You have probably been dreaming about to start scuba diving. Soon you will witness amazing and beautiful underwater world. You might already have seen some teasers of whats coming from the nature documentaries or heard exciting stories from your friends who dive. How would it sound to dive in the middle of the vivid coral reef with colorful fish, turtles, dolphins or even whales? How about to follow Jacques Cousteau's foot steps and search for the Atlantis? For history lovers there's also a countless amount of wrecks to explore around the world.
If you are wondering about practical things we have good news for you: scuba diving isn't as hard, dangerous and expensive as many people think. It doesn't require the world class athlete fitness and it's enough if you have basic health. The following text will explain these commonly prevailing misconceptions.
Scuba diving is not difficult
Your journey to become a certified scuba diver starts by applying to a diving course. Courses are arranged by different organizations and more information about these are provided later. The quality of courses are good and even though there's quite much to learn it is taught in decent pace. The course starts with theory, safety rules of diving, information about the scuba equipment and after that hands-on practices will follow in shallow pool or open water. These exercises are repeated as long as needed to provide the adequate skills and knowledge for participants. To understand the theory part you don't have to be a mathematician, brain surgeon or rocket scientist. Learning materials have been planned well and important things will be repeated quite often along the course. Also if needed the course instructor will explain the things in more detail. If you stay awake during the lessons and read materials for the exam it won't be difficult the pass the course. Quite often the participants are so excited and motivated that the learning itself don't require much effort.
Scuba diving is not dangerous
For someone scuba diving might sound like a dangerous extreme sport. Be that as it may, but at least what it comes for the dangerous part of the sport it can't be categorized like that if you just remember what you have learned during the diving courses. Some simple and easy to remember rules are emphasized during the course which will increase the safety remarkably. These rules are for example: "Check your diving buddy's equipment every time before starting the dive", "Don't hold your breath during the dive, just breathe normally", "Don't dive alone" and "Leave safety margins for diving depth and your air volume". These are simple things which are not difficult to remember. Of course there's a lot of things that could go wrong when diving but you will be prepared for situations like these during the course. You have to prepare for example how to empty a mask, how to release a cramp from your foot, how to share air with your diving buddy. The previously mentioned skills are very important to know to make diving much safer and enjoyable. However using a common sense, following the rules from the course and diving within oneself's limits and skills we can call scuba diving a safe sport.
You don't have to be a millionaire to start scuba diving
When starting scuba diving the biggest investment is the course itself. Basic scuba diving course is usually few hundred dollars depending on which training organization is used and in which country the course is held. For example in Malta PADI OWD (Open Water Diver) basic course which is a recognized diving certification around the world is about 300-400 euros. Many diving clubs are also arranging scuba training which can be affordable and good option. When joining a diving club you might get good discount from the course and many other benefits like inexpensive diving trips with diving clubs own boat. For example one scuba diving club in Finland offers CMAS* / CMAS P1 basic course (which is also recognized training organization and course around the world) for 300€ for it's members and 400€ for non-members. This 100€ difference in price for non-members includes a membership fee for the diving club, making these courses a good way for clubs to increase their member count and activity.
Usually it's also required to have own basic equipment when starting the course which includes mask, snorkel and fins. Some might have bought these already from exotic holiday trip while trying snorkeling. But if you still don't own these equipment or can't borrow those from your friend or dive center you can buy good equipment with around hundred dollars. It's good to invest some money for quality and for your comfort underwater and therefore it's not recommended to use ten dollar equipment packet from some tourist shop.
Of course like in many other sports you can spend a lot of money for equipment if you want. For the course you can buy for example a diving computer, wetsuit, gloves, boots (if you use open ended fins), diving knife etc. However if you are not sure if diving is your thing it would be a good idea to go for a try dive. It's going to cost only a few dozen dollars and all the needed equipment is provided for you. When you start the beginner scuba diving course it's good to rent all the needed equipment excluding snorkel, mask and fins. This way you can try different kind of equipment and test which one suits you best and after that it would be natural to start planning about investing to own equipment – of course in that case you are going to dive a lot.
Requirements for a scuba diving course
To qualify for the course you don't have to be a marathon runner or long distance swimmer. It's enough if you have basic health and you can for example make a short walk without too much effort and short of breath. It's also required to be able to swim a short distance – for your own safety. If you don't know how to swim yet it would be a good idea to apply for swimming lessons right away. That skill would be definitely beneficial for the rest of your life! Before starting the course you are handed a medical question form to fill. Even though if you would have to answer yes to some of the questions it doesn't necessary disqualify you from recreational diving. In this case you have to make an appointment to a doctor who is able to provide diving medical certificates. With physician your suitability for diving is checked to avoid any risks. If you are still puzzled with some questions, course providers will surely be helpful and answer your questions.
Age limit for scuba diving certification
The minimum age limit for the scuba diving course is 10-12 years, depending on the training organization. Under 15 years old are anyhow categorized as a junior scuba divers and they are not allowed to dive as deep and as independent as "grown up" divers. Based on the information at the moment at least PADI and SSI are offering basic courses for 10 years old. CMAS and BSAC requires 12 years age. Even 8 year old kids can join PADI's Bubblemaker course, but this more like a try dive where you can see if kid is interested with diving, ok with being underwater and willing to continue the hobby. This test dive will be done no more than in two meters depth. It is important to remember that you have to be very careful and professional with young kids because their body could be more vulnerable for decompression sickness and other diving related risks. So instead of organizing a test dive yourself for your youngest family members, leave it for professional diving instructors. If children is going to try diving it has to be his/her own freewill to do it. However when children are old enough, scuba diving is a very good hobby for whole family. It gives your family some valuable time together and your holiday trips could be more exciting and adventurous after that.
Basically there isn't a maximum age limit for scuba diving and therefore it's also a good hobby for retired people with good health. You just have to check your suitability for diving with a doctor specialized in diving medicine.
What training organization and course should I choose?
There's quite many different scuba training organizations and courses to choose from. The good way to decide would be to talk with people from dive centers and dive clubs near you. Internet provides also good information about scuba diving clubs in your area. Some of the clubs are advertising their courses in the swimming hall notice boards. You can also use our contact form if you need help finding a good course from your area to start scuba diving.
Here's some links for different scuba training organizations' pages. From there you can find more information about entry-level full diver certification courses:
- PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), basic course: Open Water Diver (OWD)
- CMAS (Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques), basic course have few different names: CMAS* / One Star Diver Training Programme / CMAS P1
- BSAC (British Sub-Aqua Club), basic course: Ocean Diver
- SSI (Scuba Schools International), basic course: SSI Open Water Diver (OWD)
- NAUI (The National Association of Underwater Instructors), basic course: Scuba Diver
Too much options to choose from? No worries, whatever you will end up, the quality of teaching will probably be good. Good criteria to choose is based on what kind of courses dive centers and clubs are offering close to your neighborhood or holiday destination.
Congratulations for your decision to start diving! We hope that we can support you along the way with your new exciting hobby!