What is Scuba Diving? SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) is a device, which enables the diver to breathe normally underwater using compressed air in a tank, which is supplied to the user through a hose to a breathing regulator held in the mouth. Some divers swim using fins while others may simply walk on the bottom. There are several variations of diving equipment but the description here fits most diving situations.
Who can learn to dive? Most people can learn to dive. There are some restrictions such as a fear of the water or a physical limitation, which may make the use of scuba gear dangerous. Your instructor will advise you whether there are any problems, which must be cleared up before you will be permitted to enroll in the course. Diving is very safety oriented and all possible safeguards will be in place before you begin your journey to diving certification.
What is a certifying agency? There are several organizations that have established certain minimum standards, which must be met in order to provide the necessary education and experience for a diving certification. These agencies will issue proof of training (certification cards) to those candidates who successfully complete their training course.
What are the names of some of the certifying agencies and why are they different? The agencies formed independently, each developing its own curriculum and, while there are many similarities, they are not all identical. Some of the most popular agencies are known by their initials: IDEA, MDEA, NASDS, NAUI, PADI, SSI and YMCA. Of this group, YMCA is the oldest and PADI is the largest.
Why do I need to be certified? While diving is easy, it requires specialized training in order to practice it safely. There are risks associated with scuba diving (as with any sport) and management of those risks is only possible through careful and comprehensive training. After completing a carefully planned training course administered by a certified instructor through an authorized certification agency, the diver is awarded a certification card (C-Card) as proof of that training.
How do I use my certification card? Your C-card will serve as proof of your diving certification and is required in order to purchased life-support diving equipment, obtain breathing air or to participate in organized diving activities. It is your “ticket” to the wonders of the underwater world.
What is the minimum age to become a certified diver? The minimum age is a hotly debated issue at present. Some certifying agencies will accept students as young as 8 years old. At Mike’s Dive Center, we are adhering to the previous minimum age limit of 12 years old. Since diving requires a great degree of maturity in order to make quick decisions during an emergency, we feel that it is in the best interests of our divers to maintain the minimum age limit at 12.
Are there different levels of certification? Yes. All divers start with the Basic Open Water Diver certification. There are many different levels above that and how far you go is strictly a matter of individual desire. Such levels as Advanced Open Water Diver, Rescue Diver and Divemaster are examples. Advancing to a higher level denotes a greater level of diving skill and may be required for some of the more challenging diving adventures. Additionally, you may select from a number of diving specialties, each with a distinctly different goal. Specialties include such activities as Photography, Wreck Diving, Fish Identification and Search & Recovery. Specialty ratings are pursued to gain additional skill in a favorite diving activity.
Do I need to be physically fit in order to dive? Diving is a physical activity and, as such, requires a degree of physical ability. It does not, however, require that the diver be in perfect physical condition. There are many successful divers with physical handicaps (many of which “disappear” in the weightlessness of water). Diving is not all about swimming fast. In fact, swimming quickly is discouraged because you will miss too much scenery and tire yourself out unnecessarily. As in any physical sport, the better your fitness level, the more enjoyable the experience will be. Your instructor will help you discover any diving fitness problems you may have and offer solutions to them. There are some situations which may prevent you from becoming a diver candidate. A good instructor will help you discover them before you commit time and money to scuba instruction.
Is it difficult to learn to dive? Diving is not difficult and it is not intended to be. It is merely a means to remain underwater while breathing air and permits the diver to enjoy the wonders of the underwater world without having to surface to breathe. Some difficulty may be experienced while mastering the various skills necessary for safe diving but a good instructor will help you overcome your problems quickly
How is the course taught? The course at Mike’s Dive Center is sanctioned by the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) and is taught in strict accordance with their guidelines. It consists of reading assignments done at home, followed by classroom sessions complete with video aids conducted at our classroom attached to our dive center. Pool sessions are conducted in our private pool and “open water” sessions are conducted at a number of selected dive sites. Open water dives give the student the opportunity to practice the skills learned in a pool while participating in actual dives in a controlled environment.
Do I have to be able to swim in order to learn to dive? Yes…but not in “Olympic” form. You must be comfortable in the water and able to swim a distance of 200 yards using any style (or combination of styles). There is no time limit on this exercise and you are not judged on your swimming style. During your diving career, there will be times when you will have to swim on the surface in order to reach a desired site or to return to the boat or shore. For your own safety, swimming is a required skill.
How long does it take to complete the certification course? Since safety is of primary importance and individual learning times will vary, a specific time is difficult to predict. At Mike’s Dive Center, you will not progress to the next topic in your course until you have mastered the current one. When you have completed the entire course, you will be a properly trained diver and there is no short cut to safety. The current schedule consists of classroom work on Tuesday and Thursday evenings with pool work conducted on weekends and open-water dives at the conclusion of the course. At that pace, most students have no problem completing the requirements in 3-4 weeks.
What equipment do I need to take the diving course? The basic equipment needs of the student are: Mask, Snorkel, Fins, Weightbelt and about 10 pounds of weight. For students signed up at Mike’s Dive Center, a special discount on these items is offered to the student.
Who provides all the tanks, dive vests and other “breathing stuff”? For students enrolled in the Basic Open Water Diver class, all equipment necessary for scuba (breathing underwater) is provided by Mike’s Dive Center and is included in your tuition.
Is diving expensive? As with any sport, there is some expense involved. You can pursue diving in many different ways, depending on your budget. You will want to purchase your own “personal” gear like a mask, snorkel, fins and a weight belt since some of these must be fitted to the individual. The rest of the gear may be purchased or simply rented as needed.
How long can I stay underwater? This is a common question with a very complex answer. You will learn about dive time in great detail during the course but to provide a general answer, I will say that the deeper you are, the less time your air supply will last. At 30 feet, the average diver will be able to remain underwater about an hour.
How deep can I go? This is another simple question with a very complex answer. The student will learn a great deal about how to determine depth/time relationships during the course. Using the standard air mixture (normal compressed air), the maximum recommended depth limits for recreational scuba divers is 130 feet. At that depth, the recommended maximum time spent there is around 10 minutes.
Are private scuba lessons available? Yes. For students who cannot fit the assigned schedule due to outside circumstances, personalized schedules are available. Please contact the shop for details.
Are snorkeling lessons available? Yes. Most of us started our diving adventures with only snorkels and we recognize the value (and preferences) for them. Most divers still use snorkels for those occasions where they just don’t want to wear all the dive gear or are just swimming in shallow water. Snorkeling classes are inexpensive and take only an afternoon or two in the pool.
Where can I go to dive? Diving is an exciting adventure and can be done in practically any body of water. Mike’s Dive Center offers trips to fit almost any budget…from a daily excursion to an exotic tropical getaway. Contact the shop for details.
What is Nitrox? Nitrox is a breathing gas mixture which contains less nitrogen and more oxygen than the standard air mixture used by divers. It has the added benefit of permitting the diver to remain underwater much longer than divers breathing the standard air mixture (normal compressed air). It also has some restrictions such as depth limitations and exposure limits which must be managed by the diver. In order to use Nitrox, the diver must be properly trained in it’s use and provide proof of that training. Our PADI Enriched Air (Nitrox) specialty course will provide the training and certification necessary to use Nitrox safely.