Every time I meet someone who is interested in diving, they all seem to have some of the same questions rolling off of their lips. Here are some quick answers to some of the questions I get asked most.
How do I start diving?
Getting started in diving is simple. First, you need to make sure you are in relatively good general health, that’s as simple as going to your doctor and letting them know that you have intentions of doing some diving and you just want to make sure you are able to do so. Any good GP will know exactly what to look for to be able to give you that nod of approval you’re looking for. Next, choose your location. Will you be going diving while on vacation? Is there a local dive center you’ve had your eye on to check out? Where are you going to get started? When you’ve decided where you want to dive, the rest is out of your hands to some extent. When you get to the dive center, you will be introduced to either a Dive Master, Dive Instructor or Master SCUBA Diver Trainer (click here for more information on levels of diver certification). This will most likely be the person who is going to train you. After you tell them what your interest is, they will guide you accordingly: introduce you to and outfit you with the right sized equipment, explain the steps that will take you through your training and finally get you started on your training. That’s it!
Does scuba diving require training?
Yes, Absolutely. There are several skills and safety procedures that one must learn before embarking on any SCUBA diving adventures. As with all other sports, it’s so much more fun when you know what you’re doing. Even though SCUBA can be great fun, there are some parts of it that can become very dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. Training is not only recommended, but it is also required! Any dive center that you go to will ask for a certification card or certification number to verify your training. The only time that you won’t be expected to present that information is if you are being trained and in that case, all of your in-water time will be spent with a trained professional whose care you will be in.
Can I scuba dive without certification?
No. Scuba divers require both training and certification. Most Scuba Organizations have a form of certification for their divers, whether it be a card or badge, It’s the easiest method of letting other divers know your level of competency in the water. Each level of certification comes with its own training and bragging rights. Not only does it give you the ability to show off but it also allows you greater privileges. Each level allows you to do a little bit more, that could mean, you get to dive deeper, or you can now supervise a dive group or you can train/teach someone to dive but most of all, it makes you a better diver as you climb the ladder of diver certification.
Do scuba certifications expire?
Yes and No. Professional level SCUBA certifications expire and require yearly renewal usually for a fee by the certifying body however, recreational level certifications do not expire. I do tell my clients this, however, if you have not been diving for a year or more, it is in your best interest to do a refresher course. Some things may have changed from when you last when diving or you may have simply forgotten some of your skills because you haven’t used them in a while. Taking a refresher course will help build your confidence levels back up and give you the assurance that if something were to happen, you would be confident that you were prepared to handle it. In most cases, people find when they get back in the water and go through the skills in the refresher course that it comes back quickly and easily.
If you have a professional level certification and your licenses have expired, that’s ok. You have options. If you just want to dive with your buddy, you are free to do so with an expired dive license, you are, however, prohibited from TEACHING or TRAINING until you renew your license. This is because your license gives you some level of protection from the certifying body and without it, you are neither covered under their policies or recognized as one of their professionals. If your certification has expired and you are unsure about what you should do, contact your certifying body and ask them what your next step should be.
What are the different levels of scuba diving certification?
One of the main certifying bodies is an organization called PADI. It stands for the Professional Association of Dive Instructors and their certifications levels are as follows:
- Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) – A half-day course that allows you to try diving. It is NOT a certification but it can be credited towards your first certification if you decide to do it within 30 days.
- Open Water SCUBA Diver – This is the first level of certification. You can go directly to this level without doing the DSD as the information covered in a DSD is the first module of this course. This level basically introduces you to the equipment and the underwater environment. It allows you room to adjust to weightlessness and interaction with marine life.
- Advanced Open Water SCUBA Diver – This is the second level of certification. This level gives you a bit more experience in the water and a new set of skills such as navigation and marine life identification.
- Rescue Diver – This is the third level and this module covers more of the safety aspects of SCUBA. Safety for yourself and your buddy. What to do in the event of an emergency and it prepares you to be able to rescue someone should the need arise.
- Dive Master – This level enters you into the professional level of SCUBA diving. With it, comes additional responsibilities such as preparing equipment for a dive group, preparing the boat for a dive, in some cases you are also responsible for leading a dive among other things including assisting in the teaching of dive courses.
- Open Water SCUBA Instructor (OWSI) – This is the first official level of teaching. Not only are you now responsible for imparting knowledge but you are also responsible for assisting with the daily operations of a dive shop (if you are employed at one). This position also gives you the opportunity to branch off on your own and do freelance dive instruction if you so choose.
- Master SCUBA Diver Trainer – This is one of the more elite titles that can be achieved in the dive community. At this level, you can go even further with your dive career, you can open your own dive resort where you can do so many wonderful things including meeting people from all over the world and showing them a bit of the beauty of the waters surrounding your country.
These are just a few of the main levels within the certification system. Most other organizations use a similar certification rating system even though the names of the positions may vary. What you learn at the various levels is more or less the same. This may vary from certifying organization but most carry a similar grading system.
Here is a quick run-through of the levels in Scuba Schools International (SSI) Certification.
- Open Water
- Advanced Open Water
- Master Diver
- Century Diver
- Silver Diver
- Gold Diver
- Platinum Diver
- Platinum Pro Diver
Is there an age limit for scuba diving?
The short answer is Yes. There an age restriction for how young you can start diving but there is no age limit for when you need to stop diving. Junior Divers can start as young as 10 years of age with PADI. This may vary in other organizations. People certified at this age become Junior Open Water Divers. You can continue diving well into your old age providing that you get the all-clear from your health professional. It is a good practice for certified divers to get a full medical yearly to ensure they are in top shape to continue diving.
Can a non-swimmer go scuba diving?
A non-swimmer can go diving but they will NOT be allowed to be certified. It is possible to try diving (see DSD) without knowing how to swim but if you wish to become certified at some point, it is a requirement that you know how to swim. You don’t need to be the next Michael Phelps but you do need to have at least basic swimming skills so that you can save at least yourself should the situation arise. I hope this article put to bed some of your concerns about becoming a certified SCUBA diver or at least piqued your interest in the sport so that one day, maybe, you might give it a try. It’s definitely worth it!
For more information on PADI Certifications, please visit their website at www.padi.com
Happy Diving folks!