My First Dive After Certification
When I was four years old, I told my mom I was running away from home. I filled a little red wagon with my prized possessions (mostly stuffed animals) and set out for the unknown: our driveway. My mom stood at the front door and watched me tow my wagon to the end of our carport. I took one look at the pouring rain, turned around, and came back inside.
Twenty years later, I found myself dragging a wagon piled with dive gear along the picturesque waterfront of Avalon, California. As I gazed toward our destination, the famous Casino Point dive site, my guts churned with the same mix of excitement and fear I had when I stepped off the front stoop.
Six months had passed since I finished my PADI ® Open Water Diver course. I’d waited long enough (maybe too long) to make my first post-certification dive. It was time to take the training wheels off and find out if I had what it took to be a bonafide scuba diver.
The night before, I hardly slept. My mind churned with worries:
- Would I remember how to assemble my gear?
- What if I couldn’t clear my ears?
- Why didn’t I think to bring my Open Water course materials so I could review skills instead of just staring at the ceiling?
My First Dive After Certification and Lessons Learned
The next morning, we hauled our scuba gear to the dive site, ready for adventure. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of putting my wetsuit on first. In a matter of moments, I was sweating like crazy under 7mm of neoprene.
I couldn’t wait to get in the water and cool off so I rushed through my gear assembly (luckily, I remembered how everything went together). My buddy helped me put my kit on, we did a buddy check and off we went.
This could have been me. SPOILER ALERT: it wasn’t
Neither of us had been in a kelp forest before, but getting tangled in kelp was the furthest thing from my mind. Why? Because all I could think about were the equalization problems I had during my open water training dives. It took ages for me to descend below 10 metres/30 feet.
The longer it took for me to descend, the more frustrated I became. Why couldn’t I just drop down like other divers? What was wrong with my stupid body? I pushed my eustachian tubes harder than I should have. Discomfort turned to outright pain and I almost didn’t finish my course. But I digress…
Okay, back to Catalina. As I stood on the entry steps, I looked out over the water and prayed to Poseidon my ear issues would dissolve the instant I stepped in the ocean.
The queue of divers behind me was getting long. It was time to do the thing: make my first dive without an instructor.
My buddy and I kicked out to the float and did a quick buoyancy check. We exchanged okay signs and signaled our descent. As I deflated my BC, I sent my eustachian tubes a mental threat, “don’t even think about ruining this dive for me!”
At 3 metres/10 feet, things were okay, but when we reached about 6 metres/18 feet my ears wouldn’t clear. I’ll spare you the (literal) ups and downs of my dive, but, long story short: I spent the entire dive at 7 metres/21 feet or shallower. It felt like a glorified snorkel.
My buddy happily swam below me, checking back frequently to make sure I was okay. I was, except for the tears filling up my mask.
Even though we had multiple tanks and could have made another dive, I was too upset and ashamed to get back in the water. Clearly, I didn’t have what it took to be a real scuba diver.
Not a Dramatic Story, but an Important One
If you were expecting a dramatic tale that ends with my lifeless body being cut from tangled kelp and a dramatic helicopter evacuation… sorry not sorry. But if you’re into that sort of thing, you can read stories about dives gone wrong on DAN’s website.
This story is for the divers who struggled in their open water class or had a crappy first dive after certification. It’s for any diver who feels stuck between wanting to like scuba diving and not actually liking scuba diving. I see you, friend.
I’m sharing this story because I almost gave up diving. I almost missed out on a lifetime of magical experiences and amazing friends I can’t imagine life without.
It took becoming a scuba instructor for me to realize: a lot of people aren’t naturally good at scuba diving. PADI training gives us the knowledge we need to dive safely, but many of us have mental and physical issues (I’m looking at you eustachian tubes) to overcome.
Does that mean scuba diving is hard? Yes and no. It’s relatively easy to learn, but takes time to master (a good instructor helps). In other words, learning to dive is like learning to shoot free throws, serve a ball, master a balancing pose in yoga, or any other skill that requires muscle memory and mental focus.
If you didn’t love your Open Water class, or feel like you’re a crappy diver, hang in there. Don’t give up and stop being so damn hard on yourself!
Since that first, miserable dive I’ve learned a lot about scuba diving and myself. Here are a few of my top tips:
Scuba Diving Tips for Beginners
5 Lessons Learned From My First Post-Certification Dive
If I could get in a time machine and do my first dive again I would have:
- Booked aDiscover Local Divingexperience with a PADI Professional — Because I didn’t feel confident in my skills and had never dived in that type of environment before. Not to mention: local dive professionals always know where to find the cool stuff.
- Read DAN’sSmart Guide to Ear Equalizing — Because Divers Alert Network (DAN) always has great advice.
- Reviewed my Open Water Diver student materials or enrolled in PADI ReActivate®™
- Been more patient with myself — I was spun up and anxious when what I needed to do was relax.
- Appreciated the moment — Not long after that first dive, my buddy and I moved to California and made dozens of dives in kelp forests. The diverse ecosystem means you’re surrounded by interesting marine life, even on shallow dives.
Don’t Give Up on Yourself
So how did I go from feeling like a major failure to diving all the time and becoming a scuba instructor? The answer is: I took another scuba class.
Like many divers, I incorrectly assumed Advanced Open Water is only for divers who have reached an advanced skill level. Luckily, someone explained what Advanced Open Water is actually about: working with an instructor to gain dive experience. There are no quizzes or exams and you spend the majority of the class in the water.
During the course, my instructor gave me some great tips about ear equalization and helped me build confidence in my diving skills. Open communication is key! Scuba instructors love helping people. Whatever problem you’re having, there’s a good chance they’ve encountered it before.
If you’re not ready to enroll in Advanced Open Water, consider joining a local dive club or try a specialty that will help improve your confidence (I recommend Peak Performance Buoyancy or Underwater Navigation).
Like many things in life, the only way to get better at something is to keep doing it. Don’t give up! Keep diving…
Learn to Scuba Dive: What You Need to Know
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This article will outline how to get a recreational scuba diving certification. It will outline everything a beginner diver needs to consider before signing up for a scuba class, either at home or while on vacation.
It’s easy to get certified. Read on and you’ll find out what you can expect from scuba diving lessons.
You’ll learn how certification will allow you to confidently dive in the open water and travel to beautiful dive spots around the world.
Diving with a buddy, surrounded by brilliant marine life is the basic promise of what awaits you when you get certified
Look out for links about equipment, the marine environment, health considerations and practical suggestions to safely guide you into the majesty of the underwater world.
This is an introduction for people who have only dreamed about scuba diving. Perhaps you’ve heard that it’s an activity that promotes well-being and respect for the planet and its creatures. You’re not wrong.
“People protect what they love.”
– Jacques Cousteau
What is scuba diving?
Scuba diving provides something for everyone. It’s a hobby, a sport, a form of tourism, a spiritual activity, and a lifestyle.
The SCUBA acronym stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. In simple terms, scuba diving means strapping a tank of air on your back so you can breathe underwater.
It is the key to adventure around beautiful coral reefs, swimming among fish for periods generally up to an hour.
Part of a scuba diver’s gear includes an inflatable vest, called a buoyancy control device (BCD). This kit allows you to float on the surface and better regulate your depth when swimming underwater.
Because of the BCD, you don’t have to necessarily be an expert swimmer to go scuba diving.
Do I need to get certified?
Taking scuba diving lessons makes good sense. Done right, scuba diving is not dangerous. But there are some risks when training and guidelines are not followed.
So get certified. It’s not legally required, but it is factually the wisest bit of knowledge you can get for yourself. It’s to your own benefit, for the well-being of the ocean, and others in the open water.
PADI, SSI, SDI, and NAUI are some of the major certifying bodies for scuba divers. When you take a scuba diving certification course, it’s their curriculum one learns, taught by professionals at dive shops and resorts. They share a similar standard of quality and practice.
Taking scuba diving lessons will empower you to safely explore the ocean and all its creatures under the water. In other words, by getting scuba certified you will maximize your experience by minimizing dangers.
Can I dive without getting certified?
Yes, but just on a trial basis under supervision. There are non-certification programs offered by resorts and dive operators for those uncertain how they might react with a mask underwater.
Some students are afraid they’ll be overwhelmed by nervousness or start to panic.
Taking one of the “discover scuba diving” options offered at dive centers gives you the chance to see if being underwater freaks you out before committing to a full open water course.
A discovery dive doesn’t count toward your open water certification but it’ll definitely make your first open water dives easier and more enjoyable.
During confined dives there’s no need to panic. It’s strange taking the first breaths through a regulator, but trained professionals make you feel safe.
Professionals in a swimming pool or in shallow coves will assist you in a pool with scuba equipment. You get a small taste of the demands of a scuba dive without committing to a plunge into the open water.
If you’re nervous or anxious about starting scuba diving certification, this is the best way to find out if it isn’t something for you. Some people find pool-side try-dives in less than 6 feet of water exciting enough without needing to try anything deeper.
Learn How to Dive: Open Water Certification
Before getting into the open water, it’s necessary to feel comfortable in aquatic conditions. The goal is to understand the basic conditions for ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience as a guest in an alien ecosystem.
Open water refers to underwater diving in an unconfined water environment. That includes the ocean, lakes or flooded quarry pits.
Before starting the course, you need to fill out a medical form that declares you fit for fight, assuming you are. Doing some training in the period before a trip is not a bad idea. If you have some type of medical condition, you will need your doctor to sign off on it.
The PADI open water certification is the most common course, but it’s not the only game in town. There are quality schools under the SSI, SDI, NAUI, CMAS, and BSAC umbrella issuing the C-card to newly-trained scuba divers the world over.
All certifications will teach you essentially the same skill-set you need to become a scuba diver.
“Going down.” Students in an open water course practice their communication, showing their instructor their intent to descend while completing confined dives.
What do Scuba Diving Lessons teach?
Scuba diving certification is painless and fun. How long does it take? Only 3-4 days. E-learning courses allow you to jump-start your theory lessons and study at your convenience.
PADI also has a fast track course where you can get you your C-card in just 3 days. It’s quite intensive though, and will not leave much time for anything else during those 3 days.
Course material is often digital. The theory portion of a certification course is comparable to getting a driver’s license. Just with friendlier people.
Scuba diving lessons consist of 3 modules, which can be taken together in succession or split up. Certification is dependent on completing all three in order:
- Theory: either through e-learning resources or in a classroom,
- Confined water dives: in a pool or in pool-like conditions with scuba gear, and
- Open water dives: this includes 4 dives the student can try only after successful completion of the previous 2 sections.
Among other things, the open water course will teach you how to:
- Plan a dive, calculating for depth and time,
- Control your buoyancy above and below the surface,
- Easily clear a fogged mask underwater, , that you will learn to use underwater,
- Use and understand scuba equipment and make sure your buddy’s gear is good to go, and
- Understand weather phenomena so you can take appropriate actions to avoid danger
Open water courses will also teach you about how the body reacts underwater and how to avoid decompression sickness (DCS). How to recognize warning signs before they develop into hazards is important.
Kids and scuba diving
Most people wonder whether kids can go scuba diving. The answer is, absolutely–most of the time. You can take your whole family scuba diving, but you’ve got to be realistic about these things. Wishful thinking is not a highly-prized commodity in the dive industry.
Scuba diving can be problematic for kids that don’t listen. Don’t let optimism compromise anyone’s safety.
Children from 10 years-old can get a junior scuba diving certification. They need to be able to understand course materials and the rules they describe.
A junior open water diver (aka a 12 year-old) is guided by the sure hand of an instructor during her first dive in the ocean at about 10 feet.
PADI’s Bubblemakers program offers children as young as 8 years-old a chance to take their first scuba breathes in a controlled space. Instructors will keep a keen eye on them in a swimming pool or enclosed, shallow cove. Parents are welcome to join in at the same time, ticking that box on the list for sharing immortal moments together as a family.
The Bubblemakers course is the precursor to the Junior Open Water Diver awarded to kids between 10 and 15. Both SSI, SDI and NAUI also have a junior certificate that the cardholder can trade-in after they turn 16.
A junior scuba certification card allows the holder to dive to 40 feet as long as they are accompanied by a certified parent/guardian or a PADI professional (Divemaster/Instructor).
What does a scuba certification cost?
Pricing varies depending on the location. A complete open water course in the US or Europe will cost on average between $450 and $550. You can learn the same PADI or SSI course in Thailand, Honduras or Bali for around $300.
An American shop may offer a theory and pool portion package for $200. They sell separately the certification dives starting from around $250.
PADI and SDI’s e-learning course on its own sells online for $129. It increases in price depending on the region or country. It includes knowledge development training and access to other course resources.
The PADI Open Water Diver e-Learning resource, though is only available for a year.
An SSI open water certification, on the other hand, is cheaper because you don’t have to buy the course material. And access to their digital resources won’t expire like the PADI elearning material.
A scuba tank doesn’t weigh so much in the water! A student gets a helping hand from his instructor during Module 2 of the open water scuba course in confined water.
Comparing PADI, NAUI, AND SSI.
PADI, SSI, NAUI, and SDI are the four most common diving bodies found world-wide. There is an on-going discussion amongst scuba divers about which agency is better.
Some might complain that PADI is all about sucking as much cash out of its students as it can. Others will label NAUI or SDI divers snobs.
All four provide lessons in both the recreational category of scuba diving as well as more technical courses. A specialty course like wreck-diving or night-diving is offered by all these companies.
Each certifying agency has its own different profile. They all follow the same general safety framework established by the World Recreational Scuba Diving Council (WRSDC) or the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
A graduate carrying a dive certification from any one of these can dive anywhere in the world. Also with dive shops working under a competing certification umbrella.
Sea turtles swim great distances. Meeting one is humbling and inspires both awe and respect for the aquatic environment.
The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) was formed in 1966 by two NAUI divers looking to expand recreational diving. PADI is by far the largest certifying body and is found all over the world.
It’s not uncommon for the biggest player in the game to also be the target of criticism both from outside and from within. PADI has mass-produced the Open Water Diver, leading all competitors in the market. Naturally, it has an interest in maintaining its advantage. So, while it may be slow to change it can ill-afford to cut corners on safety.
Scuba Schools International (SSI) offers internationally-recognized certifications since 1970. SSI teachers train students with essentially the same skills as the other agencies.
They also operate all over the world. It’s been said in the scuba grapevine that an SSI instructor has more flexibility to tweak course conditions to match students.
SSI offers more niche courses, teaching divers about specific elements of the aquatic ecology, like corals, sharks, and fish identification.
The National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) is the oldest recreational scuba diving organization in the U.S. (est. 1959). The entry-level NAUI course called Scuba Diver differs from other schools in that a skin dive is part of the training and basic diver rescue is introduced.
It is the second biggest agency by the number of certifications and NAUI affiliates can found everywhere.
NAUI also teaches specialty courses. Beyond the night dive course, underwater archaeology is one of the more niche specialties NAUI provides.
SCUBA Diving International (SDI) is the recreational wing of Technical Divers International (TDI) established in 1999. They too teach an Open Water certification provided by instructors all over the world with the ethos of training recreational divers through the lens of technical diving.
Compared to PADI, SDI has apparently less paperwork full of disclaimers and waivers. Otherwise, the same skill-set is provided and the course structure is modular with e-learning material as well.
During a deep dive an instructor ensures students are fully cognizant at depths up to 100 feet (30 meters). Notice there are two sets of buddies diving together plus their instructor.
Diving is a business and the recreational diving industry is competitive. The success of the scuba diving paradigm, as far as making money by graduating paying students, is predicated on safety and the absence of mishap.
In doubt about which scuba school to enroll in? Start by finding a dive center or resort near you or near your destination somewhere in the world.
Always use your instincts and best judgment. Talk to your prospective instructor. If you don’t trust the scuba diving shop, just find another one! Read some online reviews.
Scuba diving lessons should be fun and almost always are.
Your entry-level license is a lifetime certificate. It’s great to have in case you at some point in the future suddenly find yourself in a setting with great diving, great weather and deserving of joy.
People establish bonds that go beyond the open water scuba diving certification course. When learning to dive, one gets a taste for the elation and shared wonder of the ocean.
What can you do with your scuba certification?
Now that you’re a certified diver, you know the rules to safely maximize the joy of diving. You can travel to amazing destinations and swim with whale sharks around lush coral reefs where the adventure never gets old.
Upon completion of certification, divers receive a C-card needed to rent equipment, buy air and descend to depth generally not more than 18 meters.
No matter which company issues one, your scuba certification never expires.
It’s possible to dive, at the absolute max, up to four times a day if the dives aren’t too deep. But most divers are satisfied with two, usually back-to-back, and separated by at least an hour to give your body time to decompress and release residual nitrogen.
Sometimes ships are sunk on purpose to create reefs, much to the benefit of marine life and the amazement of scuba guests.
You’re ready to explore some of the best things scuba diving can offer including wreck diving, a liveaboard adventure (a floating dive hotel), cave diving and the extreme beauty of the undersea world surrounded by aquatic life as you’ve never experienced.
If you’re not inspired by the magic and majesty of coral reefs teeming with life and colors, I dare you to check out the Worlds 10 top best dive spots and begin to plan your next holiday.
Most divers will tell you charming stories of their certification course, describing in glowing detail the collection of people they connected with. Diving during the day and regaling each other with tales of aquatic adventure in the evening is true bliss.
And for the lucky souls endowed with more time on their hands after certification, some end up getting “stranded” for extended periods, diving and finding serenity away from the inconveniently complicated world.
A father and son buddy-team begin to remove their kit following a dive. Dive boats are specialized for ease of use so getting in and out is never a challenge.
The cost of recreational diving
If you’re wondering how much each recreational dive costs for a certified diver, you’ve read enough to know that it depends entirely on the region. It also depends whether you’re diving with a buddy from shore or through a shop.
It’s obviously cheaper to fill a tank and find a dive site accessible from the shore than to book a tour with a dive operator on their boat for the day.
Filling a tank of air will run anywhere from $5-$10 in the States and Europe leaving you on your own for the dive.
But diving with others, your new-found tribe, is part of the attraction for some. The ease and accessibility of a package also has its appeal.
Two tanks of air, equipment, and passage on a shop’s boat may run anywhere between $25 at the absolute cheapest to $100. Some trips will run up to more, but that’s often if there’s a long distance by boat or car to the dive spot.
You’ll almost always find “scuba lessons near me” and you can always find dive operators close to good diving locations where lessons can be found.
A diver makes a giant-stride entry from a rocky coast. Some prime dive spots can be accessed without a boat and shore diving can make diving cheaper.
What scuba diving equipment do I need?
Word to the wise: wait at least until you’ve tried an open water dive or two before investing in equipment.
You’ll have a better feel for what you need and what you like. All dive shops provide gear for rental when you take your scuba diving lessons, giving you the insight you can use later.
However, many people can’t help themselves, tempted by the allure of gadgets and gear. When you get your scuba license, you’ll start to think a lot about the wonderful world of scuba gear & dive equipment.
Scuba tanks strapped into BCDs with regulators attached, ready for divers to go out. Two weight belts lay beside the tanks.
You’ll want A well-fitting scuba mask and fins are great because you can also use them as snorkeling gear.
Underwater photography can create pictures to salivate over when not diving, but you should, again, wait a bit before buying a camera. Instagram isn’t going anywhere. Just enjoy being a scuba diver for a spell or two first.
Dive computers and dive watches have become so central to planning and logging our dives. Some first-timers invest in these gadgets early on in their scuba career.
The great part about having your own computer is the accuracy of your dive it captures. Most dive computers measure dives conservatively. They will warn you if you approach a depth or length of time that might be dangerous, giving you peace of mind.
Still, planning a dive using the analog techniques from open water training should not be given up.
Otherwise, here’s a quick summary of the gear you’ll strap on when scuba diving. We’ve added some reviews of some solid kit on the market.
Basic scuba gear consists of:
Remember to rinse off the salt from your gear with fresh water after diving in the ocean. Maintenance of your gear is important if you want it to last and continue to work as expected. You’ll want to get your reg serviced every few years too. Do this at most dive shops.
Again, if you have NO previous experience diving it’s probably wise to wait to buy your scuba gear until after you’ve gone through at least some of your open water course.
Read our 11 tips to safer diving, but here are some quick tidbits of advice. When planning a scuba dive, no matter where it is, remember you SHOULDN’T FLY within 18 hours after your last dive. So plan accordingly.
Likewise, if you have any ear problems (ie.: infections) related to a cold, you might find equalizing on the way down uncomfortable. Talk to your instructor.
Checking to see if travel insurance covers any cancelations due to illness or injuries due to scuba diving makes sense. And scuba diving insurance doesn’t cost particularly much. We’ve curated some advice about getting insurance for scuba diving for you to read.
Six reasons why you should get your diving certification to have more fun!
Ever since I was little, I have magically been attracted by the sea. I just love everything about it. The sound of gentle waves rolling onto the sandy beach at night or noise of high breakers crashing against sheer rock walls during the perfect storm.
Sitting on the boat in the sunshine during a fishing trip or sunset cruise, going snorkeling and lately also kayaking and standup paddling. I have even tried kite surfing, which did not end well, but that is another story.
Do something exciting, get scuba certified!
So when I saw divers with their suits and gear, I always wondered, whether this was a sport that was worth the effort of lugging around heavy equipment. And since the sea was already giving me so much, did I need to take it one step further and get scuba certified?
Here are six reasons that have finally convinced me to become a scuba diver. I now am not only a scuba diver, but diving has pretty much become my whole world, and I have never regretted it for one single day.
1. How to learn to scuba dive is so much easier than you think.
Granted, setting up the equipment, that will support your life underwater can, in the beginning, be quite intimidating, but luckily, it is easy to do. So easy, that even a 10-year-old can handle it.
A regular beginners course with one of the major scuba diver training agencies like PADI, SSI or NAUI, will usually take between 4 to 5 days, during which you learn all the necessary skills you need to become a safe diver. So, as you can see, learning how to dive is relatively easy for the right person and the rewards are endless.
2. Scuba diving gives you more time to explore the ocean
If you like snorkeling and freediving, you will love scuba diving. Granted, you might have to give up some of the freedom of movement that you enjoy as a snorkeler and free diver due to the equipment required for scuba diving, but in return, you are getting a substantial amount of time to naturally explore the underwater world and meet incredible creatures up close and personal.
Just think of your bragging rights on Facebook, when you’ve met and posted the picture of your first shark underwater! Check out our gallery, and you will see what I mean!
3. Scuba diving is very relaxing
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This article is published by The Scuba Page, the online magazine for Scuba Dive lovers around the world. The Scuba Page is part of RUSHKULT : the online booking platform for adventure sports. Visit the RUSHKULT platform to book your next Scuba Dive training, guided trip and accommodation.