You can’t simply go SCUBA diving on a whim. Proper training, lots of class time, and supervised dives must happen before you can receive your SCUBA open water certification card. The certification card is required in order to rent or purchase gear and reserve a spot on a diving boat. Besides, with as complicated diving can be, you’re liable to kill yourself without the proper knowledge and training. So how do you become a certified diver? What will you learn, and what must you do?
Locate a SCUBA diving pro shop
Most SCUBA diving shops offer certification courses. Make sure the shop has a certified SCUBA instructor from one of the many SCUBA diving organizations. PADI is by far the largest organization, certifying over 50% of divers. The shop will charge between $300-400 for the entire program. The fee includes a text book, classroom study, 3 to 4 pool dives, and 4 open water dives, and the rental of most of your gear.
Read the material and do the classroom work
The PADI instruction booklet is about 250 pages long, and your instructor will expect you to read the entire book, take the quiz’s and tests found in each section, and watch the accompanying video. After the book has been read, the instructor will go over what you read, emphasize the key points with his/her personal experience, and answer any questions you have. The text goes over the gear, principles of pressure and buoyancy, diving techniques and procedures, special situations, navigation, first aid for diving, and safety precautions, just to name a few. It takes about 10-15 hours to read the book and 4-5 hours of class time. The classroom portion normally takes two days to finish. Upon completion, you must take a final competency exam.
Do the basic swimming test and confined water (pool) dives
When the classroom portion is over, its time to hit the pool. Prior to letting you strap on your SCUBA gear, your instructor will have you take the swimming test. To pass the swimming test, you must be able to swim 200 meters and tread water for 10 minutes. After passing the swimming portion, the moment of truth arrives! Your instructor will go over, one last time, how to assemble your gear, how to properly store it, and how to do the pre dive checks. Then you strap on your gear, hop into the water, and submerge. You’re taking your first breathes underwater now! For these pool dives, the instructor will have you practice obtaining neutral buoyancy, navigating underwater, underwater communication (hand signals), and show you how to fix common problems, such as retrieving a lost regulator and clearing a mask filled with water. PADI requires 4 confined water dives. The instructor will likely have you dive on two different days, doing two dives a day.
The open water dives
Your first real diving experience is about to begin. Your instructor will have you do the same thing you did on the pool dives, only this time, you’re in the open water. Depending on where you live, you could be diving in a fresh water lake or the salt water ocean. Either way, you’ll basically repeat what you did in the pool dives. This time, however, you get to see the flora and fauna of a real body of water. You’ll spend a lot more time swimming than you did in the pools. Like the pool, 4 dives on two different days must be completed.
Upon the conclusion of the fourth and final dive, congratulations! You are now a certified SCUBA diver! You have received your open water diver certification! Since you probably haven’t ever been SCUBA diving if you’re reading this, lets go over the gear you will be using.