Asking a Scuba Diver about diving will get you a response similar to asking a grandmother about her grandchildren. The answer could go on for hours. Unlike the grandmother, however, the diver’s stories are very likely to be exciting and you may start to envy their experiences. While the grandmother’s stories will only interest a few, the diver’s stories will have a more universal appeal.
The stories may tell of their first encounter with a favorite species or the beauty of a coral reef day and night. They may try to explain to you the feeling of weightlessness or the sense of well-being watching the life on a reef. Your dreams will recall the shipwrecks he described or the turtles she told you swam alongside her. Their stories may open up new horizons for you to first consider and later explore yourself.
This amazing adventure starts the same for everyone… with your Scuba Diving Certification.
Scuba Diving is an activity like no other
In the early days of scuba diving, the early 1950s, scuba was always capitalized as SCUBA, an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. SCUBA diving was a dangerous macho activity done only by the very fit and adventurous.
The following decades saw the emergence of the noun and verb scuba, as SCUBA became safer and more widely accepted. Scuba diving is now considered a sport and one that the entire family, over 10 years of age, can enjoy. A better understanding of physics, better equipment, and strict training requirements have taken SCUBA from high risk to SCUBA that is safer than horseback riding.
An untrained diver has a very high risk of injury even death compared to a certified diver. The training makes the difference. While the modern-day training requirements are strict, they are really not that difficult. This background of danger and the need for training has put many a potential diver off from becoming a diver.
For others, it becomes a barrier because it is confusing and they are not sure how to get started. We are going to help you understand how to get started, so when someone asks you about scuba diving, you will have your own memories to wow people with.
What is a Certified Scuba Diver?
The scuba diving industry is self-regulating for the most part. There are generally no government-mandated licensing procedures or training rules. If there are any government rules, they normally just say divers must be certified by an internationally recognized agency.
Around the world, there are hundreds of different accreditation agencies that train to an ISO standard. They each issue their own certification cards generally called a C-Card which allows you to demonstrate your level of scuba diving certification. These agencies have cross acceptance agreements that can give their training worldwide acceptance.
When you first start looking at getting your scuba diving certification, the terms used may seem a bit confusing. Here are some of the “scuba diving certifications” you may hear about:
- Discover Scuba Diver: The Discover Scuba diver program also often called Try Scuba or a Resort course gives you a certificate after the course but it is not a scuba diving certification. The program was designed to be used at resorts as a means to encourage resort guests to sign up for a certification course. The course mimics the first knowledge section and first confined water activity of the certification programs. Most resorts will also take the guest into open water at shallow depths. From the marketing point of view, it is like a car salesman trying to convince a potential purchaser to get in the driver’s seat. In the same manner, a dive instructor knows that once you are underwater, the potential of you signing up for a course greatly increases. That works both ways, however. If you are considering becoming a diver and are not sure it is for you, the Discover Scuba program gives you a chance to “test drive” scuba.
- Scuba Diver certification: This is the first level of scuba diving certification, but it is not necessarily a full certification depending on your agency. This course is the first half of the Open Water Diver (OWD) certification course. Divers completing this certification level are qualified to dive to 12 meters (40 feet) when diving under the supervision of a dive professional. This course was originally designed for people who could not dedicate the time needed to complete the Open Water Diver course. They could complete this course and later upgrade to the OWD. You can think of it as an associate degree and the Open Water Diver as a bachelor’s degree.
- Open Water Diver certification: this is the scuba diving certification that most divers start at. It is a full scuba diving certification that allows you and a dive buddy to plan dives and follow them to a depth of 18 meters (60 feet). The dive center will ask to see this C-card to allow you to fill or rent cylinders. Dive operators will not let you dive with them without it or higher.
How is scuba diving certification is organized and conducted
While there are slight variations on how the training is presented there are three elements that divide the course: Knowledge, confined water, open water.
- Knowledge: The knowledge portion of the course is about the physics of diving and how it affects the body. It was the lack of understanding of these simple principles that caused so many of the deaths in the early days of scuba diving. These principles are converted to procedures that when follow make scuba diving a much safer activity. There are five topics in the knowledge section for the OWD. The first one is used in the Discover Scuba Diving program and the first three in the Scuba diver program. Do not let the term physics scare you, the material is presented in a straightforward manner that even a 10-year-old can understand. While initially done with a textbook in a classroom setting, the knowledge section can now be done at home using computers.
- Confined water training: The confined water training is done in a swimming pool or an equally calm and shallow open water location. The activity is sometimes called skills training, as you will be shown and will practice a number of skills related to your equipment and being underwater. It may seem strange and difficult at first, but rest assured by the end of the curse the skills will be second nature to you. Consider how it was when you learned to drive a car (or ride a bike). Every little step was a task you had to think about, now you do it without consciously thinking about it. There are also five confined water sessions (three for scuba diver and one for discover) and require the associated knowledge session to be completed prior to the confined water session.
- Open water session: The open water session is an extension of what you learned in the confined water sessions. This time you are in a natural environment. There are four open water sessions for the Open Water Diver, two for the Scuba Diver program and an optional one for the discover diver. How this training is conducted varies on the situation. Training to become certified has taken on a great deal of flexibility over the years and with the introduction of digitally based training the options are even greater. We can break how this training will be delivered into three means of delivery:
- Traditional: For lack of a better term we will use traditional. When the scuba industry started to gain popularity as a sport, a single instructor was responsible for your entire training. Many divers are still trained by this method. When done away from a vacation area, it is often spread over a number of weeks. Alternating the knowledge and pool sections and then completing the open water over a weekend. Students learning while on a vacation at a resort or dive center will likely spend four or five full days learning to dive.
- Referral: The traditional method had a weakness in areas where scuba diving is not a year-round activity or where diving is difficult. With the referral system, the knowledge and skills are done locally, however, the open water dives are at another location with a different instructor. Many new dives use this method and take the open water dives and complete their certification while on vacation. This gives them greater flexibility to enjoy their vacation or more time to dive.
- E-learning: Advances over the decades in training methods and digital devices have created an e-learning opportunity. The knowledge session is done at your leisure from your home computer or tablet device. When you purchase the e-learning package, you will be asked to select what dive center you will train with. You basically have the same two options. You can have one dive center complete your training either local or away. You can also arrange with a local dive center to do your skills training and they set it up as a referral for your open water sessions. The majority of new divers are using this means of training.
Where should you train for your Scuba Diving certification?
It is impossible to say what is the best place for you to train and get your scuba diving certification. If you live in an area with year-round diving, then at home it should be the best bet. If your home is not near anywhere you can train year-round, then somewhere warm would be good. One point to consider is, to take at least the skills portion locally. This gets you introduced to a local dive professional, who might be of assistance if you later decide to purchase your own dive gear. Also, many dive shops will have a club where you can meet other divers and they may sponsor dive trips.
How long does it take to become a certified scuba diver?
It’s a question that many people ask when they first start to become interested in scuba diving. The truth is, there isn’t really a set answer for this question. That is because it takes different amounts of time for people to learn how to dive and get their scuba diving certification. It also depends on the specific type of scuba diving certification you are pursuing, but typically most beginner courses last around two to three days where one would need at least three dives total and this is done over a weekend before progressing onto more classes and open water dives.
How much does it cost to get your scuba diving certification?
Your first certification in scuba diving doesn’t cost much, typically around $200-$300 USD. The cost of your scuba diving certification will depend on the type and level you are pursuing, but it is usually a one-time fee for each course that lasts around two to three days in duration with at least four dives total (one per dive) before progressing onto more classes or open water diving sessions
Is it hard to get your Scuba Diving certification?
Not particularly, most beginner scuba divers take a one-day course and then two to three-day courses thereafter. Most people start diving within a few days of starting to learn.
Scuba Diving Certification is the first step to a lifelong passion
Getting your Scuba Diving certification is the first step along the way to something that might be a lifelong passion. Many divers who learned to dive in their late teens and early 20’s are still scuba diving in their 50s and 60s, even longer. Retirement often allows more free time leading to more diving and dive vacations.
Recently a gentleman born in 1930, has been on television and at conferences promoting his two passions in life. One of them is scuba diving. He has famously been quoted as saying “My favorite thing to do on this planet is to scuba dive”. He often promotes diving and tells how it was an important part of his life, his career, and his other passion.
His other passion is space exploration and the gentleman is Buzz Aldrin, the second man to step on the moon.
Take his advice, and make scuba diving a part of your life.