Scuba Diving Certification Tips

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Divers Need to Be Certified to Keep the Sport Safe

Masks, snorkels and dive fins made from inferior materials will wear out quickly from frequent use and exposure to saltwater. So when you shop for scuba gear, look for name brands that have an established reputation for quality and reliability.

   

Scuba Students Need to Use Standard Equipment in Class

Whether it is PADI or NAUI, certifying agencies adhere to standards on scuba training, experience and competence. All starter scuba gear packages teach the same principles and practical knowledge that divers need to know to be safe. Your gear package also includes a silicone dive mask, snorkel, dive fins and mesh bag make great gifts for friends, children and spouses learning to scuba dive.

   
What kind of scuba equipment will I need to learn to dive?

Scuba Students Need to Use Standard Equipment in Class

If you are new to scuba diving or are a diving student, you will need a basic understanding of equipment. From the mask to fins, each piece of diving equipment has an essential function and purpose.

Scuba courses have classroom-based work. But a lot of the instruction takes place in the water, where you will learn to dive under the supervision of the instructor. Don't expect to make a big investment in equipment at the start. But you will need to buy a starter package consisting of mask, fins, snorkel, weight, weight belt and boots.

While it is not necessary to get the most expensive set, you want equipment that will not crack or leak from frequent use and exposure to saltwater. The bottom line with diving equipment is to go with brands that have a track record for quality.

Your diving instructor will explain the purpose of each piece of scuba equipment. You should not be required to buy anything beyond mask, fins, snorkel, weight, weight belt and boots. But you will need to rent dive equipment to participate in diving school. Usually certifying instructors are affiliated with dive shops and have rental equipment on hand.

Here's a rundown of standard scuba equipment that will get you started:

  • Mask, fins, snorkel.
  • Buoyancy compensator, also known as a BC or BCD. This inflatable jacket adjusts your buoyancy in the water.
  • Regulator: This is the bit or mouthpiece from which you breathe. It is connected to air cylinder.
  • Weight belt: The belt holds you down in the water. Weight belts sometimes are integrated with the buoyancy compensator.
  • Air cylinder: The steel or aluminum cylinder holds compressed air that you use underwater.
  • Octopus: This is your alternate air source

  • Instrument: Gauge that can display your air supply and depth.

   
What should I expect from a scuba diving class?

Scuba Diving Courses Lead to Adventure

Expect your scuba diving class to be part instruction and part adventure. You are learning a new sport that will enable you to explore a world that is alien to humans.

Once you master the course, you can carry your "C-card" with pride. This is the certification showing that you are a recreational scuba diver. But your education does not stop there. Experience is the ultimate teacher. You become a better diver every time you dive.

Taking diving lessons is the first step. A good scuba class should give you plenty of opportunities to ask questions and to practice skills, such as sharing oxygen with your dive buddy underwater.

Don't worry about trying to keep up with other students. Divers learn at their own pace. The goal is to become competent and comfortable as a diver.

You will have classroom work, pool practices and an open-water class. At the end of the course, you will be expected to undergo an open-water test.

Once you get your C-card, you will be certified to dive in open water. If scuba diving becomes a passion as well as a pastime, consider more instruction. You may want to be certified as an advanced diver, rescue diver, or divemaster.

   
What can I expect to encounter when I scuba dive?

Diving Classes Introduce Students to the Undersea World

The ocean is a wilderness, not a zoo or park. When you scuba dive off the coast of California or Florida, you will encounter sea creatures in their natural habitat. You are the visitor in their world.

Diving classes are designed to familiarize students with the undersea world and to practice skills required to be a competent scuba diver.

Most sea creatures are passive and will not confront you or try to harm you. Unlike the extreme adventures on some reality TV shows, scuba diving can be a relaxing and awe-inspiring experience.

If you are a thrill seeker, scuba diving may not be for you. It requires focus, organization and clear thinking. It also is not competitive. Cooperation is key. Your dive buddy is the person you will rely on if there is trouble.

Your dive buddy will be the first to notice if you get separated from the dive party. Your dive buddy will also be expected to share his oxygen with you if you cannot breathe on your own.

A good scuba course will not only train and educate students about diving, but instill a respect and appreciation of the world's most vast and untamed wildernesses -- its oceans and lakes.

   
Why do I need certification to scuba dive?

Divers Need to Be Certified to Keep the Sport Safe

Divers need certification to scuba dive, because without proper training and knowledge the sport can be dangerous. Just as drivers need to be licensed and know the rules of the road, divers need to understand the procedures and protocol that make scuba diving safe.

PADI, or the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, offers a Discover Scuba Diving class that lets newbies explore the sport before making the decision on enrolling in the course for certification. Discover Scuba Diving lets people experience scuba diving in a supervised pool session.

   
Can I ask the diving operation for references from former students?

Ask for References Before Enrolling in a Dive Course

Before enrolling in diving school, it's not a bad idea to ask the instructor for a list of newly certified students who can act as references.

The quality of your scuba certification course depends on the skill and experience of the diving instructor. The better instructors generally are the more experienced ones. Look for an instructor who has certified at least a couple dozen students, and has been teaching at least for a year. Often teachers are young adults, since diving operations do no pay a lot. But the better instructors are likely to be older divers who have dedicated their careers to commercial diving.

It's not a bad idea to look for a course in which the instructors use similar dive equipment as the students. It makes the process more streamlined and easier to understand. Don't expect to buy a complete scuba outfit as a student, but the diving operation may ask you to bring your own mask, flippers and snorkel.

The easiest way to find a PADI-sanctioned dive operation near you is to go to the organization's web site, which has a database of instructors throughout the world.

   
How do I become certified to scuba dive?

PADI is the World Leader in Certifiying Scuba Students

While there are many scuba diving certification agencies, PADI is the primary one worldwide. If you want to learn to scuba dive, or are planning to take a class, chances are you will take from a PADI-sanctioned course. What should you expect from a diver's certification class?

  • Students get classroom instruction and open-water training.
  • The course is performance-based, which means students need to demonstrate mastery of specific skills and knowledge.
  • Students need to pass a basic swim test by swimming 200 yards nonstop. There is no time or stroke requirement.

   
What is the scuba diving instruction like?

Begin With Review And Friend (BWRAF)

Use the phrase "Begin With Review And Friend" to help you remember the checks:

Begin (B) - BCD - Check adjustment, operation, low pressure inflator connection, and that tank is firm in the band. If appropriate for the entry technique, make sure it's partially inflated.

With (W) - Weights - Check for proper weighting, and that the quick release system is clear for ditching. Weight belts should have a right hand release.

Review (R) - Releases - Make sure you're familiar with your buddy's releases and how they work. Check each other to make sure they're secure.

And (A) - Air - Confirm that you both have ample air for the dive, that your valves are open, that regulators and alternate air sources work, and that you know where to find and how to use each other's alternate air sources.

Friend (F) - Final Okay - Give each other a final inspection looking for out of place equipment, dangling gauges, missing gear, etc.

   
What is the scuba diving instruction like?

Selecting a Scuba Instructor

As in most forms of education, the right teacher is an important component for success. Thus it is worth a bit of research to select the right scuba instructor. Speak with people in your community who are already certified, and ask for their recommendations. Often a college, university, or the local YMCA will have a good scuba certification course. Call or visit the dive stores in your area and interview them for both credentials and attitude. Look for a scuba instructor who is experienced and professional, but not egotistical. The scuba learning experience should be properly organized, careful, safe, and fun as well.

   
What are some good scuba diving organizations?

Scuba Diving Organizations

There are a handful of trusted scuba diving organizations that plan and sanction scuba diving instructions. Most well known are the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) and Scuba Schools International (SSI). The YMCA also has a long-standing and well-regarded scuba certification program. A valid certification card from any of these scuba diving organizations will be accepted worldwide.

   
What is a scuba c-card?

Getting a Scuba C-Card

A scuba diving certification card is known as a C-card. This card is physical proof that one has successfully completed a course of scuba instruction. A diver must show this card to a dive store or scuba diving operator in order to obtain service. Keep your scuba C-card in a safe place, and be sure to bring it with you on every scuba dive trip.

   
What is the scuba diving instruction like?

Location of Scuba Instruction

Initial scuba instruction takes place in three environments:

Classroom - where material is presented and reviewed

Pool - where skills are taught and practiced in confined water

Open Water - where the student demonstrates the skills he or she has learned.

Typically, early open water takes place in a local body of water such as a lake, a flooded quarry or the sea.

   
What organizations offer certification in scuba diving?

Several Different Dive Organizations Offer Certification

PADI is the primary organization that certifies scuba divers around the world. It's important to carry a certification card.

Many diving outlets and rental equipment centers will require proof of certification before providing services.

Equipment dealers often are authorized by PADI and other certifying agencies and will provide instruction. Here is a quick rundown of some of the certifying agencies recognized internationally:

  • PADI: The Professional Association of Diving Instructors is largely responsible for making diving accessible and popular with so many people. Seven out of 10 divers are PADI-certified.
  • DSAT: The Diving Science and Technology Corp. is affiliated with PADI but teaches technical diving programs that go beyond the depth limits and times of recreational diving.
  • NAUI: The National Association of Underwater Instructors is an association of diving professionals that emphasizes individual instruction and reinforcing skills. Courses tend to be longer in duration than PADI courses.
  • SSI: Scuba Schools International offers basic courses that consist of classroom instruction, pool instruction, open water dives and one skin dive.
  • YMCA Scuba: This is one of the nation's oldest national scuba diving institutions.
  • NASE: The National Association of Scuba Educators is a worldwide agency with headquarters in Utah and Italy.

   
What are some good scuba diving organizations?

Sources of Scuba Instruction

Many scuba diving organizations exist:

Entry-level recreational SCUBA diver training organizations using professonal scuba diving instructors. An example of this type is PADI.

Entry-level recreational SCUBA diver training organizations using amateur diving instructors. An example of this type is British Sub Aqua Club.

Technical recreational SCUBA diving organizations. An example of this type is IANTD.

Commercial scuba diving organizations. These train divers for professional scuba diving using SCUBA, surface supplied diving and saturation diving equipment and techniques.

National Navies and Armed Forces. They train divers for ship maintenance, salvage and repair, rescue, mine clearance and covert operations using SCUBA and more advanced equipment and techniques.

   
What is the scuba diving instruction like?

Scuba Instruction

A typical scuba certification course requires four weeks of study, two days per week. One day per week will be classroom study, while the other will be pool work. Once all scuba instruction and written tests have been completed, the scuba dive students will go for their open water check out dives. These are usually a minimum of four or five separate dives, which must be completed over a period of at least two days. If all dives are completed successfully, the student becomes a certified scuba diver.

   
What are open water certification dives?

Open Water Certification Dives

The culmination of any scuba certification course will be the open water dives. These must occur in the ocean or a lake, and specifically not in a swimming pool. For comfort, I suggest you schedule your scuba certification course so that your open water dives may be done in relatively warm water. Alternatively, you may do your scuba instruction and pool work at home, and finish your open water certification dives in the warm waters of the Caribbean.

   
What is the scuba diving instruction like?

Keeping Dive Log Books

In addition to having a scuba c-card, it is important for divers to maintain a dive log book of their dive experiences. Prior to providing scuba diving services, many quality diver operators will require that customers present a dive log book as well as that well-earned scuba c-card. You can purchase a fancy dedicated divers log, or just keep notes in an inexpensive ruled notebook. Either way, your dive log book will help you to remember important things like the amount of weight you need, depth and duration of each dive, details of dive sites, dive buddies, marine life encounters, and cherished experiences.

   
What is the scuba diving instruction like?

Be a Scuba Diver for Life

Some people go through a scuba diving course, do their open water dives, and never participate in the sport again. Others find that scuba diving is something they can do, and enjoy, throughout their lives. Take the time to be properly trained, and keep your experience current. If your scuba diving skills are rusty, take a refresher course. Dive safely, have fun, and you too can grow to be an old, bold diver.

   
How can I improve my scuba diving skills?

Scuba Diving Skills for Mind and Body

In addition to learning some basic physics of diving, and practicing swimming skills, a good scuba instruction course must teach your mind and body to go against a basic innate response. Specifically, you must learn not to hold your breath while ascending, and especially not in an emergency. Thus it is worth taking the time to complete a full scuba certification course rather than a quickie "fast track" class. The additional training and pool practice will enable you to be a better diver and could prove very valuable some day.

   
How can I obtain a scuba diving certification?

Scuba Diving Certifications

Scuba diving is quite an easy and safe sport, but some specific knowledge and training is required to become a safe, comfortable scuba diver. In order to rent scuba tanks or to participate in boat diving with any credible diving service, one most first obtain scuba diving certification. To be certified, a student must participate in a scuba certification course, and successfully complete both written and in-water skill tests. Once completed, the scuba diving certification is good for life, though an occasional refresher course may be in order for those who have not been scuba diving recently.

   
Why is the buddy system important when scuba diving?

Importance of the Buddy System

The buddy system will be drilled into the heads of beginning scuba divers. When properly practiced, scuba diving with a buddy will enhance the safety and enjoyment of diving for both divers. At the same time, do not be lulled into a false sense of security by the buddy system. Never entrust your own personal safety to anyone else. Become confident in your own diving skills and abilities, be ready to render aid to other divers, and to rescue yourself should that become necessary. Tip: Especially as beginning divers, I recommend that husbands and wives not try to buddy together. Your marriage, and your diving, will be more enjoyable without that added stress.

   
In your scuba diving article in Cozumel you said to choose the dive operators carefully. How do we do that for our safety?Helen egg@mitec.net

Choosing a Scuba Diving Instructor

There are two major SCUBA training associations. PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) and SSI (SCUBA Schools International). Both of these have international presences, and any instructor or dive master you choose to go with should be able to show you their instructor certification card. You want it to be from one of these organizations, where there is control of standards and quality.ALWAYS ask to see credentials. Don't accept advice or instruction from anyone who "doesn't have them with me" or who "has been diving so long I don't need them." Other good questions to ask of your instructor and the resort are: are diving accidents covered by the resort's insurance? (probably not, but it's good to know in advance) Is the instructor an independent contractor? Who does he work with? Is he recognized by PADI or SSI? What's the dive plan? Is there a secondary site/plan if conditions aren't good at the first? What kind of emergency/medical supplies are there on the boat? And where is the nearest chamber, if you should need it? And how will you get to it? If the answers to these questions are vague, don't go.

Trust your instincts. If it doesn't feel right, it's not. Don't be talked into "trying it this once" if your internal voice is screaming "there's something wrong here!"

The best approach is to do your homework. Before you go, visit PADI.com and look for PADI dive centers. They're all over the world, and you'll be able to find an instructor, dive master or charter through this site. Contact them directly and set up your dives ahead of time. You can also contact PADI and check on a dive operation/instructor if you have specifics. They're a great resource - use them!

   
What is PADI?

Look for PADI-Authorized Instructors for Scuba Diving

PADI is the Professional Association of Diving Instruction, training more than half of certified scuba divers world wide.

The PADI International Resort and Retailer Associations consist of nearly 4,500 dive centers, dive operators and dive resorts around the globe. These PADI-sanctioned operations are the places for scuba training, equipment and diving opportunities.

There are different levels of PADI certification for scuba divers that cover recreational diving, rescue diving and becoming a dive instructor.

Learning to scuba dive and making it a hobby cost roughly the same as it does to snow ski. But the education, training and experience will be a little more intense. There are no bunny hills in the ocean. You must have the skills and competency to confront problems and emergencies that may arise.

   
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