Scuba Diving – the things you need to know:

April 9, 2008

Isn’t this just the coolest photograph?


courtesy of Rebecca rebox671

Did you know that a store is not allowed to sell you scuba diving equipment (including tanks) unless you have a licence? I must say I didn’t know that but it makes sense I suppose.

So which licence do you get? There is a choice – there are many organisations around the world offering you the chance to get a scuba diving licence, including most holiday resorts where scuba diving is done. Because I’m biased I would say a BSAC, but in America there are two main options: NAUI or PADI. These two agencies have different philosophies and methods of training.

NAUI is a not-for-profit agency, founded in 1960 and based on educating qualified divers. PADI is a for-profit agency, founded in 1966. PADI takes a marketing approach to diving which has been quite successful and has made them the largest and most recognized certification agency in the world.

PADI offers shorter courses than NAUI with more levels, which may lead divers to falsely believe they are at a higher level of proficiency than they really are.

PADI and NAUI use different dive tables. NAUI’s dive tables tend to be more conservative in terms of Surface Interval Time allotted.

Ultimately, what is most important for your training as a good diver is your instructor rather than the certification agencies s/he is affiliated with.

We suggest you go with a course that gives you several weeks to absorb the dense lectures and book readings on various topics such as buoyancy, diving physics, and depth and time limits. At the end of your course, you will be required to take a written test. You must pass it to become certified. In addition, you’ll need to know how to use your dive tables like the back of your hand (that is, calculate surface interval times for multiple dives and how much time you need to give yourself before increasing or decreasing your depth).

While you are reading and studying, you will also be taking swimming pool training dives. Most U.S. based scuba diving agencies have a 200-yard minimum swimming requirement (300 yards for the YMCA) for certification. There are also survival/safety requirements that will be tested in the pool such as treading water and tired diver tow (dragging a tired swimmer to “shore”).

During an open water dive you will be required to do the following:

1. Pass a series of five open water dives in a lake, quarry, ocean or other large body of water.2. You must know how to set up and check your equipment and your buddy’s equipment.

3. You must know your hand signals.

4. You must show that you know how to plan a dive.

5. You must show mastery of Ascent and descent: controlled and normal, with and without reference (boat).

6. You must show that you know how to clean, clear, and remove your mask.

7. You must show that you know how to clear your snorkel.

8. You must show mastery of buoyancy: pivot, hover, donning and doffing the B.C., and manual inflation of the B.C.

9. You must show that you know how to clear and recover your regulator.

10. You must show that you know techniques for overcoming cramps.

11. You must show that you know how to handle tired diver tow.

12. You must show mastery of navigation: compass surface and compass navigation.

When you have a good licence ie: a recognised licence, it gives you the freedom to dive wherever you want – warm water, cold waters etc: And boy is it fun…


One comment

  1. Anybody interested in learning to dive, I would strongly recommend against taking a resort course. Such courses put you in the ocean much sooner than many people are ready, resulting in people being scared and having an unpleasant dive experience. I suggest doing it the right way, go to your local dive shop and sign up for a course sometime within 6 months of your vacation to someplace warm and tropical. You do the classwork and pool dives at home, get used to the equipment in a swimming pool and then take your “referral” with you to the Caribbean and complete the certification on vacation. This way you are not spending a lot of your vacation “learning” to dive, but actually DOING the diving. You’ll love it and not have to worry about having a “bad” dive right off the bat and potentially discouraging you from a fantastic hobby.

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