Our ocean's beauty is disappearing, coral reefs are dying off, there's still great diving left in the world, but it's going away fast. This is not an environmental article, it's an article on why you should overcome your fear, or procrastination, or whatever reasons you're putting off getting scuba certified and just do it immediately.
I’ve been scuba certified since before I had back hair (about ten years) and it blows my mind how many people have said to me, "Wow, I wish I could go scuba diving." So, I decided to write an article to hopefully shed light on how little goes in to getting scuba certified.
If you’re intimidated about getting certified, remember: it’s cheaper, easier, and less extreme than you might think.
To the untrained diver, scuba diving may sound extreme. Maybe it conjures up images of double agents swimming around having underwater knife fights and getting into crazy adventures and stuff. But the reality is, two of the cardinal rules of scuba diving are:
1. no knife fights
2. no crazy adventures
Scuba diving is actually really safe and as long as you follow the easy to follow rules, you can continue diving your whole life.
Most Common Excuses
Before we even get into what it takes to get scuba certified, let’s go over some of the biggest excuses I’ve heard for not getting certified:
I’m scared of sharks
Shark attacks on people are rare, but remember, when they do happen, it's on surfers, not scuba divers. Check out this list of all the things that will kill you, long before a great white shark.
I’m not a good swimmer
Believe it or not, scuba diving has very little swimming in it. Because you’re wearing an inflatable vest that controls your buoyancy and fins that make you move through the water like an olympian, you actually don’t have to be a good swimmer. One of the best divers I know can barely swim, so don’t let poor swimming skills get in the way of you and the underwater world.
I get claustrophobic
There are a couple programs that are perfect for people with claustrophobia. “Discover Scuba Diving” (DSD) allows you to dive tandem with an instructor. They don't take you deep, there's someone holding on to you at all times and you can safely see if scuba diving is right for you.
The other option is called SNUBA which is essentially a hose that pulls air from up top and lets you breathe underwater without all the tanks and equipment. Both of these options have very close supervision to make sure you’re safe and comfortable and they’re a lot cheaper than getting certified. Just call any dive shop and they’ll get you started.
It’s too extreme for me
No it’s not. Some of the least athletic and least extreme people I know are scuba divers. You could even say it’s the ultimate couch potato sport. Even the most active, avid scuba divers, only dive for about an hour in a day. Most divers spend less than 12 hours a year diving and the rest of the year talking about how extreme they are for being scuba divers. So don't let the extreme factor keep you from experiencing the underwater world.
So what goes in to getting certified?!
Lets start with the the money.
Brace yourself—it’s about $400. That's a lot of money, but it’s a lifetime certification and it’s internationally recognized, so the sooner you get certified, the more value you get from it. I dove with a lady in France that was eighty two years old and had been scuba diving since she was 20. So if you take that $400 and divide it out across her sixty year diving career, that’s about 52 cents a month that certification cost her.
They start you off with book work. Many dives shops will have you take this portion online. When people say scuba diving is so dangerous, that’s only partly true. There are serious consequences for not following the rules of diving, but for the most part, the rules are very intuitive and easy to follow, like for example, make sure your air tank is turned on before you go underwater. Duh. You can see how that would be “dangerous” but it’s pretty easy and intuitive to turn your air on before trying to breathe off your tank. There are a few less intuitive rules of diving, but the point is, it’s not so difficult that scuba should be reserved only for the few and the brave. It’s quite simple and REALLY fun and the book work part teaches you all the rules to follow! Ok, so once you pass your book work, it’s on to step two!
Pool check. It takes an hour or so to get your pool work done. They teach you the basics of how to clear water out of your mask and give you some basic practice with breathing underwater. They also teach the basics of what to do in an emergency. It’s very simple and once you have those skills down, you can move on. Step 2 complete. (Nicely done.)
Open water—now they take you out into the real deal. Here they’ll take you to a body of water that is deep enough to practice basic skills. So if you live inland, not to worry, there’s still hope for you. (Where I grew up, they certified people in Whiskeytown Lake, a merky, mucky, snow run-off lake with nothing to see.) You have three check out dives in open water and once you’ve completed those, you’re done, you’ve got your first scuba certification—basic open water certification.
And That's It!
For 90% of the world’s diving, all you need is this basic open water certification. The more advanced courses give you training on diving with different mixes of air and certify you to dive down to deeper depths, but for most people, open water is plenty. With this certification, you can rent scuba gear at dive shops and anywhere in the world that you travel, you can hop on dive boats and scuba dive.
Some Logistics of Getting Certified
The main certifying bodies are NAUI, PADI, and SSI. PADI is considered the gold standard, but I have certifications from all three and all of the skills they teach are pretty standardized, which means if you get certified in a foreign country, you can trust that the skills you’re learning are the same ones you’d get in the states.
Where to get certified:
This was the option I chose. I certified in Brazil because I didn’t want to have to put a wetsuit on and freeze my butt off in murky crap water. Training was still great, warm water, great visibility. The only thing is check out dives aren’t super exciting abroad because they take you to places that are conducive to training, not necessarily cool dive sites. So it was a little frustrating to be that close to world class diving, but stuck at the training dive site.
Certify at Community college, university, public school
I did this one too. I signed up for a scuba class at my university just like you would for any other class. I got great training and with a whole semester I had a whole pile of certifications- Rescue Diver, Master Diver, First Aid/CPR, Nitrox, and Scientific Research Diver.
Go through a local dive shop
This is the classic no frills, way that most people get certified for scuba diving. The dive shop works with you over a week or two, teaches you everything you need to know, then takes you out and plunks you out in the water to practice your new skills. You can go on Groupon to get certified, but in my experience, those groupon deals make you buy a bunch of gear with your course, so be weary of that. Your gear should be included in the price of your course which shouldn't be more than $400.
Hopefully this helps dispel some of the intimidation that keeps people from getting scuba certified. I promise, it’s not hard and you’d be shocked at how little talent one needs to get this certification. So get out there and get certified and let me know when you do! Love to hear about it! Thanks for reading and if you liked it, please share it. And if you REALLY liked it and wanna work with us, drop us a line. We're always looking for great creative talent!