Classroom, Pool and Open-Water Time
Classroom time demystifies many of the unknowns that typically keep people from diving. You learn that diving is far less risky than skiing, and that sunburn is a far greater danger to divers than sharks.
By the end of your first class, everyone is ready to hit the pool. Your first time underwater (even at 3 feet) can be an awkward and claustrophobic. Everyone has trouble moving around with all that gear, and the pool seems to shrink in size as each student enters the water.
By the second pool session, however, it starts to look more like synchronized swimming than slam dancing. You'll calm down when submerged, and practice things like regulating breathing efficiently, removing and replacing your mask, buddy breathing (using another diver's breathing apparatus), removing and replacing your tanks, and much more.
The only thing you need to jump right in is good health, desire and a reasonable comfort level with water. The pool sessions are eventually a lot of fun, as you learn new skills and develop confidence in your ability to stay under water.
The open-water dives are usually completed at a popular local dive site, where all the pool and class skills are reviewed and tested. Another option is to pursue the open-water dives (or the entire course) at some warm water tropical resort.
It's a great way to spend a vacation, and once you've passed the final written exam there's no limit to the destinations willing to test your salt in the open water.
There are three options for getting certified.
- Complete all the requirements (class, pool, open water) locally. This option is obviously subject to season restraints in some regions.
- Complete the classroom and pool sessions locally and then finish the open-water requirements during a warm-weather vacation.
- Complete all the requirements at one of the intensive dive schools established at dive destinations around the world. Some of these destinations include: Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the Bahamas, Bonaire, the Cayman Islands, Cozumel, Fiji, the Florida Keys, Hawaii, the Red Sea and live-aboard dive boats.
I admit there was some sticker shock when I purchased the bare necessities for learning to dive, but once purchased, this equipment should last for years.
There are dive shops in almost every area of the country, offering full-certification courses or contacts at exotic dive resorts throughout the world.
For more information, contact the top two certifying associations:
1251 East Dyer Rd., #100
Santa Ana, CA 92705
P.O. Box 17067
Long Beach, CA 91763
W. Lynn Seldon Jr. is a full-time freelance travel writer/photographer and frequent contributor to GORP. He specializes in adventure travel and the Caribbean. His work has appeared in many national magazines.
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