How to scuba dive?

Got interested in scubadiving? Then the first step to get a (entry level) certification. Without proper training, scubadiving is VERY DANGEROUS. Once certified, the next step is to dive as much as you can (within your certification limits) and pick up some gear in the meantime. Of course there are many follow-up courses which allow you to dive deeper, to stay down longer or to dive under more difficult circumstances.

How do I learn how to scuba dive?

The first step is to get certified. As mentioned before, scuba diving is VERY DANGEROUS when you are not properly trained! So the first step is to get certified. Many bodies supply entry-level scuba certification. Probably the most well-known one is PADI (also known as Put-Another-Dollar-In). Just as with acquiring a drivers-license, entry-level scuba certification gives you some basic theoretical background, learns you how to dive and tests if you the skills you acquired (both theoretical and practical) are enough to make safe dives on your own with another certified diver (within certain limits).

What can you do with basic certification

Once you have acquired basic certification, you can:
  • Make dives with another certified diver (solo-dives are certainly not permitted!) to a maximum depth of 18 meters on air in open water within any decompression limits

What you cannot do with basic certification

With basic certification you cannot:
  • Dive beyond decompression limits (maximum allowed time underwater)
  • Dive deeper than 18 meters
  • Use other gases than air (these gases may allow you to stay down longer or dive deeper)
  • Penetrate overhead environments (caves, caverns, wrecks, ice)
Of course follow-up courses will extend one or more of these limits. At least the next follow-up course in the PADI system (Advanced Open Water Diver) is recommended, since this enables you to dive as deep as 40 meters and improves your navigational skills (which is very handy and quite easy to learn... if you know how). Besides, you can also learn things like night diving (which I personally like very much) in the AOWD course.

Don't forget that diving is something you mainly learn by doing. Remember that you not only learn by following courses but also learn on actually every dive you do.

What happens if I dive beyond the limits I'm certified for?

Then you are a big dumb ass! You're taking high risks which can result ultimately in death or at least serious injury!

What gear do you need for (basic) scuba diving?

You need some gear to perform scubadiving. The most basic gear is:
  • An air cylinder (a steel or aluminium cylinder to keep compressed air in so that you can breath while under water)
  • A regulator (this is the bit you breath from. It connects to the air cylinder and reduces the high pressure to a pressure you can breath)
  • A weight belt (without one it is impossible to get underwater)
  • A Bouyancy Control Device (BCD) (this is an inflatable jacket that holds the air cylinder and allows you to adjust your bouyancy)
  • A mask, fins and a snorkel (so you can move around and see things!)
  • A diving suit (always needed, since even in water of 28 degrees it is possible to become too cold since this is still a difference of 10 degrees with your body temperature)
  • A divecomputer or divetables (so you know how many time you have left to stay underwater)
  • A buddy (if you do have a problem, there is always someone to help you and maybe he or she might buy you a beer afterwards anyway)

Getting your equipment

The next step is to rent or buy your equipment. The choice for renting or buying equipment depends on how much and where you want to dive. If you're only going to dive on vacation no more than once a year, then you'll probably be better of renting all your equipment. But if you want to plunge into the water every weekend, then buying is a much better choice.

As with almost all scuba gear, it must fit your body properly (especially your divingsuit and your mask) and you have to feel comfortable with it. For this reason I recommend to first rent all your scuba gear, even if you're certain you want to dive every weekend (as i want to do). This way you learn what to look for and be aware of when you buy equipment. Since scuba gear can be very expensive, you want to be sure you're buying the right equipment. It also gives you the possiblity to explore what you want to do in the future with scubadiving, so this can be taken into account when buying scuba gear.

The first things you'll probably want to buy are a suit (since this really needs to fit you very well), a mask, fins and in colder water boots and gloves. Next you could consider buying weights (may be integrated into a BCD), a BCD (bouyancy control device), a regulator, an air cylinder, and a console.

What next?

So you have seen all the places and done all the courses? There is still much left to explore! None of the recreational divecourses allow you to dive deeper than 40 meters. Or allow you to stay down for any time longer than the specified non-decompression limits. Or let you penetrate a wreck deeply. This is where technical diving comes in. Technical diving differs from recreational diving by the fact that with technical dives it is not possible anymore to directly ascend to the surface. This can be caused by an overhead environment (cave, cavern, wreck) or by obligated decompression stops.

Therefore technical diving certifications train you to solve whatever problem you may encounter underwater. Going to the surface (even if you respect the maximum safe ascend rate of 10 meters per second) is NOT an option anymore.