BECOMING A SCUBA DIVER
How do I learn to scuba dive?
Becoming a scuba diver is a wonderful adventure! Scuba certification includes three phases:
1. Knowledge Development
During the first phase of your scuba lessons, you'll learn the basic principles of scuba diving such as
What to consider when planning dives.
How to choose the right scuba gear for you.
Underwater signals and other diving procedures.
You'll learn this valuable information by reading it by using the PADI Open Water Diver eLearning. At the end of each chapter, you'll answer questions about the material to ensure you understand it. Along the way, let your PADI Instructor know if there is anything you don't understand. At the end of the course, you’ll take a final exam that ensures you have a thorough knowledge of scuba diving basics.
You'll also watch videos that preview the scuba skills you'll practice in a swimming pool or pool-like environment. In addition to the video, your instructor will demonstrate each skill for you.
2. Confined Water Dives
This is what it’s all about – diving. You'll develop basic scuba skills in a pool or in confined water – a body of water with pool-like conditions, such as off a calm beach. The basic scuba skills you learn during your certification course will help you become familiar with your scuba gear and become an underwater explorer. Some of the essential skills you learn include:
Setting up your scuba gear.
How to get water out of your mask.
Entering and exiting the water.
Basic underwater navigation.
You'll practice these skills with an instructor until you're comfortable. When you're ready, it's time for your underwater adventure to begin at an open water dive site.
3. Open Water Dives
After your confined water dives, you'll head to open water, where you and your instructor will make four dives, usually over two days. On these dives, you'll get to explore the underwater world. You'll apply the skills you learned in confined water while enjoying what the local environment has to offer. Most student divers complete these dives close to home, but there is an option for finishing your training while on holiday. Your PADI Instructor can explain how you can be referred to another PADI Instructor in a different location.
How long does it take to get certified?
The PADI Open Water Diver course is flexible and performance-based, which means that your local Aqua Hands Instructors can offer a wide variety of schedules, organized according to how fast you progress. It’s possible to complete your confined and open water dives in three or four days by completing the knowledge development portion via PADI eLearning, or other home study options offered by your local Aqua Hands Instructors.
Your PADI Instructor will focus on helping you become a confident and comfortable diver, not on how long it takes. You earn your certification based on demonstrating you know what you need to know and can do what you need to do. This means that you progress at your own pace – faster or slower depending upon the time you need – to become a competent scuba diver.
How much do scuba lessons cost?
Compared with other popular adventure sports and outdoor activities, learning to scuba dive isn’t expensive. For example, you can expect to pay about the same as you would for:
a full day of surfing lessons.
a weekend of rock climbing lessons.
a weekend of kayaking lessons.
a weekend of fly-fishing lessons.
about three hours of private golf lessons.
about three hours of private water skiing lessons.
one amazing night out at the pub!
Learning to scuba dive is a great value when you consider that you learn to dive under the guidance and attention of a highly trained, experienced professional – your PADI Instructor. What’s more, you receive a certification to scuba dive at the end of a PADI Open Water Diver course (few other activities can offer that).
From the first day, scuba diving starts transforming your life with new experiences you can share with friends. And you can do it almost anywhere there is water. Start learning with eLearning and get ready to take your first breaths underwater! For specific costs, ask at the local Aqua Hands Instructors where you’d like to get certified. All PADI Dive Centers and Resorts are independently owned and operated, and prices can vary depending on location, class size, and other factors.
Some questions you may want to ask are:
Are the course materials included in the price?
What personal dive equipment am I required to have?
Is rental gear included?
Are there any additional fees such as a boat fee or certification fee?
How many student divers will be in the course?
Where will open water training dives take place?
What gear will I need to scuba dive?
Choosing and using your scuba gear is part of the fun of diving. Your local PADI Dive Center or Resort will help you find the right gear. Each piece of scuba equipment has a different function so that together, it adapts you to the underwater world.
When you start learning to scuba dive, as a minimum, you'll want your own:
These have a personal fit, and your local PADI dive shop will help you choose gear with the best fit and features for you.
During your PADI Open Water Diver course, you’ll learn to use a regulator, buoyancy control device (BCD), a dive computer or dive planner, scuba tank, wetsuit or drysuit, and weight system. Check with your local PADI Resort or dive shop to confirm what equipment is included in your course package.
Consider investing in all your own scuba equipment when you start your course because:
You’re more comfortable learning to scuba dive using gear you’ve chosen.
You’re more comfortable using scuba gear fitted for you.
Scuba divers who own their scuba diving equipment find it more convenient to go diving.
Having your own scuba diving gear is part of the fun of diving.
The kind of gear you’ll need depends on the conditions where you dive most. You may want:
How do I find the best scuba gear?
There is no “best gear,” but there is the best gear for you. The dive professionals at your local Aqua Hands Instructors are trained to help you find scuba gear that best matches your preferences, fit and budget.
What are the requirements for learning to scuba dive?
If you have a passion for excitement and adventure, chances are you can become an avid PADI Diver. You'll also want to keep in mind these requirements:
The minimum age is 10 years old (in most areas). Student divers who are younger than 15 earn the PADI Junior Open Water Diver certification, which they may upgrade to PADI Open Water Diver certification upon reaching 15. Children under the age of 13 require parent or guardian permission to register for PADI eLearning.
All student divers complete a brief scuba medical questionnaire that asks about medical conditions that could be a problem while diving. If none of these apply, sign the form and you’re ready to start. If any of these apply to you, your doctor must, as a safety precaution, assess the condition as it relates to diving and signs a medical form that confirms you’re fit to dive. In some areas, local laws require all scuba students to consult with a physician before entering the course. Download the scuba medical questionnaire.
Before completing the PADI Open Water Diver course, your instructor will have you demonstrate basic water skills to be sure you’re comfortable in the water, including:
Swim 200 metres/yards (or 300 metres/yards in mask, fins, and snorkel) without stopping. There is no time limit for this, and you may use any swimming strokes you want.
Float and tread water for 10 minutes, again using any methods you want.
Any individual who can meet the performance requirements of the course qualifies for certification. There are many adaptive techniques that allow individuals with physical challenges to meet these requirements. People with paraplegia, amputations and other challenges commonly earn the PADI Open Water Diver certification. Even individuals with more significant physical challenges participate in diving. Talk to your local Aqua Hands Instructors for more information.
Each diver must have a personal set of learning materials to use during the course and for reference after the course. There are several options available, depending on your learning style and technology preference, including:
PADI Open Water Diver eLearning and watching the Open Water Diver Video on DVD either on your own or with your instructor
Your local Aqua Hands Instructors can provide one of the options above as part of the course enrollment process. You’ll also need a logbook and a dive-planning device such as a dive computer, RDP table or eRDPML. Your instructor will have you use the PADI Skill Practice and Dive Planning Slate during training, and you’ll find this tool useful once you’re certified.
Do I have to be a good swimmer to scuba dive?
Some swimming ability is required. You need to have basic swim skills and be able to comfortably maintain yourself in the water. Your PADI Instructor will assess this by having you:
Swim 200 metres/yards (or 300 metres/yards in mask, fins, and snorkel). There is no time limit for this, and you may use any swimming strokes you want.
Float and tread water for 10 minutes, again using any methods you want.
Any individual who can meet the performance requirements of the course qualifies for certification. There are many adaptive techniques that allow individuals with physical challenges to meet these requirements. People with paraplegia, amputations and other challenges commonly earn the PADI Open Water Diver certification. Even individuals with more significant physical challenges participate in diving. Talk to your PADI Instructor at your local Aqua Hands Instructors for more information.
Where is the best place to get certified?
All local Aqua Hands Instructors worldwide adhere to the same training standards, so no matter where you are there’s likely a PADI Instructor ready to teach you how to scuba dive. Decide where the best place for you is by contacting your local Aqua Hands Instructors to find out what options are available or ask friends and family.
Where can I scuba dive?
You can dive practically anywhere there’s water – a swimming pool, the ocean, and all points in between, including quarries, lakes, rivers, springs or even aquariums. Where you can scuba dive is determined by your:
Dive site access and conditions
For example, if you’ve just finished your PADI Open Water Diver course, you probably shouldn’t dive under Antarctic ice on your next dive. However, don’t limit yourself. Some of the best diving is closer than you think.
Your local dive site can be anything from a purpose-built site, like a large aquarium, or a more natural site like Belize’s Blue Hole or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It may be a manmade reservoir or a fossil-filled river. It’s not always about great visibility because what you see is more important than how far you see.
The only truly important thing about where you dive is that you have the training and experience for diving there and that you have a dive buddy to go with you. Your local Aqua Hands Instructors can help you organize great local diving or a dive vacation.
My ears hurt when I go to the bottom of a swimming pool or when I dive down snorkeling. Will that prevent me from becoming a scuba diver?
No, assuming you have no irregularities in your ears and sinuses. The discomfort is the normal effect of water pressure pressing in on your eardrums. Fortunately, our bodies are designed to adjust for pressure changes in our ears – you just need to learn how. If you have no difficulties adjusting to air pressure during flying, you'll probably experience no problem learning to adjust to water pressure while diving.
Will a history of ear troubles, diabetes, asthma, allergies or smoking preclude someone from diving?
Not necessarily. Any condition that affects the ears, sinuses, respiratory or heart function, or may alter consciousness is a concern, but only a doctor can assess a person’s individual risk. Doctors can consult with the Divers Alert Network (DAN) as necessary when assessing fitness to dive. Download the medical statement to take to your doctor.
What are the most common injuries or sicknesses associated with diving?
Sunburn, seasickness, and dehydration, all of which are preventable, are the most common problems divers face. Injuries caused by marine life, such as scrapes and stings, do occur, but these can be avoided by wearing an exposure suit, staying off the bottom and watching where you put your hands and feet.
What about sharks?
When you’re lucky, you get to see a shark. Although incidents with sharks occur, they are very rare and, with respect to diving, primarily involve spear fishing or feeding sharks, both of which trigger feeding behavior. Most of the time, if you see a shark it’s just passing through and a rare sight to enjoy.
Do women have any special concerns regarding diving?
Aside from pregnancy, no. Because physiologists know little about the effects of diving on the fetus, the recommendation is that women avoid diving while pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Menstruation is not normally a concern.
How deep do you go?
With the necessary training and experience, the limit for recreational scuba diving is 40 metres/130 feet. Beginning scuba divers stay shallower than about 18 metres/60 feet. Although these are the limits, some of the most popular diving is shallower than 12 metres/40 feet, where the water’s warmer and the colors are brighter.
What happens if I use up all my air?
Your dive kit includes a gauge that displays how much air you have. You’ll learn to check it regularly, so it’s unlikely you’ll run out of air while scuba diving. However, if you run out of the air, your buddy has an extra regulator (mouthpiece) that allows you to share a single air supply while swimming to the surface. There are also other options you’ll learn in your scuba diving training.
What if I feel claustrophobic?
People find the “weightlessness” of scuba diving to be quite freeing. Modern scuba masks are available in translucent models, which you may prefer if a mask makes you feel closed in. During your scuba diving training, your instructor gives you plenty of time and coaching to become comfortable with each stage of learning. Your scuba instructor works with you at your own pace to ensure you master each skill necessary to become a capable scuba diver who dives regularly.
I’m already a certified diver, how do I become a PADI Diver?
Scuba diving certifications from other diver training organizations can often be used to meet a prerequisite for the next level PADI course. For example, if you have an open water diver or entry-level certification from another diver training organization, you may qualify to enroll in the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course, which is the next level. There is no simple “equivalency” or “crossover.” The best option is to take the next step and continue your education. If you would like to continue your dive training and receive a PADI certification, contact your local Aqua Hands Instructors to ask about the options you have for obtaining a PADI certification.
I have a professional-level certification with another agency, how do I become a PADI Divemaster or Instructor?
If you hold a professional rating from another diver training organization and wish to become a PADI Divemaster or Instructor, please contact Thomas Koch, Course Director.
A dive professional in good standing with another diver training organization may meet the prerequisites for the next level PADI certification. For example, a divemaster with another diver training organization may qualify to enroll in a PADI Assistant Instructor course or Instructor Development Course (IDC). You could not receive a PADI Divemaster certification unless you completed the PADI Divemaster course. There is no simple “equivalency” or “crossover.”
An instructor in good standing from another diver training organization may be eligible to enroll in an Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI) program. This program is shorter than a complete IDC and focuses on building upon your teaching skills by introducing you to the PADI System. You must also successfully complete a PADI Instructor Exam (IE) to become a PADI Instructor.
Still, have questions?
Please contact your local Aqua Hands Instructors.