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Learn to scuba dive.

By kwsNI in Culture
Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 06:17:19 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)

I am constantly amazed at the fascination people have with the sport of scuba diving. I've never failed to find a captivating audience when I talk of swimming with schools of sharks in Maui, riding 12' stingrays in Catalina or snapping photos of 200lb sea turtles in Grand Cayman. Ever since I received my scuba certification four years ago, I'm constantly confronted with the question "How do I learn to dive?"

There are a number of ways to get started into scuba. This article looks at where to learn to dive, the costs and the gear, what you will learn in a scuba course, the risks you will encounter and provide additional information on scuba.

Where to learn to dive

Resort dives: One way that many new divers are introduced to the sport is through "resort dives" - shallow, supervised dives in a relatively controlled environment for people without scuba certification. These dives typically have a short course (~1 hr) on how to use the gear followed by one or two short dives to shallow depths (20-40' maximum). They are usually very costly, because of the large number of certified professionals needed to supervise uncertified divers and the increased costs of liability insurance for the dives. Typically, these dives are offered at resorts. If you're interested in trying scuba once, it can be the cheapest route. Anything more adventurous and you'll require at least a basic scuba certification. The rest of the article will cover this.

Scuba certifications: To really learn to scuba dive, you'll need to take a basic scuba certification course. These courses vary in length, but typically involve at least 10 hours of classroom training and 10 hours of pool training, combined with five dives in open water. These requirements may vary depending on the certifying agency, instructor, scuba store and location. With a basic certification, you will be certified to dive to depths of 60-100', dive unsupervised, and rent/purchase your own tanks and gear.

Some people believe it's important which scuba certifying agency you get your certification from. Primarily, there are three major scuba certification agencies, NAUI, SSI, and PADI. There are a number of other agencies that offer scuba certifications, but these three are the largest and are recognized across the globe. In my personal opinion, the differences between the three agencies are primarily corporate and vary little at the consumer end. There are national training standards that all 3 have adopted for their training programs. NAUI and SSI even have a program to allow each other's instructors to perform the open water evaluations for students from both agencies. In the end, it's like choosing to purchase the same item from 3 different stores. The price may vary but the product (the training) is still the same. The only thing I caution against is going through an independent PADI instructor. NAUI and SSI require their instructors to be affiliated with a scuba store while PADI does not. There are independent PADI instructors that merely rent classroom space and pool time. This eliminates the most immediate level of instructor oversight - store management. I highly recommend only purchasing instruction through a store (or other corporation).

What will it cost

A basic scuba certification varies in price. Typical prices range between $150-$300. This varies on the season, the location, the competition, etc. Additionally, basic gear will need to be purchased and diving insurance is recommended. Insurance typically runs approximately $40/year and covers diving equipment and medical injuries sustained during diving - things your homeowner's/renter's insurance and health insurance may not cover.

Then there are the costs to dive. For divers that own their own gear and have local diving, the costs are minimal. Tank fills typically run from $3-$10 depending on the location and type of fill. To dive off a boat can run between $50-$100/day for 2-4 dives. For divers that like to travel, trips range in price from $100/day to $500/day depending on the destination and accommodations.

The gear

You will be required to purchase basic gear for almost any scuba course. This includes your mask, fins, boots and a snorkel. This will typically run about $150 at a minimum. It can get expensive from there - much more expensive. My fins alone run $190 retail.

The key point when buying the basic gear is to get something that fits well. When you're move through something as dense as water in 100 pounds of gear, poor fitting fins will cause leg cramps, muscles soreness and blisters. A poorly fit mask will leak, causing additional distractions and stress - especially in a new diver. For the relative benefits of different types of gear, check out the gear reviews at Scuba Diving Magazine.

During your certification class, you will typically be given the additional gear you need. After the course, you will be required to rent the gear until you purchase your own. This gear can be purchased for as little as ~$800 for the absolute basics. The price goes up as the quality and features increase. Here is a brief description of the other important scuba gear:

Buoyancy Compensating Device (BCD)
Also referred to as a Buoyancy Compensator (BC), this is a large, inflatable vest that holds your tank on the back. It is used to compensate for changes in your body/equipment's buoyancy as your depth changes. As you descend, the increased water pressure will compress air pockets (especially in neoprene wetsuits), decreasing their buoyant effect. Air is added to the BC to help achieve neutral buoyancy.
There are two stages to a regulator. The first stage connects to the tank and regulates the air coming from the tank from the air pressure in the tank (in the thousands of PSI) to a pressure that is slightly above the current water pressure. The second stage, attached by an air hose and the part that you place into your mouth to breath, regulates this down to the surrounding pressure, delivering air whenever you breath in.
Submersible pressure gauge (SPG), depth meter and/or computer
Your SPG and depth also connect to the first stage regulator and give the current air pressure remaining in the tank, the diver's current depth and their maximum depth. In the last few years, these functions have been integrated into diving computers. These track depth, air, as well as compute the affects of nitrogen and oxygen on your body that will be covered later.
Exposure suit (Wetsuits, skins and drysuits)
The most common form of exposure suit is a wetsuit. It is made of neoprene (a form of oxygen injected rubber). Wetsuits range in thickness from 0.5mm - 7mm. They are tight fitting and trap a tiny layer of water between your body and the suit. This layer is quickly heated by your body to body temperature. The thickness of the neoprene controls the insulation level that is provided to the diver.

In warmer water, dive skins are sometimes used to replace a wetsuit. These are typically lycra or fleece suits that protect from scratches, stings or cuts while offering little in the way of warmth.

The final form of exposure suit is the drysuit. These are custom tailored suites that are completely waterproof. Ankle seals and neck seals prevent water from entering the suit. These suits are extremely costly (easily reaching $3000 for a high-quality suit) and introduce an extra complex piece of gear with it's own buoyancy issues. However, drysuits are the warmest form of exposure suit and allow divers to withstand sub-freezing water temperatures.

The other necessary equipment, tanks and weights, are typically rented unless the diver will be doing their diving from their home area. The difficulty in flying with air tanks and is not worth the cheap prices of renting them. Likewise, lead weights, which are used to compensate for natural buoyancy, are a hassle to pack and are always provided by dive shops. 99% of the time, both of these expenses will be included in a dive shops price for a dive package.

What you will learn

Basic scuba course: In the classroom portion of a basic scuba course, you will learn the basics of diving physics and theory, safety measures and practices and how to use dive tables. Dive tables are charts that show how much nitrogen has been absorbed into your bloodstream. This is the cause of injuries such as DCS (Decompression Sickness - also known as the Bends).

The pool portion of a basic scuba course will teach the basic scuba skills, such as adjusting equipment under water, clearing a flooded mask, snorkeling, water entry and exit techniques as well as basic buoyancy skills.

The final, open water portion of a basic scuba course will assess these skills in open water where there are other factors to cope with, such as current, lower visibility and greater depth. Emergency accents and other skills will also be tested in a more realistic environment.

Continuing ed: After completing your basic scuba certification, there are many additional courses you can take. There are courses on specific types of diving, such as wreck diving (diving involving under water wrecks) or additional skills (such as navigation or equipment repair). There are also courses on advanced diving techniques such as the use of mixed gases, or diving to deeper depths. The recreational diving limit is 130'.

What are the risks

Scuba has a number of inherent risks; however, proper maintenance and training can eliminate most of the risk. A health assessment must be completed before anyone will be allowed to complete a scuba certification course. Any medical conditions that can cause a student danger may disqualify them from receiving their certification.

The most common issues facing a diver are AGE (Arterial Gas Embolism) and DCS. AGE is gaseous bubbles that move into the bloodstream - possibly cutting off oxygen to a portion of the body. DCS is nitrogen bubbles that escape into the bodies tissues. These can both be prevented by following the safety procedures taught in the course and by not pushing the time limits of the dive tables.

For more information on diving risks, all of the agencies teach some form of a stress & rescue course that covers diving injuries, prevention and treatment.

More information

That's the basic how-to for getting into scuba diving. After receiving your certification, it's time to hit the water. Different destinations throughout the world are known for their unique types of diving. Whether it's the cold-water diving in the kelp forests of British Columbia, the coral reefs off Australia, or checking out the local lakes, there's always a chance for a diver to get out and explore something new.

For more information, check out the websites for the certification agencies and scubadiving.com.


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Do you want to learn to dive?
o Yes 34%
o No 24%
o Maybe 17%
o I'm already certified. 24%

Votes: 79
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o where to learn to dive
o the costs
o gear
o what you will learn in a scuba course
o the risks
o additional information
o fins
o Scuba Diving Magazine
o Also by kwsNI

Display: Sort:
Learn to scuba dive. | 50 comments (37 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
For more advanced study (4.50 / 2) (#6)
by seanic on Sun Dec 15, 2002 at 09:23:24 PM EST

There is the International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers which can provide higher level training in mixed gas, cave, rebreather diving and much more. Ice diving and trimix are two of my favorites. :-)

"The majority of the stupid is invincible and guaranteed for all time. The terror of their tyranny is, however, alleviated by their lack of consistency" -- Albert Einstein
BCD is dying... oh never mind (n/t) (5.00 / 4) (#13)
by leviramsey on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 01:07:51 AM EST

Emergency accents! (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by benley on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 01:34:00 AM EST

Emergency accents and other skills will also be tested in a more realistic environment.

I can't help but wonder what an emergency accent is.

"Jim, she canno' take much mo'r a this! She'll brrrreak apparrrrt!"
That's what comes to mind when you say that :)

I know (none / 0) (#34)
by mayo on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 03:29:20 PM EST

It's when you get caught in a foreign country by militant anti-Americans and quickly put on a faux Aussie accent to avoid tortue and death.

[ Parent ]
Good onyer mate! (nt) (none / 0) (#43)
by rusty on Tue Dec 17, 2002 at 03:47:07 PM EST

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
A little puzzler for you SCUBA wannabes. (none / 0) (#17)
by i on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 04:32:10 AM EST

* How do you pee in a drysuit?

If you can answer this, go straight ahead and enroll in that certification course.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

You just do. (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by BinaryTree on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 06:05:15 AM EST

You don't take it off or anything, you pee with your drysuit on.

[ Parent ]
Gee. (4.00 / 1) (#19)
by i on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 06:18:50 AM EST

And turn you nice warm dry suit into stinking cold wet suit?

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Depends. (5.00 / 1) (#23)
by kwsNI on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 10:19:33 AM EST

No - really. Cave Divers use Depends.

What if the hokey pokey really IS what it's all about???? --SpyderFaerie
[ Parent ]
He-he. (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by i on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 10:30:28 AM EST

I had to google for it to see what are you talking about. Silly brand names.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Dipers (none / 0) (#29)
by nickb on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 10:51:58 AM EST

Some divers (those with weak bladder and enlarged prostate) use adult dipers. I've never used dipers but I've only had a few drysuit dives.

[ Parent ]
p-valve, of course :-) (none / 0) (#30)
by lowca on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 11:03:38 AM EST


Some of my diving friends actually have this valve in their suits. It's typically an exhaust valve in, um, that area of the suit, with a condom catheter attached to it. The condom can be replaced when needed. Cave exploration divers typically use them; they're thousands of feet inside a cave for hours at a time, so they can't exactly get to the restroom (or a tree, for that matter).

Some people make their own, too. It's not that hard, from what I hear. (rimshot)

(Of course, Depends work, too.) :-)


"Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us." - P.J. O'Rourke, Parliament of Whores

[ Parent ]

Automatic Wetsuit Warmer (none / 0) (#47)
by wintermute204 on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 10:15:20 PM EST

It feels so good to be so bad... :)

[ Parent ]
Intensive Scuba Therapy (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by Ranieri on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 08:11:46 AM EST

$50-$100/day for 2-4 dives.

When i was in Mexico about three years ago we somehow ended up in a US run resort that only offered these multitank madness trips. It was a horrible horrible experience.

Due to time constraints, basically every dive was a 30 minute dip. Furthermore, the tables in my Suunto are rather strict when it comes to repeated immersions, and the only way to stay in curve on the 2nd+ dives was to remain well above anything worth seeing. Of course since "three tank" was what they advertised with, you had to drag three of those units on board only to unload them with 100 bars still left (that's about half full, for the non-metric people).

It was also painfully obvious that, after three days doing two dives in the morning and one in the afternoon, the guides had run out interesting places to see and were basically anchoring anywhere the sonar said their anchor would grip.

Doing more than two dives per full day might be a nice way pad out your logbook, but in my experience it's not worth the time, the effort and the cost.
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!

Try a live aboard. (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by kwsNI on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 10:36:10 AM EST

I think what you're saying is an exception, not the rule.

Try a live aboard some time. 4-7 dives/day and they're almost all at wonderful sites, unlimited length, etc.

I spend a week every other year on the Bottom Scratcher in Catalina. I typically get 12 dives in (averaging ~45 minutes, 80' depth) in 2.5 days of diving there. Typically, we get on the boat late one afternoon after flying out to LAX - then we depart at midnight, arrive at San Clemente early in the morning and we're 5 minutes from a dive site when we wake up. First dive is usually 30 minutes after I wake up. Usually the deepest dive of the day (~100-130'). Then we're off to a new dive sight while we eat breakfast. Another dive, slightly shallower (~80'), then either a second dive at that location (if we request it) or we're off to another 80' dive after lunch. Afternoon is another dive at the place we'll spend the night (usually Fishhook in San Clemente) were we do a night dive as well - with the flying fish and sea lions.

The second day, we get two deep morning dives in, during lunch we head over to Catalina island and have a couple of afternoon dives. Then we're off to the beach at Twin Harbors for a beach bbq.

The next morning we hit 3 shallow dives in the kelp forests off Catalina before heading back to the pier at Long Beach.

12 dives, ~10 hours of bottom time, on air in 2.5 days. (I could dive nitrox but I've found that I really don't need it to get 10 hours of underwater time in with my Aeris computer and it's easier keeping the same tank).

And the cost of the entire trip - round trip airfare from Albuquerque to Los Angeles, 4 nights on the boat, all meals, non-alcoholic drinks, steaks on the beach, a night at the Double-Tree in LA, a private shuttle to and from the piers and it runs ~$800.

What if the hokey pokey really IS what it's all about???? --SpyderFaerie
[ Parent ]

Good to hear that. (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by Ranieri on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 10:44:57 AM EST

I think what you're saying is an exception, not the rule.

I'm *so* glad to hear that. The whole thing seemed engineered to get your money and pad your logbook with the minimum effort on their part :-)

And the cost of the entire trip - round trip airfare from Albuquerque to Los Angeles, 4 nights on the boat, all meals, non-alcoholic drinks, steaks on the beach, a night at the Double-Tree in LA, a private shuttle to and from the piers and it runs ~$800.

Sounds like a real bargain. OTOH, the plane tickets from .nl to LAX will probably offset that...
I'll check it out though.
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
[ Parent ]

location (4.66 / 3) (#21)
by fhotg on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 08:29:05 AM EST

I have heard that learning in a local cold, deep and muddy lake makes you actually the better (beginner) diver than learning in some clear warm tropical holiday place. Because the greatest dangers in diving come from disorientation / panic and you're much safer if you got your certificate in said shitty conditions.

That true, or just the local diving school marketing scheme ?

This must be true. (4.33 / 3) (#22)
by i on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 08:47:40 AM EST

My instructor said so, and I learned in a clear warm tropical holiday place.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Yes (5.00 / 2) (#24)
by j1mmy on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 10:22:40 AM EST

I learned in Illinois in October of last year, and my open-water certification dives were done in 50-degree water. Even if you can't find bad learning conditions, don't learn while on vacation. Your vacation time would be better spent actually diving rather than sitting in a classroom or tooling around in a pool. Another word of advice: never go on a cave-dive or any dive with an overhead environment without getting certified for it. That was one of the stupidest things I've ever done.

[ Parent ]
Not convinced (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by ukryule on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 09:36:23 PM EST

I think the greatest danger is that you do something silly, or ignore the guidelines, and *then* panic (which is just as likely wherever you are). Learning in a harsh environment might give you a bit more confidence, but it shouldn't be your main consideration.

Factors that I would rate while deciding where to learn are:

  • Quality of instructor. Obviously this varies wherever you are, so as other people have said, try to find out about him beforehand.
  • Convenience. Doing the boring bookwork & poolwork after work/over weekends near home is probably much better for you than using up a couple of precious holiday days.
  • Intensity of course. Instead of doing it all in about 4 days, you'll probably end up doing it over 4 weeks (or similar) in between work; depends on your prefered learning style
  • Enjoyment. For PADI, you need to do 4 open water dives to get qualified. These will be *much* more fun in a tropical dive resort than the local lake - you'll probably have plenty of time to see the sights in between practising all your drills. Of course these dives won't be as much fun as 4 dives if you're already qualified ...
  • Lake vs. Sea. One advantage of lakes is they haven't got big waves & currents. This makes it easier to learn - jumping into a sea with a big swell on your first training dive is a lot more intimidating than if you're already qualified
That said, I learnt in a lake in England in January - where visibility was virtually nil (there was nothing to see anyway), and there was a thin layer of ice on the surface in the morning. We had to wear dry-suits (more complicated), and our regulators often started to freeflow (keep pumping out air even when not breathing in). It was borderline dangerous and I would definitely *not* recommend that to anyone.

A final option is to do the bookwork and poolwork locally, and then do the qualifying dives on holiday; however this is hard to organise, as you'll have to confirm with the resort dive company that they'll accept your hometown divemasters semi-certification. (I know this works, because my gf did it this way to avoid jumping into an ice-covered lake.)

[ Parent ]

About instructors and mindsets... (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by lowca on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 10:49:07 AM EST

Some of the best instructors are independent instructors, and some of the worst are store-affiliated. What's more, it doesn't matter what agency (PADI, NAUI, whatever) the instructor has his certification from; as you said, their standards are similar, for the most part. It all comes down to the instructor himself.

For example: I've been certified for ten years now. I've had several different instructors for my courses - open water, advanced open water, enriched air nitrox, and dry suit. You know what? Looking back, I can say that my worst instructor was the one I had for open water. He didn't really care how well I was taught; he just took me for a mark, took my money and shoved me through the course, without taking extra time to help me out.

It was several years before I figured out just how bad a diver I was, and worked on my skills by myself until I was at least decent in the water. Unfortunately, some "divers" never figure this out. They just want the certification card, or they don't know any better; it then shows in their diving.

The point is, when shopping for an instructor, ignore what certifications the instructor has, or what his dive shop affiliations are. Instead, try to get some references and statistics. E.g., are his students happy with the education they got from him? What are his typical class sizes? (Big class size is bad, unless he has capable divemasters or assistant instructors to help him teach the class.) Do you think you could get along with him? (If not, find another instructor.)

Try to ignore the price aspect, too. Some "divers" just take the lowest bidder in terms of course costs, and it sometimes shows in their diving. But then, some of the more expensive instructors (like mine for open water) will take you for a ride, too. Caveat emptor.

Another thing to consider: If you can't (or won't) take the above steps, ask yourself, "Do I want to dive, or do I want to dive well?" Like anything else, learning to dive depends on your own mindset.


All that being said, here are some good SCUBA-oriented forums you can visit (among thousands, of course):

Oh, and there's an entirely different diving philosophy that is slowly spreading among divers, veterans and newbies alike. It's called Doing It Right (DIR). Don't let the name put you off, carelessly chosen as it may be. It does have some good ideas - such as equipment streamlining, buoyancy control techniques, finning techniques, other things - although its supporters can be quite zealous at times (hence the name). You can find out more at: www.gue.com/classroom/dir_fundamentals.shtml


"Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us." - P.J. O'Rourke, Parliament of Whores

I absolutely second that (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by levsen on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 03:01:32 PM EST

I rather stumbled onto diving on a trip through Indonesia and it's the most amazing thing I ever did. But I have to say something here. I don't think diving is a sport, it's a means of getting there. What you want to do is see coral reefs and tropical underwater life, which is the most amazing thing on this planet, oh and and Real Shopwrecks too. In 2-3 hours diving on Bunaken (Sulawesi, Indonesia), I saw more stuff and was more amazed than 2 weeks safari in the fricking East African savannah. It's all an explosion of color that's hard to believe.

So I absolutely do recommend taking diving classes in tropical places, where you can combine the learning and the seeing. No need to waste your money in your muddy hometown lake or swimming pool. Also the courses and excercises are important, because if you fuck up later you will die, but it's for safety and it goes as far as that. Forget about style or what that's for zealots. The sharks and the turtles and the giant clam shells and lobsters and bubble fish don't give a damn about your style, just whether you're safe.

Also highly recommended: Night diving. The truth is, that far down there, such as 20 meters, the water filters out all the colors of the daylight, so it all has a blue-grayish tang about it. Bring a flashlight for real color, and I mean there is color down there!! And this will be even more drastic when you dive at night in the dark and have your flashlight. Heh, did you know there is fluorescent plankton that lights up in contact with air and makes your breathing bubbles rise like a little fireworks of green sparks? You can also take a bubble fish and shine your light through like a lantern. Bubble fish have an almost human face!

Ok for some tips see here: Sulawesi Travel Information, click "About Diving and Snorkeling" and click the Bomba and Bunaken sections. I wished I could show you some photographs but underwater photography is a major hassle and nothing for beginners like me.

This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.

Well... (none / 0) (#36)
by lowca on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 04:30:35 PM EST

I do agree with most of what said above. In many places, the diving (especially night diving) is extremely interesting, and it doesn't take an extreme amount of training to get there. Still, though, I have a couple comments.
No need to waste your money in your muddy hometown lake or swimming pool.
Actually, learning to dive in a "muddy hometown lake" is great practice. If you can handle low visibility, the added buoyancy of a thick wet suit or dry suit, and everything else the comes into play in such conditions, you can handle just about any type of recreational diving there is. Hell, I dive a local quarry every once in a while; there isn't much in there, but it is good practice.
The sharks and the turtles and the giant clam shells and lobsters and bubble fish don't give a damn about your style, just whether you're safe.
I agree on the safety aspect. At the very least, though, do practice good buoyancy control. It allows for a more enjoyable dive; you won't get other divers (and possibly sea life) angry with you for kicking up the bottom. Please practice control especially on reefs, where an errant fin kick could destroy thousands of years of coral growth.

Dive safe and often.


"Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us." - P.J. O'Rourke, Parliament of Whores

[ Parent ]

local muddy lake (none / 0) (#38)
by lorcha on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 07:45:38 PM EST

I disagree with you there. When I got my cert... a long time ago... my thoughts were, "Why would I, in some tropical paradise, want to be taking my mask off, etc., instead of looking at fishies?" So I did OW in a muddy, cold lake.

צדק--אין ערבים, אין פיגועים
[ Parent ]

Ok I have to admit something (3.00 / 1) (#41)
by levsen on Tue Dec 17, 2002 at 10:03:33 AM EST

I did my training not only in the tropics, but in "open water" only. There is a part of the course which is supposed to take place in a swimming pool, but if you're out there on a remote, underdeveloped island, there is no swimming pool. So all training was in open water, just some in maybe slightly more shallow water at the beginning and deeper at the end.

And in the open water ... sure you have to practice taking your belt off and stuff, but if you have some turtles swimming around you while you are doing that it doesn't hurt, does it.

This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.
[ Parent ]

Underwater Photography (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by levsen on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 03:10:09 PM EST

You should look at some underwater photography on the web when you want to figure out whether you want to learn diving, such as this (link picked randomly off Google). What you should keep in mind is that scenes like that are readily encountered the very minute you jump into the water (at the right spots of course which are well known to dive operators). This is not like some great picture of a Tiger or something where the poor photographer had to lie in hiding for three weeks to get that one good shot or those famous whale watching tours where you might get to see whales or maybe not. You just plunge and it's all there, very dense and almost overwhelming. This is speaking about Bunaken, Indonesia, but places like the Red Sea etc. are also well known for this.

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Goggles for the near-/far-sighted (4.50 / 2) (#33)
by levsen on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 03:12:56 PM EST

If the author of the article could say something about goggles for the near or farsighted. As any proper intellectual :) I am nearsighted (-5) and I was just lucky that the dive operator had some goggles in that range at hand when I was diving. I heard you can have them specially made according to your specs (just like regular optical glasses or sunglasses). But where? And how much do I have to expect to pay?

This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.

prescription masks (none / 0) (#35)
by lowca on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 03:34:59 PM EST

Some masks (like mine) have two separate lenses - one for each eye - that you can replace with corrective lenses. You can buy pre-made (read: cheaper) corrective lenses for most common prescriptions. IIRC, my mask, plus corrective lenses, was US$120 or so; I'm only somehwat nearsighted, so I was able to use commonly-prescribed lenses.

Another type of lens, is one which doesn't replace your mask lens(es)*. Instead, they're glued (or attached in some other way) to the back of your mask lenses. It's still the same deal: Common prescriptions are cheaper.

In all cases, uncommon prescriptions will cost more than common ones, since the lenses would need to be custom-made. Your prescription doesn't seem severe enough to require custom lenses, though.

* Some masks have one lens for each eye, some have one lens that covers almost the entire front of the mask, and some have side lenses for improved peripheral vision.


"Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us." - P.J. O'Rourke, Parliament of Whores

[ Parent ]

Shop-based instructors vs. Independant (none / 0) (#37)
by A. Craig West on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 06:32:14 PM EST

There is a third choice, which I happen to favour... I took my certification course from a diving club. I don't know how many dive clubs there are that offer certification courses, though. I also suspect that a lot of clubs are based from a single dive shop, so some of the advantages aren't really there.
One of the advantages of club-based training is that I can always find a dive-buddy... Another advantage is that the instructors aren't teaching you primarily as a means of getting you to buy a lot of equipment from them, they are your future dive-buddies, so have a certain incentive to make sure that you know your stuff.

An Instructor's .02 (5.00 / 1) (#39)
by billman on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 09:15:44 PM EST

I'm a senior level technology executive and I teach scuba in my spare time.  I decided to teach not because I love diving (which I do) but because I love seeing the look on student's faces.  It's hard to explain but in my day job, no matter how well I do my job, the best I can hope for is a congratulations or maybe a little extra money.  When you get a student excited about diving, regardless of how old they are, they're like children discovering the world for the first time.  The eyes are wide open (half in fear and half in wonder) and they spend the entire boat ride back babbling like kids describing the octopus or lobster you pointed out to them.  I've seldom had that kind of reaction at my day job  :-)  

I was the product of an instructor who . . . sucked.  He was a great diver.  I know that because he spent every classroom session telling me how cool he was and how he liked night diving on mushrooms or about that time he got so drunk the night before a trip that he was vomitting in his reg the whole dive.  Fortunately, I kept diving despite my less than thrilling experience as his student and I hope that those who've had similar experiences can remember that it only gets better with every dive.  

Just to weigh in on some things other people have posted:

I agree that there's little difference in the actual content in the courses taught by NAUI, SSI, and PADI but as a PADI instructor it is my impression (eg. my opinion) that PADI places much greater emphasis on educational theory.  PADI usually gets high marks on the quality of their training aids (videos, CDROM, books, etc.) which I think speaks to that emphasis on educational theory.  

I can understand why some may want to get certified in a tropical, warm-water location but if you plan on diving at home (assuming you don't live in a tropical, warm-water location), I would highly recommend getting certified at home.  Do you really want to spend your vacation in a classroom or doing mask removal and clearing?  

Regardless of certification agency affiliation you have to give good instructors kudos.  Despite what the shop may charge you, the hourly rate for teaching students works out to about $4.00 an hour per student.  On top of that, instructors usually pay over $1000 a year for membership and insurance dues along with various continuing education expenses.  And not to sound too dramatic but instructors are taking a substantial risk every time they enter the water with inexperienced divers.  A very real risk that is demonstrated in their disproportionate number of dive related injuries and deaths.  There are bad apples but when you get a good instructor remember that this guy or gal isn't doing it for the money.  They actually love what they're doing.  

Where do you teach? (none / 0) (#50)
by andreiko on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 03:03:50 PM EST

Yes, where do you teach? Chances are, someone already found a good instructor :)

Thank you for the inspiring response, brought back memories...

I learned free diving with my dad at the age of 10, in the Black Sea (Bulgaria). The feeling of flying, of being one with the water and the beauty -- I want these back in my life! Never skuba dived but am looking forward to learning.

Is there a place you would recommend in Los Angeles, CA?

Thanks again.

- Andre

[ Parent ]

Article didn't mention a very real danger (none / 0) (#42)
by egg troll on Tue Dec 17, 2002 at 02:43:33 PM EST

I think this article was negligent in not mentioning the very real risk of attack by a giant grouper fish.

He's a bondage fan, a gastronome, a sensualist
Unparalleled for sinister lasciviousness.

safely scuba (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by speek on Tue Dec 17, 2002 at 05:35:17 PM EST

I think your article did a little disservice to scuba by just mentioning the risks at the end so briefly. SCUBA is very safe, and suprisingly easy. I have a terrible time clearing my ears, for instance, but I still SCUBA dive and get through it without much problem. It is also pretty brain-dead easy to follow the simple instructions and avoid most of the risks associated with pressure, depth, and decompression.

For me, SCUBA is a relaxing thing. You have to take what your comfortable with and don't go beyond your limits. The great thing is, there's hardly any need to. I don't feel comfortable at depths of 100', for instance. I get a little paranoid. But, 50' is deep enough for most reefs. I just like to go down and sit in one spot. No need to move around. The fish and critters come to you if you're still.

And night diving is the best of all. So peaceful and surreal at the same time. I encourage anyone with the curiosity to try diving. It only seems strange and intimidating at first - you'll see it's easier than first grade math.

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees

A Note on Cost (4.00 / 1) (#45)
by Hobbes2100 on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 11:46:19 AM EST

Hello all,

I started a scuba certification class in the fall. I didn't complete it. I went on a "resort dive" in November and loved it. Utterly unbelievable.

To my point: the reason I didn't complete the class (in fact, I only went to an orientation class) was the cost. From the start of the class through having my (PADI) certification in hand would have cost me approximately $700 dollars.

This included instruction costs, pool time, equipment purchase/rental (some things couldn't be rented), and other materials/fees. In short, $700 bucks. I'm in Pittsburgh (not exactly a resort hotbed); you may do better if you're in San Diego or Tampa (with more competition, etc.).

What really frustrated me (and the reason I make this post) is that the instructors made a "big deal" about laying out all of the costs up front. Well, they did a good enough job of that, but they couldn't for the life of themselves bring up the fact that the TOTAL was around $700 to get certified.

On the other hand, if you have the money to do it (I'm a poor graduate student) and you'll be able to dive (semi-) frequently, I recommend it whole heartedly. It is not really possible to describe what its like to be able to play underwater.

Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes? --Iuvenalis
But who will guard the guardians themselves? -- Juvenal

I did cover it. (none / 0) (#46)
by kwsNI on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 01:51:48 AM EST

A - it varies everywhere, as I said in the article.

B - the standard costs are all listed there. If you found otherwise, you were most likely getting screwed. If there is anything I hope people would get from the article it's that there are options and that there isn't one way of doing something. Each dive shop is different.

With that said, I got my certification in New Mexico - in the middle of the desert so I can't say that it was any more diver friendly than Pittsburgh. Total costs: $200 for the class, $200 for gear, $70 for a hotel in Santa Rosa where I got my certification. Check around - there are better deals.

What if the hokey pokey really IS what it's all about???? --SpyderFaerie
[ Parent ]

You did ... (none / 0) (#49)
by Hobbes2100 on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 08:29:41 PM EST

... but not to my liking, or I wouldn't have made a comment!

My post had very little (besides talking about my scuba experience) to do with being a critique of your article. I enjoyed it. I was simply making some comments that might make other people more informed when they walk into the store/class/etc.

My point remains, that I rarely, if ever, see totals for this sort of thing. Even in your response, you left it to be added up (200+200+70). I don't mind adding three number in front of my face, but when they are on 10 different fliers that are hard to compare (b/c I'm a newbie, not sure what I need or want, and there are different ways to go about covering the equipment).

Trying to minimize that cost, and I got the figure I mentioned earlier. It doesn't really matter to me what the figure is/was ... I simply wanted a bottom line, minimum cost (from that shop, of course).

I suppose even more to the point, I want a minimum cost that is broken down into its component parts. All of this has to do with being a customer in general; it has very little to do with looking at a scuba shop. Be informed; know what you're getting for your money; don't get nickeled and dimed to death.

Again, I loved my diving experience and hope to do it again. At this point, however, certification is out of my reach (and not overly useful).

Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes? --Iuvenalis
But who will guard the guardians themselves? -- Juvenal
[ Parent ]

It's the best (5.00 / 2) (#48)
by wintermute204 on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 10:23:03 PM EST

I love it. My dad got me into it for my 14th birthday. Although my first openwater dive was in a quarry in northern ohio in febuary (the instructors showed up in dry suits, while I had a crappy rental wetsuit. So cold. Thank god for the Automatic Wetsuit Warmer

But a really good dive can be a life changing experience. My dad and I did a 3 tank dive off of Isla de Murcilagos (Bat Island - and bad spelling) off of the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

I've never been hanggliding, but that was as close to flying as I've ever felt. Riding the currents, soar down canyon walls weightless. Sharks cruising at the range of your vision. Awsome. Simply Awsome.

Learn to scuba dive. | 50 comments (37 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
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