Scuba diving is a popular and thrilling sport enjoyed by beginners and experts alike.
The allure of diving into the unknown depths of an azure ocean or swimming among brightly-colored coral reefs is hard to resist.
But for those who are new to the sport, diving can be intimidating and confusing.
This guide will walk you through the basics of how to get started.
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What do I need to know to get started with scuba diving?
The great news is that scuba diving is a sport open to nearly everyone.
There are, however, age and health prerequisites.
For instance, you must be at least eight years old to start learning how to scuba dive. Additionally, many trainers prefer if their pupils are 10 or 12.
If you have certain medical conditions, like asthma or sinus problems, scuba diving can be dangerous.
You need to talk to both a certified diving instructor and your doctor before you start training.
Divers must also be able to swim a short distance and float on the surface of the water.
These skills are tested at the beginning of most scuba training courses
Once you’ve passed the basic swimming test you are ready to begin your scuba training.
Pick a scuba diving course
Diving is an amazing experience, and taking a diving course is the first step to enjoying it.
A certified instructor will help you go over all of the skills you need to know and make sure you are comfortable with them before your trip.
Most courses cover the basics of diving, like equipment usage and safety procedures.
Many trainers will begin their scuba training courses at swimming pools that are either their own or rented from leisure providers.
Finding a suitable scuba course
The best way to locate a suitable course in your area is to use the online PADI dive shop checker which can be found here.
By entering your location you will be directed to a selection of approved PADI dive shops, many of which operate licensed courses, and, if they do not then they are very likely to know a local instructor who can help.
There is also an online e-learning option available via the PADI website which allows you to study the classroom based elements at your own pace.
The course is fully supported by a highly trained PADI instructor who will connect up with local instructors when you are ready to undertake the practical elements.
Buy or rent your scuba gear
While you are undertaking your course your instructor will help you with your dive gear.
They will either have gear that you can use or will often have a relationship with a dive shop where equipment can be hired.
Of course, if you plan to dive regularly it makes sense to invest in your own dive gear.
A full set of gear can be purchased for around $2000/£2000 although this cost can be spread out by buying items over time.
Learn the basics first
Your first scuba course will cover several areas, all of which will support your development into becoming a safe and competent diver.
You’ll typically learn things such as:
How to be a skilled and confident diver
How to assemble, check and use scuba gear
How to manage your bouyancy
Being respectful to the environment and how to approach marine life
How to deal with common problems
Once you’ve covered the basics you’ll be prepared and ready to head out for scuba adventures with a qualified instructor.
You won’t be able to head out without a certified instructor until you have your own scuba certification.
Get scuba certified
The next, and logical step, is for you to get certified so that you can dive without an instructor.
As part of the beginner course you will develop your skills in water once you have completed the ‘classroom’ element of your training.
At first these will be restricted to pool type environments, where the water is calm and free from hazards.
Some of the skills that you’ll learn include:
Setting your gear up
How to get water out of your face mask
Getting into and out of the water
How to navigate underwater
You will practice these with your instructor until you are comfortable with them, after which it’s time to move onto open water.
After your confined water dives, you’ll do open-water dives with your instructor for four dives, usually over two days.
During these excursions, you’ll get to explore and experience the features and challenges of open water diving.
You’ll apply the skills you’ve acquired on confined water diving while taking in all that surrounds you.
You’ll most likely be diving in an area with little or no currents, close to the shore and in relatively shallow water — between 18 and 30 feet (5.5 and 9 meters).
After completing these four dives with your instructor, providing that you and your instructor are happy, you’ll be a certified diver.
Continue your training
Once you have completed your scuba diving course and are comfortable with the basics, there are plenty of ways to continue your education.
Divers can progress onto courses that will teach them more about dive equipment and safety procedures, as well as how to navigate underwater.
There are also speciality courses available, such as those that focus on diving in wrecks or taking photographs underwater.
You can also train to be:
An advanced open water diver
Enriched air ( nitrox ) diver
Dry suit diver
and many, many more.
In addition the the training, you’ll find that courses are a great way to meet other people with similar interests.
You can also undertake many courses overseas providing you with the opportunity to explore different dive sites around the world as well as developing your skills and competencies.