Scuba Diving can be fun and exciting, but for some, it can also be intimidating. In this article, I’m going to show you just how easy it is to get started and remove some of that fear by answering some of the questions that most folks have about getting started on your new adventure.
How do I start diving?
Getting started is simple. It’s one of the easiest (and most fun) things you can do. As with most sports, it is recommended that you check with your doctor before getting started, and with Scuba, it is no different.
Once your doctor gives you the ok, and you are generally in good health then make your way down to your local dive centre and tell them you would like to “try diving”. You will most likely be introduced to a Dive Master, Dive Instructor or Master Scuba Diver Trainer. These are the people who are certified to train you.
They will give a few forms to read over and sign regarding your general health and a waiver of responsibility. After the paperwork is complete, you will be asked to look at a short “Introduction to Scuba” video. It’s only about 30 mins long or so.
The next step will be to give you a first-hand look at the equipment you would use and a short demonstration about how it all works. You’re a few steps closer to getting in the water! Next, they will outfit you in your scuba gear. Proper fitting equipment helps to enhance your experience so you may find that they take their time making sure that you are comfortable in the sizes.
A basic scuba kit consists of a Buoyancy Compensator Device or BCD for short, a mask, a pair of fins, a weight system, (most new units are integrated into the BCD’s, but you may still find some places that use a weight belt) and last but not least, your scuba tank. At this point, the nerves kick in, and you’re probably getting a little anxious, but that’s ok. This is where the fun begins! You are about to get wet!
At this point, your Dive Instructor will take you to an area with shallow confined water to practice the skills you would have seen in the video you watched earlier. This could be a pool or even a shallow enclosed bay. After they are satisfied that you are comfortable enough, they will take you on your first (shallow) open water dive.
Congratulations! You have just taken your first breaths underwater!
For most, this is where the journey truly begins. Most people are so excited and intrigued by the experience that they go on to get certified as an Open Water Scuba Diver.
Is it hard to learn to scuba dive?
This seems like a trick question. I say this because, if you were to ask a room of twenty or so people if math is hard, I am sure at least seven will say yes.
Scuba is the same thing. Some will find it incredibly difficult, and others will find it simple, second nature almost. So, what’s the difference between those who find it easy and those who find it difficult? The short answer is… your mind. Some people go in the water so terrified of what they might see in the deep blue they entirely forget everything taught to them and scare themselves out of the experience. Others are quite the opposite; they are so intrigued by what they might see in the deep blue; they think they’ve mastered all the skills and are READY TO GO!
What’s the solution? In both situations, it helps to remain calm. Nothing is coming out of the deep blue to snatch you up, and for those eager to get there, it will all happen in due time. Scuba is all about slow, precise, deliberate movements. This allows you to see a lot more, to conserve your air and to conserve your energy. There is nothing complicated about learning to dive. It’s everything you do on land, except you’re underwater and it’s done slightly differently.
On land you walk (for most people), underwater you glide. On land, you breathe air, and underwater you breathe air, but it’s in a tank. You take a little while to adjust to the skills you are taught, and for some time, you may find yourself having to think about what you have to do but be patient with yourself. As with anything else that you would have learned, the skills take time to master.
The more you dive, the better you are. It’s not something you will excel at overnight, but as you go forward, you become more confident in yourself, and you learn to trust your equipment more, and you begin to relax more underwater and pay closer attention to the new environment.
Over the years, my experience has taught me that people who invest in their equipment tend to adjust faster to the underwater environment. This is most often because it’s more comfortable than a rental. Over time, you learn your equipment, and that helps to give people a little confidence boost. With proper fitting equipment, some of the reservations are gone.
People worry about all sort of things as beginner divers: will my mask fall off or will my fins fall off, sometimes the BCD might be a little too big and sways in the water, once you’ve taken those things away, those distractions, your mind can relax and focus more on enjoyment.
Is there an age limit for scuba diving?
Scuba is a very physically demanding activity. Most certifying bodies will not allow someone younger than ten years old to participate; however, once someone is over ten years old in good health and wants to dive, there are no age limit restrictions. I’ve had ninety-year-old students, I’ve had recovering cancer patients, It doesn’t matter what shape you are in or in some cases, what your physical capabilities are, Scuba can be the sport for you.
Doctors advise that if you have a pre-existing heart condition or a brain injury or lung damage that you do not dive and that’s simply because you exert a lot of energy and put a lot of pressure on your body underwater, but those are major health issues and should be treated accordingly. Otherwise, you are as young as you feel, and you can do whatever your heart desires. It’s never too late to start, never too late to take that first breath underwater and to feel weightless underwater and you glide seemingly effortlessly through the water.
For people with physical limitations, there are a few dive shops around that provide service to the differently abled. Click here for a list of dive centres that cater to the needs of the differently abled.
How do I pick a good dive shop?
This is a question many people struggle with. Everyone has specific things that they look out for when choosing a service. Here are a few things I look for when trying to select a great dive centre:
- Do I want to support a locally owned and run business vs a company with several branches around the world?
I usually try to choose a locally owned shop because it helps to add business to their economy and support the people of that country instead of giving it to a larger company with many locations. It’s just my way of helping the country that I’m visiting to keep doing what they are doing at a price that I can afford.
- How far is it from where I’m staying?
- How far are the dive sites I would like to visit?
- Do they provide transport to and from my hotel to the dive resort?
- How easily accessible are they?
- Would it cost me to get to the dive shop and if so, how much?
Those long commutes either by land or on the water, take up valuable time. Find a dive centre that is close to your resort. It will save you a long commute and possibly also the torture of waking up early to make it to your dives. Trust me; you’ll thank me later! Depending on where you are in the world, it’s not always safe to be wandering around “looking like a tourist”.
It helps lots to get to your destination as quickly as possible. Most divers I’ve met don’t seem to like long boat rides to get to dive sites so sometimes finding a dive centre close to a few good dive sites helps reduce the distances you will have to go on the boat. Remember you’re on vacation and every minute counts!
It’s no secret that most people are “ballin” on a budget, so we don’t want anything to break the bank, right? I always look for value for my money.
- What am I paying for?
- Are there any hidden costs?
- Am I expected to tip (because in some countries this is frowned upon and in others, it is expected)?
- Is it more cost effective if I bring my equipment or use a rental?
- Do I get discounts if I come with a group?
All of these things can adversely affect the cost of your trip, so be sure to take them into consideration before committing to any one place. Some places are very inexpensive, but they don’t offer much in the way of service, other shops are a little more expensive and give you a bit more bang for your buck and other places charge through your teeth, but they roll out the red carpet for their customers. It’s all about what you want and expect out of your trip and how much you are willing to pay. Either way, a little research goes a really long way!
Safety and Training:
- Are the staff at the dive centre adequately trained?
- Do they meet all governing body expectations and standards?
- Do the follow protocol?
- Have they had any incidents in the past?
- If so, what sort of incidents?
- Did anyone die?
- What are the emergency plans?
This is the gloomier side of planning a dive trip, but it’s essential! These people are responsible for your safety (to some extent) for the duration of your dives, and you want to be sure that you aren’t taking anything for granted. I’m not saying be paranoid; I’m just saying, it won’t hurt to check.
Find out a little bit about when their tanks were last inspected, how they clean their equipment, and how the boat is serviced and maintained. Accidents do happen regardless of people having all their ducks in a row, but most of them can be avoided once folks follow the rules.
- Are there reviews about the dive centre?
- What are people saying about the dive centre?
- Did they enjoy their experience?
- What are some of the problems they had?
- What are some of the things they enjoyed?
- What are some of the things that stood out for them?
- Would they choose to go there again?
Apart from going there for yourself, reviews are the next best way to get information about a place. You can find honest reviews online about most places. People LOVE talking about their experiences, the good the bad and the ugly, so use this information to your advantage. It will give you a realistic idea of what you’re getting. I caution though, take what you read with a grain of salt. Some people are incredibly difficult to please and find problems with the sun and the moon and the stars. Use the reviews as a guide to making a decision leaving some wiggle room for the varying personalities there are in the world.
- If I bring my equipment, is it prepared for me before every dive and stored and cleaned after my dives?
- Is there a shuttle to and from my hotel to the dive shop?
As I mentioned earlier, you pretty much get what you’ve paid for. Most people, however, tend to already have an idea of what they want out of their dive centre. Finding a place that offers all the services you want at the price you want and in the location you want is sometimes challenging but not impossible. Take your time going through your options and be prepared to make some compromises. There are many options out there, and you will eventually find one that suits you. Don’t be afraid to give in a little, some places offer AMAZING diving, but not a whole bunch in the way of service and that trade-off is absolutely worth it.
Every experience is a new adventure; don’t let your expectations limit you.