Learn Scuba Diving

Scuba diving can be a pleasant vacation activity or a regular activity. It allows people the opportunity to explore a world foreign to us, even if it's in our backyard. SCUBA stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, which refers to the equipment that scuba divers use to breathe underwater. With the proper training and certification, nearly anyone can enjoy scuba diving.

Scuba Diving Requires Certification

Scuba diving, although a pleasurable sport, can be dangerous for the unprepared. You should be in decent shape and be a relatively good swimmer. Scuba diving requires certification, which can be done through a number of scuba diving agencies, including SSI, NAUI and PADI. Scuba certification agencies are all basically the same; the main difference is where they operate. Find one that's near you, or select a dive instructor first and get the same certification that the instructor has. Scuba diving lessons include several areas of study, including academic learning, confined-water training, which is often done in a pool, and supervised open-water training, which is used to prove that you have mastered diving skills.

The first step toward certification is to find a reputable dive shop in your area. Scuba Diving magazine has a list of dive shops across the country, or you can check your local phone book. Some dive shops offer certification classes and any shop will be able to refer you to a training facility. Most scuba classes meet part-time for several months. The open-water portion of scuba certification may be included in this training, with a trip to nearby open water for the final test.

If you've got a busy schedule, the academic learning may now be done at home with books and videos. You can then sign up for the confined-water training and open dive at a local training facility. You can also become certified in as little as three to five days in a dive vacation surrounding.

As an Open-Water Certified Diver, you can dive 60 feet when accompanied by a diver with the same or higher certification. Children must be at least 12 years old to become Junior Open Water Divers with most scuba diving agencies. SSI, PADI and SDI, offer the Junior card at 10, and children are automatically upgraded to Open Water Certified when they turn 15.

Once you are Open Water certified, you may choose to become Advanced Open Water certified. This certification provides you with more experience, as well as the opportunity to learn more about deep diving, night diving and underwater navigation. Some agencies offer electives during the Advanced Open Water course, including fish identification and biology, underwater photography and wreck diving.

A diving certification lasts a lifetime. However, if you haven't been diving in a while, it is strongly recommended that you brush up on your skills before taking to the water.

Scuba Diving Equipment

You don't need to run out and buy every piece of scuba diving equipment that you'll need. You can rent your gear from a dive shop and purchase one or two pieces at a time until you have everything you need.

The first things you'll need are a mask and a snorkel. Experienced snorkelers may already have these things. A wetsuit will keep your body temperature stable, as even warm water can leave you chilly in the deep blue. Most diving wetsuits range from 3mm to 7mm (the thickness of the neoprene) and come in both shortie versions (short sleeves and legs) and full suits. A hood, gloves and boots will keep you comfortable in the coldest conditions. When wearing boots, open-heel or adjustable fins will work best and give you a good fit. If you're going bare, you can opt for a full-foot fin.

You'll also need a regulator and a back-up regulator, or octopus. A buoyancy compressor will aid you in sinking to the bottom of the ocean as well as returning to the surface. You can do this using control buttons that vent and add air to the buoyancy compressor.

Your control panel consists of an SPG (submersible pressure gauge) regulator, which tells you how much air you have left in your tank. The depth gauge lets you know how deep you are in the water. Finally, you'll need a dive computer, which tells you your depth, how long you've been under water and how much time you have left. Some dive computers tell you how much air you have left as well.

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