I’ve Always Wanted To Try That: Scuba Diving

I've Always Wanted To Try That: Scuba Diving

Whether you’ve been snorkeling in tropical waters or just watch a lot of “Shark Week” on Discovery, odds are you’ve pondered getting SCUBA certified at some point. The ability to immerse yourself, literally and figuratively, in such an alien environment right at your doorstep is very enticing. Rarely do you get a chance above water to be so intimately surrounded by such a brilliant variety of active plant and animal life that you can examine up close and personal. And these days, with most every holiday destination near water offering trial dives and certification courses, it’s remarkably easy to start diving.

The fact that I went thirty years without getting scuba certified is actually amazing. Not only was my mother a scuba instructor for years, not only did I spend my teen years living in Hawaii surrounded by dive outfits, but I even WORKED for one of the dive outfits for 9 months, where I could’ve gotten certified for free. It’s not like I didn’t want to, I just somehow managed to completely fail to do so. That is until Christmas of 2008 on a trip to Vanuatu, where iffy weather and a room on a tiny island almost dominated by diving made it fairly impossible to put off any further, and I finally got my start into scuba diving. And once I started, my only regret was that it had taken that long.


Reality Check

First and foremost, you want to be sure you’ll enjoy it. Scuba diving is like a fish climbing a tree; we’re doing something we’re just not built for, and it’s simply not for everyone. Being comfortable just with putting your face in the water and breathing strictly through your mouth is a simple but important hurdle, and a little time spent snorkeling, even in a pool, will help your comfort level immensely when you have to start paying attention to the details of diving. Also, the more comfortable and relaxed you are, the longer your air will last, and the more time you will get to spend exploring underwater.

If you’re on vacation, a lot of places will offer closely-supervised “trial dives”, which let you experience a short, shallow dive without having to go through the entire certification process. I did one of these on the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, and immediately knew I wanted more. Odds are pretty good that after one of these dives, you’ll want to get your certification as soon as possible.


Can I Do This?

Multitasking can, to put it lightly, be a challenge. So the idea of multitasking while, say, under 60 feet of water trying to remember how to breathe and not to piss off anything far more suited to be there than you are seems rather absurd. However, once you’re in the water, much of diving is simply common sense. This is helped even more by modern dive computers, which at the low end will keep track of all your critical details including dive and surface time, and at the upper end will tell you how long until the milk in your fridge turns. I’ve been on dives with people from 14 to almost 70; with a bit of training, diving is accessible to pretty much anyone.


The Gear

It’s true, there’s a good amount of gear involved in scuba diving, and some of it is quite expensive. However, you don’t need to own it all unless you’re really getting serious. Personally, I STILL don’t own so much as my own snorkel. However, for the sake of fit and comfort, you should at minimum own a mask that fits properly. After all, the whole point of scuba diving is being able to see things underwater.

I’ve been on more than one dive with a rented mask that began leaking the moment I hit the water, and while I completed the dive, it was very uncomfortable, and I used up my air much quicker than I should have. Not to mention it’s easy to pack, and you can still use it for snorkeling as well. The remainder of your dive gear will almost always be available for rent from the company you go diving with, even wetsuits, and adds the bonus of letting you use different styles of gear before committing to buying your own.


Getting Started

The thing is, you don’t even have to live near water to learn to dive, although it does help. Dive courses can be found almost everywhere, conducted anywhere from the shallows of the ocean to the shallow end of the local pool. If you don’t already know someone who dives, the nearest dive shop in the yellow pages will be able to give you info on local dive instruction courses, and will likely give you some additional advice for getting started. If you’re traveling, odds are you will have no trouble finding information on certification courses, and will typically have a variety of schedule options so you don’t spend your whole trip studying.

One thing to be sure of is that the course is taught by a dive instructor certified by PADI, NAUI, or other internationally recognized dive certification agency. This both ensures you’re getting proper training and means you can go anywhere in the world and be able to use your dive credentials to simply sign up for a dive and get straight in the water. And believe me, once you start diving, you’ll take any opportunity you can to get back underwater.


Useful Links

PADI: Professional Association of Diving Instructors
Wikipedia SCUBA diving glossary
Scubish.com: SCUBA trip planning

2 Responses

  1. Nicely written- would you like to post on my blog? Good photos too.


    • Thanks Leslie, though I can’t take credit for all of the photos, a number of them are Creative-Commons licensed public content.

      I’m focusing on my own blog for the moment, but feel free to repost me with credit given!

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