Learning to Dive
In order to SCUBA dive you need to be certified by a qualified instructor. You can get certified through:
- Local Dive Shops
- Colleges and Universities
- Parks and Recreation Programs
- Independent Instructor
You will discover that there are several dive training agencies your shop or instructor may be affiliated with, and some may offer training through multiple agencies. Some of the most common agencies are PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors), SSI (SCUBA Schools International), and SDI (SCUBA Diving International). The primary difference between these agencies is in their support materials and course organization. But all agencies teach the same core concepts and skills, and their certifications are universally accepted and recognized across the dive industry.
Your scuba certification course will consist of several individual components. These include classroom, pool, and open water sessions.
The classroom sessions cover topics including dive equipment, physics, physiology, decompression and dive tables, dive planning, problem solving, and diving environments.
Many courses offer online learning or other self-paced materials which you can study at home. When this is offered, classroom sessions often focus on review of key points and testing.
You will learn the basic skills required for scuba diving in the safety of a swimming pool. There will be several pool sessions, so you'll have plenty of opportunity to perfect your skills.
Open Water Sessions
Commonly referred to as "check-out" dives, these sessions take place in the ocean or another open body of water, and serve as an evaluation of the skills you've learned in the pool.
Your Certification Card
You will be a certified scuba diver after demonstrating the skills, knowledge, and judgment required to dive in conditions similar to those you were trained in.
Dive shops and operators will request to see your certification card before providing you with equipment, filling your cylinder, or allowing you on a chartered boat dive. You will be able to participate in most dive activities, but additional certifications are required for specialties such as cave, wreck penetration, ice, and technical diving.
Most countries, including the United States, do not have laws requiring certification to dive. Instead, the industry is self-regulated by responsible professionals who care about your safety. They have the right to refuse to do business with you, but cannot prevent you from diving on your own, and cannot revoke your certification.
Continuing Education Courses
Your certification is a license to learn, and completing this course is only the beginning of your development as a scuba diver. You can increase your knowledge and skills by participating in advanced or specialty dive courses. These courses increase your safety and enjoyment of the sport by exposing you to new conditions and activities. You will learn about these courses during the final chapter, "Continuing Education."
Experience is just as important as formal training. Joining local dive clubs helps you meet divers with diverse experiences and interests, while also introducing you to new friends. You can also hire an instructor or divemaster for guided tours and site-specific orientations.