How Do You Scuba Dive – The Complete Beginners Guide

Scuba diving requires that you have all of the right equipment prior to descending into the water. But once you have access to the scuba gear and have checked its functionality, you should descend in the water slowly and steady, while equalizing the pressure in your body. You’ll need to become certified before any diving experiences or ensure that you can clear your mask, recover items, descend correctly and become knowledgeable about hand signals and their criteria.

Scuba diving has come a long way! If you’ve ever watched an underwater video of people scuba diving or you’ve heard stories of individuals that have experienced it personally, then you’re probably aware of the great experience that’s tied into scuba diving. It’s a beautiful and interactive way to engage with the underwater world, but it does require skill, knowledge, and physical capabilities that most other activities don’t.

That being said, many people aren’t aware of what to do to get started in their scuba diving excursions, so this guide can help jumpstart your journey to becoming an experienced diver. I have personally gone through this journey and I highly recommend it to anyone that’s needing something in their life to broaden their horizons and view the natural world in different ways.

This guide contains all of the information needed to get started, ranging from questions surrounding your physical abilities to information on how to get certified. Even more, this guide will give you information on what you need to scuba dive, how safe it is and learning how to scuba dive in general. Here is a video to get you started with the general information before you review the guide.

Is Scuba Diving For You?

Before you even consider getting the gear and planning your trip, you’ll want to think about whether scuba diving is even for you or not. It’s an experience that requires skill, training and planning, so you’ll want to make sure that you not only have the right gear and skill set to go diving, but that you also have the physique that’s required of you. More specifically, you’ll want to consider how physically fit you are as well as how old you are since not all diving programs allow individuals of certain ages.

How physically fit are you?

Scuba diving is an experience that requires all of our body’s interaction and functioning. More specifically, it requires that your lungs are capable of holding large amounts of air in the case that your mask or regulator fall of, and it requires a healthy functioning heart and all the limbs of your body. All of your body is required to work together and be prepared throughout all of your trips, so you must be in the physical shape required of the sport to begin with.

Although scuba diving requires that you’re physically fit, you don’t exactly have to be a fitness junky. Most people that attend scuba diving programs are really only those that simply stay in shape. This may require that you keep in shape simply by walking around 30 minutes every day, but it also varies among different body types.

Even more, you’re also required to warm up before you even think about jumping into the water for scuba diving. As with any other sport, you’ll want to make sure that your body is prepared to endure the activities that you’re about to place it under, so doing some pushups, jumping jacks or other types of activity to get your heart pumping beforehand is always a good idea.

Lastly, you’ll want to make sure that your body is fit and prepared enough to hold all of the gear that’s involved with scuba diving. The heaviest element that you’ll be holding is the air tank, and most of them are around 50 pounds. That being said, you’ll want to make sure that your body is strong enough to hold this in addition to all of the other gear while you’re kicking your fins underwater .

How old do you have to be?

In order to receive an Open Water Certification, individuals are required to be at least 10 years old. Not only that, but you aren’t allowed to scuba dive in open water alone until you’re at least 15 years old since this is the age when children are allowed to apply for the certification for open water diving. Certification is legally required before you go diving anywhere, so you must test for it and receive certification before you even consider planning a scuba diving trip.

Between the ages of 10 and 15, children are allowed to dive with another certified diver in water that’s less than 70-feet deep, but they must always have a diver with them and both the child and the diver must both be certified.

Getting Your Scuba Certification

Before you’re legally allowed to go scuba diving and in order to purchase or rent any scuba diving equipment, you’re first required to get tested and receive a certification. This certification essentially notes that you’re knowledgeable enough and have the right physical capabilities to participate in scuba diving practices in the first place.

It’s not only a safety requirement, but it’s helpful to those of you that are new to scuba diving since the testing requires that you take courses that can help you better understand how to work the scuba diving equipment as well as the various techniques involved in the practice itself. In order to get a certification, there are courses that you have to pass first. There are various courses available to you, but most of them will essentially test similar things, including your ability to stay afloat in deep water for at least 10 minutes as well as swimming up to 200 yards without stopping.

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Courses Available:

PADI

PADI stands for the Professional Association of Diving Instructors and it consists of divers that are professionally trained in order to certify others in their diving techniques. It’s a course that consists of different elements that you can learn in order to better yourself and your diving techniques.

The PADI Scuba Diver course can be for those of you that either have no previous experience scuba diving or for those that have dived before but simply need a certification. You’ll be able to work alongside a professional diver that can help you with learning the tips and tricks on how to better your skills, and you’ll also be able to better understand the type of scuba equipment you’ll be using while you’re diving.

I highly recommend the PADI course to anyone that’s planning on scuba diving at all, since there are different subsets to the open water course in general. This can help you to choose the best course for your specific experience level with scuba diving.

Dive the World

Classified as the facilitator of PADI courses, Dive the World is the number one authority in the scuba diving industry. Instead of being affiliated with any of the specific diving courses themselves, Dive the World is a great tool that can help you to find the best courses that will work for your specific instances, whether that’s with PADI, SSI or even CMAS. For your convenience, Dive the World has all of the vital resources needed for you to find the best courses according to your goals, skill set and personal expertise.

Other programs

Aside from PADI or the resources listed through Dive the World, other scuba diving programs can help you to gain the knowledge needed to get certified and have a safe and fun scuba diving experience. One of the most high-quality programs is CMAS, which is more recommended for receiving an entry-level certification. Because of its easy course methods, the CMAS scuba course is great for those of you interested in more recreational scuba diving adventures.

Scuba Diving Infographic

Scuba Diving Pre-Equipment Check Up

Before you go diving, you must make sure you have all of the equipment needed prior to jumping into the water. Not only that, but you’ll need to make sure that all of your gear is in shape and functioning in the right manner. Most divers encourage that you follow that five-step safety check, which you will learn if you take courses through PADI. The five steps can be best remembered using the term “BWRAF”.

The “B” stands for the BCD, which is essentially the buoyancy control device. It’s used to help you establish your buoyancy while diving underwater, and it’s most helpful in keeping your body buoyant on the surface of the water when needed. It’s also best used to bring your body back to the surface when you’re done with the deep water dive. Your buddy should essentially check to make sure that the BCD won’t slip.

The “W” stands for weights, which are located around your belt. You’ll want to make sure that the weight belt is fully enclosed and won’t attach to anything around you. The weights also help you to control your buoyancy with the water, since they can weigh you down, but this means that you’ll need to become aware of how to release the weights in the situation of an emergency underwater.

Next, the “R” stands for releases. This is to essentially make sure that you have all of the equipment in place and ready to be released when needed. For instance, you’ll need to ensure that the shoulder straps, cummerbund and equipment on the BCD are all secured in the proper place. In this step, you’ll also want to make sure that the dive lights you have are checked and function correctly.

Then you should check the air, which is instantiated in the letter “A” within the acronym. Perhaps the most important step is to check to make sure that your air supply is functional. The tank valve should be open and the pressure gauge should be steady when you take breaths.

Lastly, the “F” stands for the final. This means that you’ll want to do a final run-through of all of the equipment and gear to ensure that it’s functional and accessible. This step is just to eliminate any mistakes when running through the rest of the previous steps.

 

Things to Remember After Getting Your Certification

How diving affects you

After you’ve been certified and you’re ready to start collecting your gear, you should still keep practicing in a swimming pool or a lake to ensure that you have and maintain the right skills for the actual practice of scuba diving. More specifically, your body goes under many different physical experiences while you’re scuba diving, so it’s important that you understand the physical aspects involved in diving and that you take precautions, considering how scuba diving can affect you.

More specifically, scuba diving can affect your breathing abilities and your heart function, especially over time. But even more, immediately after you’ve jumped into the water, you’ll realize the different environment that you’re placing your body under, requiring it to adapt. Your body will most of all have to adapt to the elevated blood output from the extra pressure of the water onto your body. Additionally, it will have to adapt to the type of breathing that you do underwater since it’s not technically the same type of breathing as when you’re out of the water.

Decompression sickness

Given the high amount of pressure that you place on your body when you’re scuba diving, you must be aware of the possibility of your body developing decompression sickness. This type of sickness is characterized by bubbles forming in your blood and body tissues. And it results from the high amount of pressure placed on your body and then a decrease in the pressure.

This sickness is common, especially in inexperienced divers, but the symptoms and severity of it can differ according to your body type, the gear you’re using, the water conditions that you were placed in as well as the time that you were underwater. Minor symptoms include fatigued muscles and joints, while more severe symptoms may require more evaluation for a few weeks after the scuba diving experience.

You can ultimately avoid developing decompression sickness by diving conservatively. In other words, keep track of how deep you are and select a table depth of around an additional three meters than standard procedures in certain waters.

Equalization

Relating to the effects of diving on your body and decompression sickness, it’s also important that you become knowledgeable about equalizing the pressure you’re placing your body under. Equalizing the pressure is important while diving because it eliminates the risk of putting too much pressure on your body, and more specifically, it helps to clear your ears, allowing you to hear more clearly during your diving experience.

The deeper that you dive in the water, the more pressure that you place on your body. As a result, you’re required to increase the pressure in your ears in order to equalize the building pressure of your body. If you don’t do this, then you’ll experience what’s referred to as swimmer’s ear, which comes with pain and even permanent damage to your ears.

There are a few things that you can do to equalize your body’s pressure. For one, you can swallow before you get out of the water after a dive. This helps to pop both ears and open their tubes, preventing swimmer’s ear. Additionally, you can prepare for this beforehand by chewing gum for a few hours before you plan on going scuba diving. I find chewing gum beneficial because it helps you to swallow more often, keeping your ears open.

Even more, I recommend that you continuously look up while you’re underwater since this motion extends your neck and opens your eustachian tubes. I also recommend that you descend in the water at a steady pace, making sure that your body is appropriately adapting to its surroundings. Lastly, you should equalize your body often, rather than waiting to do it once you feel pain or excessive pressure building up.

Hand signals

One of the very first things you’ll learn in your scuba diving classes is the various hand signals involved. While you’re underwater, unless you have fancy and expensive gear that allows it, you cannot communicate with the other divers around you. You have a regulator in your mouth to help you breathe, so it becomes nearly impossible to talk with other divers around you and have them successfully hear you. As a result, you’re required to learn the hand signals in order to effectively communicate with the other people around you productively.

There are so many different hand signals involved in scuba diving that it can technically be considered a separate language on its own. But to help you better understand the different signals, what they mean and when to best use them, here is a YouTube video for further guidance. Some of them are pretty self-explanatory, but certain important ones are vital to remember, especially for emergencies.

Mask clearing

Also one of the very first things you’ll learn in your scuba diving course will be how to clear your scuba mask. This task includes not only keeping the mask clean, but more importantly consists of expelling the water that’s inside of the mask out into the external water so that you have a nice airtight space that’s free of water again. Making sure that you don’t have any water in your mask is important since your eyesight is the most vital sense that you need while scuba diving. And when you can’t see from your mask, then not only is your overall scuba diving experience diminished, but you also put yourself at risk.

Water may enter your mask either gradually through not wearing the right size mask for your particular face shape or it will collect water if it falls off while you’re in the middle of diving or interacting with the underwater world. Overall, in order to clear your mask effectively every time, you must understand that the mask is merely for your vision and that controlling your airways is of vital importance.

There are a few steps that you can follow in order to properly clear your mask while you’re underwater. First, you need to be able to change where you breathe effectively. To gain more control over your airways, you can practice in a swimming pool by breathing in through the regulator while it’s on and out through your nose above water. After that, you can put your face under the water and repeat the same process. If you’re new to this, then you can plug your nose while you’re breathing in to make sure that you don’t accidentally breathe in any water.

After you’ve become more comfortable with controlling the way you breathe air, you can begin to practice with the mask. While you’re in the water, press the top of the mask against your face and allow the air pressure to push the water out of the mask on the bottom when you blow out your nose. Keep practicing, coming out of the water in between each time. And make sure that you take deep breaths through the regulator before each time.

After you’ve mastered pushing the water out of the mask through breathing out your nose, you may notice that not all of the water is out. In order to expel all of the water out of the mask, you’ll want to look up as you finish the last part of your exhale method out of your nose. In doing so, this uses the hinge position that you have with placing the top part of the mask against your face.

Even after you’ve done all of these steps, you may notice that one side of the frame on the mask is clear while the other side is not. This can easily be fixed when you place more pressure on the top part of the mask with the clear side. This creates the hinge effect and once more, you’ll have to engage with the process of breathing in through the regulator on your mouth and out through your nose, expelling all of the water from both lenses of the mask. In order to fully understand how to clear your mask while you’re underwater scuba diving, this YouTube video on mask clearing can help you.

Descending

Descending refers to the method used to allow your body to fall deeper into the water. It’s your first contact with the water, so it’s important that you make sure you descend properly to eliminate the risk of any damages to your body or your equipment. In your scuba diving courses, the first thing that you should learn about descending is to go slowly, rather than descending fast. Falling quickly can lead to your body experiencing too much pressure in too short of a time, resulting in discomfort and even possible damages to the environment around us.

It’s also recommended that you descend slowly in order to not disturb the aquatic conditions that surround you. If you go too quickly, then you may cause a ruckus in the composition that’s on the bottom of the water, decreasing both the visibility of you and the other aquatic creatures around you, if there are any.

Similar to the pre-equipment check that’s required of you before a dive, there’s also an acronym that you can use to better remember how to properly descend into the water when scuba diving. You’ll learn in your scuba diving classes that you should remember “SORTD”.

The “S” stands for signal, since you should signal to your diving partner that you’re ready to engage in the descending process. The signal should be a thumbs down position, and you should make sure that you see your partner do it back before descending without them.

The “O” stands for orientation, and it essentially means that you’ll need to look around you after first contacting the water. Gain your orientation with the water surrounding you and look at the fixed objects, if there are any. Most importantly, you should look below you to ensure that you have a clear path to descend into.

The “R” means regulator, which is a reminder to exchange the snorkeling device with your regulator. The regulator helps to provide you with clear access to air, and you can simply place it in your mouth after you remove the snorkel.

Next, the “T” stands for time. This is important to consider because it’s a reminder to activate your dive computer. The dive computer will essentially give you the amount of time that you’ve been underwater, and it’s needed for letting you know when your bottom time is. Once you see that you’re about to reach your bottom time, you’ll need to start ascending to the surface again.

Lastly, the “D” means descend. This step reminds you to deflate the BCD and start descending into the water at a steady rate. To descend properly, you’ll need to be weighted correctly and you’ll need to start your equalizing processes here too.

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Regular recovery

Throughout your scuba diving experiences, you are bound to drop or lose something in the water sooner or later. This can seem tragic at first, especially if it’s something essential, like a dive light, but there are a few things that you can do in order to recover items that have seemingly fallen into the abyss. Recovery essentially means that you’re retrieving an element that you’ve lost. Whether it’s your mask falling off, your dive light dropping below you or your regulator coming off, there are certain techniques that you can do to go about recovering these items again and returning to a comfortable scuba diving position again.

More specifically, there are certain swimming search patterns that you can learn in order to best navigate your way through the water. And there are recovery methods you can use to lift larger or smaller items from certain hard-to-reach locations. And there’s even search operations that you can plan prior to diving that can help you to gather more facts about certain objects that you might lose while you’re diving in the water.

For even more help and assistance, PADI offers classes that are specifically designed in order to give you more experience and knowledge on what to do in the instance that you drop something in that water. You can learn search patterns, recovery methods, and other valuable information regarding regular recovery. Their class is called the Search and Recovery Diver Course, and I recommend taking it before you go scuba diving, especially for the first time.

Equipment You Need

Before you simply go out and buy all of your scuba diving gear, you should think about whether you need to buy it or simply rent it. Scuba equipment is not cheap, and it can cost up to a few thousand dollars for most high-quality gear. That being said, you should consider the pros and cons of renting and owning your own scuba gear before you make a decision.

Rent

Renting your scuba gear entails that you can pay to use scuba gear that belongs to someone else and that you’ll have to return it after your diving experience. It’s more recommended for those of you that are only planning on attending a couple of scuba trips in a short period. It’s also a more budget-friendly option, given that you pay a smaller price, and you don’t have to worry about finding a space to store it and protect it from developing damage over time.

Own

On the other hand, buying your scuba gear gives you the convenience of having your own equipment to use every time that you go diving. You don’t have to worry about finding someone who rents their gear, and you bypass the risk of checking the functionality of all their equipment. This is the more expensive option, since you’ll have to dish out the full price of the equipment, and you will also need to find a protective storage space for the equipment.

This is the best option for those of you that are planning on diving more frequently than not. If you have a large amount of previous experience and are trying to have a more personalized and professional scuba dive, then you may want to consider purchasing your own gear. Lastly, having your own gear is also more beneficial for those of you engaging with diving that’s not recreational and in locations that are more difficult to travel through .

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Where is a Good Place to Start Scuba Diving?

There are countless different locations that you can travel to for your first scuba diving excursion, including areas on the East Coast of America or popular areas surrounding Australia. Regardless of the certain scuba diving locations, you’ll, more importantly, want to focus on the water conditions of the places that you’re planning on diving to for the first time.

You won’t want your first scuba dive to be in an area that has poor weather or water conditions that are too difficult to manage, especially for an inexperienced diver. Not only that, but you should make sure that you have your first dive in a location that is free from the reef, coral and other types of aquatic debris. This will eliminate the risk of your hitting any coral or getting tangled up in the debris.

What’s Next?

After you’ve obtained your scuba diving certification and you have all of the gear handy, you’re now ready to engage in the process of scuba diving. Now you can start to physically plan your trip and have your reservations set in stone with a scuba diving company at the location you’re interested in. While you wait for your trip though, you should consider going to a pool or a certain designated area with water to practice with your scuba gear.

Unfortunately, no environment is going to give you the exact experience that scuba diving in the ocean will. But you do have the ability to wear the gear and make yourself more comfortable using it while you’re in the water. There may even be certain businesses near you that you can go to and practice using your gear with trained professionals. Overall, make sure that you’re completely comfortable with each of the elements and ensure that you have the physical capabilities of maintaining a safe and fun scuba diving trip.

FAQs

What’s the difference between snorkeling and scuba diving?

Snorkeling is classified as a more casual interaction with the underwater environment. You simply have to put on a mask and look underwater while you’re floating at its surface. But scuba diving requires full submerging in the water while in full gear. It requires more skill in breathing, swimming, and using gear than snorkeling requires.

How long will a dive last for?

This depends on a range of factors, like the water conditions and the level of experience that you have, but most dives will last between 20 to 40 minutes.

Do I have to know how to swim well?

A large part of scuba diving is knowing how to navigate well throughout the water, but you don’t have to know how to swim like the best swimmers out there. During your scuba diving course, you’ll be tested on the basic requirements, so you won’t receive a certification if you can’t pass the skills needed. That begin said, if you’ve been certified, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about .

Final Thoughts

Overall, scuba diving can be one of the most life-changing experiences. Breathing and interacting with the underwater aquatic world is something that couldn’t have been done without the technological advancements made in modern society. Even though it’s probably one of the greatest experiences that anyone can undergo today, it still requires that you become familiar with the underwater world, the scuba equipment and the swimming techniques needed for a successful and safe diving trip.

After reading this guide, I hope you have gained some clarity on the subject and can now jumpstart your journey to interacting with the aquatic environment we are surrounded by. If you have any other additional comments or advice on the topic, then you’re encouraged to place them in the comments below. And if you liked this article then I hope you share it with your friends and family to spread the helpful word.

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