Archive for March, 2010

Breaking Into the Diving Scene

by admin

As 70% of the planet is covered with water, there is much more of this world to explore than most people can fathom. Being able to traverse underwater wrecks and caves, photograph multi-colored fish in tropical reefs, and see how all the different types creatures interact opens your eyes to an entirely new world and experience. After you become certified, you will be able to dive anywhere in the world for the rest of your life. Diving also opens up additional career avenues in the commercial, police, scientific, and military sectors. Over a million new people (aging from 10 to well into their 80s) are getting certified every year. If nothing else, it provides a fun, new hobby to broaden your horizons. The answers below should get you all the information you will need to start your new found hobby, or even down the path to a new career.

Why do you need a certification?

Besides getting used to breathing under water at different depths and how to use different types of scuba gear, there are various risks with how pressure affects your body you will need to learn about. Careful training and preparation helps to significantly reduce these risks, which include:

  • Decompression Sickness (DCS, or the “bends”) – This is caused from surfacing too quickly from a deep underwater dive. It can cause a lot of pain, and, if untreated, can result in nerve and tissue damage, and even death.
  • Air Embolism (Pulmonary Barotrauma) – Happens when a diver holds his or her breath while ascending. The air inside the lungs will expand and can cause serious or even fatal damage to the lungs.
  • Nitrogen Narcosis – A feeling of drunkenness that divers feel at deeper depths, usually around 80-100 feet. It is not directly damaging, but can cause bad decision making and motor coordination. This can lead to poor decisions, resulting in DCS, drowning, or Pulmonary Barotrauma.

What does certification entail?

Your initial certification will allow you to dive down to 60 feet. To obtain this, divers must be at least 10 years old, be able to demonstrate they can swim 200 yards, and tread water for 10 minutes. Scuba courses are typically divided into three parts:

  • Information Development – Learn the basic principles of scuba diving. These include planning for a safe dive, how pressure affects you underwater, and dealing with various underwater creatures. This can be usually taken online beforehand ($120).
  • Pool/Confined Water Learning – Learn how to use your dive gear and get used to scuba diving in a confined environment.
  • Open Water Learning – You will need a minimum of four open-water dives to achieve certification. This will usually take two or more days, as most agencies limit training dives to two a day. You can get a referral to do your open water dives in a destination of your choice once you complete the information development and pool learning sessions. Upon completion, you will receive a C-card, which is physical proof you are certified. This is good for the rest of your life and you will need to be able to present this when doing subsequent dives.

After you have received basic certification, you can proceed to more advanced courses, which can open up additional commercial and career opportunities for you.

Where do I get certified?

With more than 1,800 professional retail dive stores in the US alone, finding a place to learn how to dive is pretty simple. There are three main scuba diving certification agencies:

  • PADI – The front runner with 55% of the divers around the world certified through them. PADI is geared more towards recreational diving during initial instruction.
  • NAUI – NAUI courses are longer in duration and delve more into technical matters related to diving and specialty.
  • SSI – SSI courses are similar to PADIs’ and are offered in 2400 locations around the world.

When picking an agency to get certified with, make sure you find out what the price includes up front. The pricing should be made up of the following components:

  • Equipment – The use of gear (other than mask, fins, and snorkel, which you usually provide), and the cost of airfills for the scuba tanks you’ll be using.
  • Coursework and Confined Water Sessions – The training you‘ll be doing at your dive center’s facility, or at the facility they use.
  • Open Water Sessions – The real-world diving (usually 4 or 5 sessions) that you’ll do at an actual dive site.

An accredited training course from a certified instructor will cost about $300-$500, including practice and certification dives.

Where can I find dive shops and referral locations?

There are many places to find dive shops and places to complete your training around the world. These include:

How much does diving gear cost?

If you are expecting to dive only a few times a year, renting is more cost-effective than buying all your own equipment. Daily rental costs range from $40 to $60 for a two-tank dive. If you own your own equipment, the cost of air ranges from $5 to $8 per tankful. At the minimum, you will need to purchase a mask ($40-$70), snorkel ($20-$50), and fins ($50-$100). If you want to buy all of your own equipment, you are looking at shelling out around $1300-$1500. On top of the mask, snorkel and fins, here’s a rundown of standard scuba equipment that will get you started with warm water dives:

  • Buoyancy Compensator (BC) – Inflatable jacket allowing divers to adjust their buoyancy in the water ($250-$500)
  • Regulator – This mouthpiece from which you breathe. It is connected to the air tank and regulates the pressure to a safe level for you to inhale ($150-$600)
  • Weight belt – Holds you down in the water and counteracts the buoyancy of other diving equipment ($20-$50)
  • Air Tank – Holds the compressed air you use underwater ($150-$400 each)
  • Octopus – This is your alternate air source used as a back up to the regulator ($125-$350)
  • Depth Gauge – Displays your air supply and depth. ($75-$350)

You can get all the new scuba gear you will need from places like,, or Or you can find used gear on and I will have a later article describing a detailed rundown of the top valued scuba equipment to purchase.

Where can I find a diving buddy?

If you would like to feel more safe, or just want to make new friends, there many easy ways to find a diving friend: