are several options to finding out if this sport is for
you. Snorkeling is the easiest introduction to the oceans
and seas. For many, snorkeling is just a tease. The desire
to go underwater and stay awhile is just too great.
Another type of introduction
to the water is called SNUBA. Similar to scuba, Snuba
allows you to remain underwater for an extended period.
In Snuba, you don't carry compressed air in tanks on your
back; instead air is pumped down from the surface through
a hose, which you breathe through. You have limited amount
of freedom, about 30 feet of hose. It's quite safe and
because it requires little equipment, it's easy to do.
Not all resorts offer Snuba diving. The Snuba International
web site, www.snuba.com, has a list of resorts that provide
The next level is through
a resort course. Resorts offer a one-day scuba diving
package for people who have never had any dive training.
The package includes a 30-minute class, diving equipment
and two dives in 30 to 40 feet of water. You are not certified
or properly trained after this, but hopefully you've had
a wonderful experience and are motivated to get certified.
However, most certified divers will warn you against the
resort dive experience. It can be very dangerous. If you
aren't 100% confident and comfortable in the ocean, don't
take a resort course. Get properly trained first.
The course is too short to build your confidence, and
panicking underwater can be very hazardous.
Your first dive experience
will either be in a pool or through a resort diving course.
Resort courses are less safe because you are not properly
trained. Even if you're only diving in 30 feet of water,
there are hazards when you're using compress air.
If you're going to do a
resort course, make sure it's a good course. Don't go
bargain hunting. They should provide at the least a 1/2
hour lecture, any less time means you're not getting the
basic information you need. In a resort course, a dive
instructor will go with you underwater. It's important
that there aren't too many students. 3 or 4 students to
an instructor should be the maximum. Any more and the
instructor will have a hard time making sure everyone
is safe. When you're diving, stay close to the instructor.
That way, if you get into trouble, you will be able to
get help quickly.
Once you've decided to get
trained, its time to find a scuba class. There are three
main organizations providing certification. For your first
level of certification, the general opinion is that all
three are equal. PADI and NAUI are the most familiar organizations
within the dive community. Additionally, the YMCA is the
oldest scuba instruction organization in the U.S. They
are considered to have the hightest training standards.
The standard equipment you'll
need from your first day in the water is a mask, snorkel,
fins, BC (buoyancy compensator), weight belt, regulator,
and tank. During your course, the BC, weight belt, regulator
and tanks will be provided. You should go ahead and buy
your mask, snorkel and fins. Make sure you get "real"
scuba diving equipment, not swim or beach equipment. Buy
good equipment that fits properly. At 60 feet under you
don't want to be worried about a mask that leaks. Your
dive course provider will typically offer you a discount
on equipment. They'll also be able to help you find the
After you've finished your
course, it's time to do your certification dives. Doing
your check out dives in the tropics is highly recommended.
The conditions are easiest, and the tropics will give
you a taste of the best. You don't have to be at 100 feet
to experience the best of scuba diving. In fact most fish
and coral are closer to the surface, between 30 to 50
Your dive course provider
will often provide a certification trip to a tropical
area. If you choose not to go with your course, your instructor
will be able to recommend several locations and dive shops.
Once you choose a location, check out several of the dive
shops in that location. You should ask them how they run
the certification dives? What equipment do they provide
and what equipment do you need to bring? How many people
per instructor for the certification dives? Cost? Quality
of equipment used? You don't want to bargain hunt for
your certification dive. However you want to make sure
that if you pay more, you're getting more.
Once you're certified as
a diver, the places to go are endless. The type of diving
seems to be endless too. There's reef dives, wreck, wall,
drift, night and of course shark dives for the fearless.
Many of these dives are available to an Open Water I certified
diver. However, if you plan to dive often it is recommended
that you go right into your advanced diver certification.
This will open the doors to more extreme diving, deep
dives, and will ensure that you're fully prepared and
trained for most situations.
Finding a diving companion
may be difficult. If you don't have friends that dive,
look into joining a local dive club. It's a great way
to keep involved and find other to dive with. Even if
you don't have a dive partner, you can still go diving.
When booking your trip, tell the shop that you'll need
a partner. The divemaster on the boat will set you up
with another solo diver. It is very important as first
time dive buddies to plan your dive before you get into
the water. Ask the divemaster on the boat about the site
and where should you go. Find out if there's a current
and what direction it's moving in. Most importantly, don't
do anything you're not comfortable with. Just say no.
There have been many cases where a dive buddy who appeared
to be more experienced led both divers into a dangerous
situation. If you aren't comfortable or compatible with
your partner, let the divemaster know.
Being a dive buddy is a
very serious commitment. When you accept the role of a
dive buddy you are agreeing to assist and give help. In
some cases divers have been sued and found negligent for
not complying with their commitment.
Some dive destinations such
as the Florida Keys don't provide a guide on your dive.
It's worth requesting and even paying for a guide. You
still have a dive buddy, but an experienced diver who
knows the area will lead you through the dive site. They
know the site and where to find the inhabitants, such
as turtles and rays. They also know the hazards and will
steer you clear of them. A guide will greatly increase
your dive enjoyment and safety.
For most, it is difficult
to go on a dive trip more than once or twice a year. If
you haven't been diving in the last 12 months it is recommend
that you take a refresher dive course. This is a one-day
pool course that reacquaints you with the equipment and
some basic skills.
Pushing the Depths
If your goal is to do some
extreme diving, you must continue your dive instruction
past the advanced level. The highest level is a master
level. There are also many specialty dive courses such
as ice, wreck, cave, deep, and photography. Additionally,
you may choose to work in the dive industry as an instructor.
Living in Key West, Florida and getting paid to teach
diving would be a nice life.
Diving technology and equipment
are constantly improving. The industry is also learning
more and more about the long term effects of pressure
on the human body. One of the newer discoveries is Nitrox.
In 1996 Nitrox was accepted into the recreational dive
industry. It is a mixed gas that contains more oxygen
and less nitrogen than regular compressed air. Less nitrogen
allows for longer bottom times. There is still quite a
bit of controversy about using Nitrox for pushing the
standard dive limits. On the other hand there is a solid
agreement that using Nitrox with standard limits actually
improves safety. Using Nitrox in conjunction with standard
dive tables for compressed air will reduce the amount
of nitrogen that is absorbed and therefore reduce the
chances of decompression sickness. As in any new technology
or technique, do your homework before you make a decision.
Nitrox does require additional training.
As divers, we are not only
responsible for our own safety but also for the health
of our oceans. Humans have already done immeasurable harm
to the oceans and seas. Experienced divers must set an
example. Never touch or disturb the reef. If you see others
harming the reef, it's important to let them know they
are destroying a precious resource. Setting an example
and teaching others is the only way we're going to preserve
the reefs. There are many excellent organizations that
divers should be involved in such as Reef Environmental
Education Foundation, www.reef.org.
you have a favorite environmental organization, please
send SheGear the information.
- Don't touch or stand
on the reef, ever. Don't let your equipment touch or
drag across the reef. This is really important, because
one touch is all it takes to kill the coral. And it
takes hundreds of years to rebuild the damage. The world
is rapidly losing its dive sights because of ignorant
- Don't take anything.
You may hear of some divers taking shells, but its not
acceptable practice among the diving community. A good
scuba diver strives to leave the underwater environment
totally unchanged by their visit.
- Don't leave your dive
buddy. You've agreed to stay together, so stay near.
- Don't just follow your
dive buddy's lead, leaving your safety in someone else's
hands. Play a role in the dive. Don't rely on someone
else to watch the time, your depth, etc. If you don't
feel right about going somewhere or doing something,
- In order to keep your
equipment from dragging, use Velcro strips to keep your
gauges close to your BC jacket.
- Always wear some kind
of wetsuit or dive skin, no matter how warm the water
is. Even if the water is 85°, you'll get cold after
- Bring your own wetsuit.
Rentals are kind of nasty.
- Bring a flash light
- It can be difficult,
but finding a regular dive partner can really enhance
- Number one rule for safety
is stay calm. Panicking underwater just magnifies any
situation making things worse.
- If it's been over 12
months since your last dive a refresher course is suggested.
- Planning your dive is
vital to having a safe dive.