Learning Is Easy and Fun
You can become a certified diver in a very short period of time, or you can take your time and learn at your own pace. Retail dive centers and instructors can be very flexible to fit your schedule, or you can sign up for a class that has set meeting dates and times. Times can be shortened by the diver by reading ahead or taking private instructor time for confined water or open water learning. You’ll be diving in less time than you think!
You Don’t Need Much to Begin
To be a diver you should be in good average health and comfortable in the water. If you are adventurous, prepare to be amazed!! This is a unique adventure that you can experience almost anywhere in the world!
Divers must be at least 10 years old to be certified, and all diving students are asked to fill out a feedback form that asks about medical conditions that are important to divers. In some cases you may be asked to be examined by a physician before starting or completing a scuba course. Diving students are also asked to demonstrate their comfort in the water, by showing the instructor that they can swim and float. There are no time limits on swimming and the student should be able to demonstrate they can swim 200 yards using any style of swimming they wish. Students are asked to float for 10 minutes, again using any style they wish.
For those with physical challenges, any individual who can meet the performance requirements for the course can qualify for certification as a scuba diver. Check with your professional instructor or retail dive center for additional information if needed.
You’ll want to own a quality mask, fins and a snorkel as part of your “open water diver” training, so visit your local dive retailer right away once you’ve made the decision to Be A Diver. Eventually you’ll want to have all your own equipment so that you can choose when and where you dive without depending on rental equipment. You’ll also be more comfortable in your own gear, and you’ll always have gear that fits you just right.
Your professional dive retailer and your professional diving instructor can help you select the equipment that’s right for you. Click here to read about all of the different equipment available to make diving easier and more fun.
When you register for your class, or on the first day of your course, there’ll be a bit of paperwork for you to fill out, including a fairly extensive health questionnaire. This is helpful in making sure you are healthy for diving, and if your instructor sees anything on your forms that indicates a follow-up with your doctor is in order, he or she will let you know. Most people in reasonable average health will have no need for more additional follow-up.
If you’re taking the traditional course with classroom sessions, you’ll be learning about the fun of diving, the critters you’ll see, and the growth and fulfillment you’ll experience taking on a new and adventurous activity. You’ll also find information about safety, the equipment, how the water affects you, how to plan a dive, procedures for diving on boats, and more. There’s nothing extraneous; it’s all useful stuff that will give you a solid understanding of the “whys” behind the safety guidelines for diving, and the ability to easily understand the skills you’ll be learning in the pool. Most likely the equipment section of the course will probably include a tour of the center’s retail operation, and some hands-on demonstrations of different sorts of dive equipment. And of course you’ll get to try the equipment in the pool or confined water too.
Scuba courses are typically divided into three parts: information development, pool (or “confined water”) learning, and open water learning.
Information Development consists of finding out the changes you can expect while diving. Topics such as; getting more acquainted with the critters you are likely to encounter, planning for a safe and enjoyable dive, and how pressure affects you underwater are included. The educational programs are time tested and include many different ways to learn – reading, watching videos and even taking a short quiz to reinforce what you’ve learned. You’ll find that no matter what your learning style, today’s educational programs will make it easy for you. Most scuba classes will use a collection of educational materials to help make learning easier. These materials can include a book, videos or DVDs, a log book and a diving planner to help you plan all dives.
Confined Water/Pool learning gives the diver a chance to try out their equipment and become comfortable under the watch of a professional scuba instructor. Instructors love to dive, and they love to teach scuba. You’ll see it right away when you are trying out different pieces of the equipment and making decisions about the kinds of equipment you want to use. Instructors are very helpful in making you comfortable in the water, starting in the pool. The pool or confined water is also the best place to learn the techniques that will keep your diving experience safe and enjoyable.
Finally, you’ll have a chance to put your pool learning experiences to work for you in open water. What a fantastic experience! Using the equipment and techniques you’ve used up to that point, you’ll see the critters and the scenery, explore the area with your instructor showing the way, and complete the simple training needed to become a certified scuba diver!
Learning to dive is probably considerably more affordable than you might have expected. Many local dive centers view dive training as a way of expanding their customer base, making friends, and building affinity, so the classes are often priced very close to the center’s actual cost. Other schools that teach diving as their primary activity are often able to achieve economies of scale that allow them, also, to offer their classes at a surprisingly affordable price.
Learning to dive in a vacation destination may be somewhat more expensive, and room costs are a pretty good indicator here. If the place you’re visiting has mostly premium hotels and resorts, prices are apt to be higher than what you would find locally. But if you are seriously considering taking classes on-site, make a few phone calls to dive centers affiliated with known and reputable training agencies. There are always exceptions, and you might find a very attractive package.
When pricing training, be aware that there are three major components to open water training:
- Equipment – the use of gear (other than mask, fins, and snorkel, which you usually provide), and the cost of airfills for the scuba tanks you’ll be using,
- Coursework and Confined Water Sessions – the training you‘ll be doing at your dive center’s facility, or at the facility they use, and
- Open-Water Sessions – the real-world diving that you’ll do at an actual dive site.
Some dive centers charge for these three components separately, as this makes things more convenient for people who have their own gear, or who will be doing their open-water diving at a different location. Other centers price all three together as a package (but may deduct something if you don’t need all three components).
So don’t just ask the price. Ask what the price includes, so you have a way of making an “apples-to-apples” comparison.
A visit to your local dive center can also provide you with an overview of about how much you should eventually plan on spending for all your equipment. A key word here is “eventually,” though; except for mask, fins and snorkel, all the other gear you’d need to make a dive is available to rent at local and destination dive centers. So if budget is an issue, that’s one thing to consider. Rental can also be a matter of convenience. For instance, most divers don’t travel with their own tanks and weights, as it’s far more convenient to rent those things on location when they’re traveling.
When you do buy dive gear, bear in mind that, if cared for, it can last a long, long time. Well-serviced regulators are often still in service decades after they were first purchased, and a good-quality wetsuit can see you through several seasons of weekly dives. And if you do have your own gear, remember this: the more you dive, the more your cost per dive goes down, as you amortize equipment cost over a greater number of dives. In fact, if you eventually decide to become a dive professional (even as a part-time avocation) your dive gear can help you make money.
Chances are you’ve already invested in another leisure activity, whether it’s riding a mountain bike, or sailing, or backpacking. If you look at what that sort of activity costs, and compare it to the cost of learning to dive and going diving, you may well be surprised at just how affordable your diving adventure can be.