shopping around and talk to your dive instructors and fellow divers before deciding on one.
There are a few more optional pieces of equipment for you to consider. A dive light is useful for not only diving at night but looking in crevices to see marine life. A dive knife is always a good idea to have in case you get tangled in fishing line or nets. Last but not least is a camera to take pictures of all the fish and marine life you will get to see.