If you’re reading this article…well…CONGRATS! The fact that you are showing interest in scuba diving is amazing. One of the best decisions I have ever made was getting certified, it’s opened up so many doors for me and taken me all over the world. My goal is to provide you with the necessary information to make the certification process as easy as possible.
I know it may seem a bit overwhelming to think about getting certified, but it is actually much more simple than you think. In this article I will tell you everything you need to know on how to become scuba certified.
Discover Scuba Diving
If you are a little intimidated by the thought of registering for a scuba certification course, Discover Scuba Diving could be for you. It is a great way to experience scuba diving before actually being certified. I should know, as it was the first dive I ever went on. DSD allows you to dive in a pool, on a beach, or from a dive boat with PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) instructors.
You will be able to experience what it’s like to breathe underwater and if you’re up for it, actually be able to go on a real shallow water dive. It is a program that introduces you to the equipment, teaches you a few key scuba diving skills, and also about how to get the PADI Open Water Diver Certification.
It typically lasts a few hours in preparation for the actual dive. Don’t worry about bringing your own gear, your PADI instructor will most likely provide you with everything you need. If you are curious about what sort of equipment you need to dive, check out one of my previous articles: Scuba Diving Equipment List: The Basic Setup
If this is something you are interested in, I recommend contacting your local PADI Dive Center for more details. If you hope to dive while on vacation (like I did), many resorts have scuba shops that offer the PADI DSD program. Again, this is a great way for you to try scuba diving before signing up for an actual certification course. I would highly recommend it!
If you’re ready to learn what it takes to actually get your Open Water Diver certification, you first might want to know how much it costs or if there are any physical requirements. The main skill you need to have in order to dive is swimming. You don’t need to be an Olympic level swimmer, but should be very comfortable swimming and treading water.
As for the age requirements, you need to be at least 10 years old in order to get certified. PADI doesn’t go into much detail about physical condition, but you need to be in “good physical health”.
Speaking from personal experience, it isn’t very physically demanding. Good swimming skills are required, and the tanks can be a bit heavy to stand up in for some. However, there will be others around you to help you up and make sure you get in the water safely.
The nice thing about this certification is that no prior scuba diving experience or knowledge is required. The cost to get certified varies depending on where you are, however, it will most likely be in the range of $250-$450. In the next section I will be going over what exactly happens during the certification process.
PADI Open Water Diver Certification
Time to dive in (pun intended) to the details on what the certification entails. It can be broken down into three main sections:
- Classroom learning
- Confined water dives
- Open water dives
I know what you’re thinking, classroom learning?! Do I need to study? Will there be a test? It isn’t as bad as it sounds, I promise.
The fact is there is a lot to know about scuba diving and if you want to be able to dive freely and safely, there is some book-learning that you will need to go over. The nice thing is there are a lot of videos in addition to the written material, which is laid out very neatly and easy to read. There are a few different options on how to complete this section: online, independent study, or in a classroom.
I completed mine online at home and took the tests at a local scuba shop. This way I could watch the videos and learn the material at my own pace in the comfort of my own home.
You focus on the basics of scuba diving, like a breakdown of the equipment, how to properly assemble and disassemble the equipment, safety procedures, underwater hand signals, and how to properly plan a dive.
At the end of the learning there is a final exam, however, it is nothing to stress about. All the learning you do is very practical information and things you need to know, and the test isn’t designed to make you fail. It is only there to make sure you know enough to dive safely. So don’t stress! It isn’t difficult to pass.
Confined Water Dives:
This is where the fun begins because you will actually be diving in a swimming pool. The main purpose of this phase is getting you comfortable in the water and with the equipment. It is where you will begin to apply the learning you did in the book to a real life diving experience.
Some skills you will practice are setting up your gear properly and the various ways to enter the water safely. These are skills that you will need to be able to do without much thought in order to move on to the next phase, as they are very important in ensuring a safe diving experience.
Some underwater skills you will learn are how to clear water out of your mask while diving, buoyancy control, underwater hand signals, basic navigation, and safety procedures with a buddy. Once you are comfortable with each, you will then go on the final phase, open water dives.
Open Water Dives:
This is where you transition from a swimming pool to an open water environment. This could mean a lake, reservoir, or the ocean. By this point in the process you should be comfortable with all the skills and procedures you’ve learned, as you will be tested underwater on each.
You will most likely be going through these various tests over the span of 3-4 dives. Overall the process lasts however you schedule it. It could be 1 week from start to end, or up to a month by the time you complete all the open water dives. It is up to you and the shop you are signed up with to figure out the time frame.
You’re Certified! Now What?
Once you earn your PADI Open Water Diver certification, you are certified for life! It won’t expire, however, it is recommended that you take a review course every once in a while. If it has been years since you last dove, it would be wise to review some basics again. Even if this is on your own with your own materials, I highly recommend it!
Once certified you will be able to: receive air tank refills, rent scuba gear on your own, dive on your own with a buddy, schedule boat dives, and have access to other more advanced scuba diving classes!
With and Open Water Diver certification you are technically certified to dive to depths of 60 feet, however, this is not a strict number. If you dive to 65 or 70 feet you won’t have your c-card confiscated. As long as you are with a professional instructor/guide, it is more than acceptable to dive deeper than 60 feet.
The best piece of advice I can give you is stay in your comfort zone! If that is 40 feet then stay there, if that is 75 feet then that is probably fine too. I know that most guides won’t allow you to go deeper than 80 feet without more advanced certification.
A Whole New World Awaits, Go Explore It!
I hope this article helped answer some questions you had regarding the certification process. I also hope this encourages you to seriously consider going through with it.
Once you are certified a whole new world is out there for you to explore. It is one that many don’t get to experience up close and personal, but you now have access to. Take advantage of this and dive as much as you can in as many places as you can. It is such an incredible experience and each dive offers something new.
Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions. Happy Diving!