My first dive experience took place in Roatan where the waters are sparkling and clear, where you can dive to see one of the largest reefs in the world, and where the water is warm and usually the conditions are perfect. It was an easy, serene, peaceful experience where I followed a dive master and just listed to the sound of my breathing while swimming peacefully over a gorgeous reef. Is all diving like that? Of course not! That first dive experience had me thinking diving was easy. But in reality, there is a lot of serious work involved. It’s not for everyone. So, I’m here to tell you about the certification process so you can decide if it’s right for you!
You are Learning a New Skill
I got certified through PADI, which is where the majority of the world gets scuba certified through. You have to, first, keep in mind that you are actually getting certified to learn a new skill. There is a lot of information you must retain, and you will have to take tests and quizzes to prove you learned and retained the right information. You can take your learning for this online, but it will take days of hard work, as it is basically a class, after all. So, you need to have the time and willpower to learn and retain all that you will need to know. (Now, I did this while also working AND filming. It’s easy to hop on and do a section over the course of an evening or on a Saturday if you’d like. As long as you are committed, you will find the time to do it.)
It’s also important to keep in mind that since you are learning a new skill, most of your dive practice with your instructor is done practicing what to do if something goes wrong. So, you will have to go through all the drills of losing your regulator (what you breath from), losing your mask, running out of air, and situations like this underneath the water in a controlled environment. It’s important that knowing what to do when something goes wrong becomes second nature to you. Is this intimidating? Absolutely! There’s a drill where you have to ascend while exhaling for 30 seconds slowly as you rise from 30 feet below, and I was paranoid about that the entire last weekend until I did it! That being said, it’s normal to be nervous about this stuff. But if this sounds like something you just couldn’t do or if you have history with claustrophobia or extreme anxiety or panic disorder, it may or may not be ideal for you to get certified. It’s a good idea to talk with your doctor before signing up, just in case! (But if you think you can do it, don’t let this stop you!!)
You Need to Be in Decent Shape
Diving is going to work you out… a lot! You will be carrying an oxygen tank on your back, and this alone weighs roughly 40 pounds. Plus, you need to be able to descend in the water, so you will need to wear an additional 20 plus pounds of weights on you to keep yourself neutrally buoyant. This adds up quickly. While you don’t feel it in the water, when you have to walk from wherever you are to the water, it can get very hard. After a day of standing in the gear at just the pool, my upper peck muscles hurt horribly from carrying the equipment. So, I began walking my dog in the vest and tank to build up the muscles for it. For some beach dives, you have to walk from your car to the beach and then into the ocean while wearing this gear. So, you need to be in pretty decent shape to pull this off.
On the day we dove at Catalina Island, we walked to the dive park from the boat, quickly changed and got ready to dive, and then walked straight into the water with our gear (it’s much easier here than at other places). Then we quickly got out of the water and just switched out tanks to repeat the same action twice. Plus, we were swimming all day. Add in fighting against a little bit of current or surge, and now we’re exhausted by the end of the day. Diving can be a real workout! So, be prepared for it.
Don’t Let This Stop You
If you read the above and you’re a little nervous, don’t let that stop you! I was nervous on my final certification dives. That’s natural. If you know that you can carry the extra weight and that you can get through the drills, then you are opening yourself up to becoming familiar with the vast, beautiful, mostly unexplored sea. Getting certified might just be the hardest diving experience you have, as it’s learning to problem solve when things go wrong. Once you have those basics, the diving part is usually easy and fun. Picking the best dive spot is also good. If nothing else, this is a great tool to have when you visit different resorts, as many offer diving experiences. So, when you get certified, you can make that a regular part of your vacations. You can even dive at the Nemo & Friends tank in Epcot at Disney World! So, live out your dream! If you think diving is for you, go for it! I’m so excited to think about the places diving will take me in my near future.