Browsing articles in "Scuba Tips"
Jan 31, 2014
Guest Author

How To Decide Whether To Learn To Scuba-dive

Scuba diving is a very popular hobby, with millions of people enjoying the sport all around the world.  If you have a yen to learn to scuba-dive, this article gives some pointers that may help you choose how to go about it.

What is Scuba-diving?

Scuba diving involves swimming underwater, carrying your own oxygen supply so that you can stay under for much longer periods than if you were just holding your breath.  Obviously, as with any potentially dangerous sport, there are carefully developed safety procedures that are an essential part of both learning to dive and enjoying the activity on an ongoing basis.

What equipment do I need?

This depends to some extent on where you are diving, what experience you have, the temperature of the water and the depth you are diving to. If you are diving in colder waters, for instance, then you will need to wear protective clothing in the form of a wetsuit, possibly over a rash vest to prevent chafing, which allows a small layer of water in between the wetsuit and your skin.  This then warms up to body temperature and will keep the chill off for a while.

Decide to scuba-dive with Jessica Duggan

If you are diving for longer periods, as you become more experienced, or are venturing into really cold water, a thermal drysuit which, as the name implies, keeps you completely dry, is a better option.  If you learn by going on a course in Thailand, or the Red Sea, for instance, then the water is usually warm enough for the wetsuit to be unnecessary.  Other equipment is usually included on loan for the duration of the course, but if you become hooked on this exciting pastime, it is best to seek advice from an expert supplier such as http://www.wetsuitoutlet.co.uk/ who can provide everything you need.

Other essential equipment includes a buoyancy compensator device (BCD) to control whether you ascend or descend in the water, an oxygen tank and regulator, to control your oxygen supply, a face mask, possibly as part of a helmet, fins, torch and a watch capable of being underwater to a depth of around 40 metres.

Where do I start?

Living in the UK, there is a great deal of useful information from the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC).  This includes lists of local diving clubs, qualifications, having a go at a “try dive” in a local swimming club, under the guidance of an instructor from your local club as well as an extensive section on the all-important diving safety. The BSAC organise diving course for all levels, from complete beginners to advanced techniques such as dive leader or advanced diver and award qualification cards on successful completion of the course.

The internationally recognised diving association is the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), and in the UK you also have the Sub Aqua Association (SAA) similair to BSAC where it is club based training and scuba diving. Similair information and training is given from each. You need to check with the dive location you are going to see if they recognize PADI, BSAC or SAA as some are more inclined to one organisation.

UK or overseas?

It’s probably a good idea to start with a “try dive” close to home, to make sure that you can cope with being underwater (not everyone can).  After that, you may be tempted by taking a holiday overseas, to warmer climes, such as the Maldives, the Caribbean, Thailand or the Red Sea, all of which offer courses for the basic PADI qualification, usually lasting around 5 days.  The attraction of this is that it is idyllic swimming and diving in warm, clear water, without having to worry too much about becoming cold, or having to use a torch to see anything.  The downside, of course, is the cost. Living on board a luxury “floating hotel”, with full board and all equipment and instruction provided, is likely to be between £2000 and £2500 in the Maldives, for instance, not including the flight there.  Thailand is far cheaper, with the same holiday PADI course being around £300 to £400, plus flights.

Perhaps the best of both worlds would be to spread the cost of the basic qualification over a few weeks in the UK, then indulge yourself by going overseas for the next stage!

Featured images:
License: Image author owned

 

Jessica Duggan has been involved with the travel industry for several years, including working for 2 seasons on a “liveaboard” in the Mediterranean, which catered for both scuba diving and snorkeling holidays.  She is well aware of the need for stringent safety procedures in diving, having seen a couple of potentially serious situations.  She enjoys most water sports, including sailing and canoeing, but confesses to not having the balance for surfing.

Feb 26, 2013

Learning to Scuba Dive

When people look at learning to scuba dive, the normal course of action is to go with the closest or cheapest school at the time. This is something that should not be over looked because as with everything there are good instructors and bad instructors (in many ways) and the different training groups, such as PADI, SSI and BSAC and they all have their unique way of getting you in the water. Now I can’t comment on BSAC or SSI because I have not attended those courses, or met any instructors that teach that way into scuba diving but I am going to comment on PADI and the general attitude of Instructors I have met around Cornwall, UK. I will be getting my hands on the books for BSAC and SSI at some point in the near future to compare them myself and will comment about that when I have.

Learning to Scuba Dive

Always learning

What I can talk about is character and quality of teaching, and which ever entry you wish to take into the sport that is something you should be looking out for because as a sport it is extremely dangerous if you have not been given the correct instruction. If you have an instructor that doesn’t feel teaching his/her students is a chore and you are able to bond with them then the experience and the knowledge you will learn will improve your ability when in the water. It is also important to remember that the limited learning with the PADI Open Water qualification does not teach you many of the important things about diving but it gets you in the water quickly, which is where you are going to get the most experience no matter who the instructor is.

Instructors

Now the instructor and school you choose are going to try selling you more, it has to be taken into consideration that they are giving you a service you are paying for that opens your world to something special, how-ever they are there to make money, many of them are self employed and running the school or are only brought into a school when they are needed (for PADI at any rate) and that is why some of them (as they are only human and we all get bored with our jobs at some point) may not be as good as others. It is important to feel comfortable with the person you are learning to scuba dive with, that they are not going to take advantage of you (or more precisely your wallet) and have a manner that what they are saying is clear. This is something they are shown in the PADI system when they become an instructor because of the role play and presentation that they go through, and if they have a good character they will understand why it is being taught that way and will become a really good instructor.

As I have already said, they are supplying you with a service that you are paying for, and while it doesn’t seem like you have much of a choice with limited schools in your area, it is important that you meet your instructor and dive master before you get in the water, a great way to get to know if you are comfortable with them is to meet up for a drink before you part with any money in a neutral place that will make them relax a little more than if you were just talking to them in the shop (where they have to be constantly on guard selling things if they can). While they are still going to be trying to sell you a course and gear it will give you a good chance to ensure you feel confident that the person who is going to be leading you through this wonderful experience is someone you know will be looking out for you at all times. Having a humourous attitude is a bonus and if they have experienced a few thousand dives instructing, as well as personal recreation it will give you a more relaxed atmosphere to learn in. It is still your money and your life that you are putting in their hands and if you don’t feel comfortable with them then don’t let it put you off but look for another school, for an excited learner (I was one not so long ago) it is hard to be objective because you have pushed yourself to experience diving and you just want to get in the water, but always remember that there are plenty of schools and you shouldn’t limit yourself to one. Do not be afraid to ask questions, even ones that feel scarey to think about, like:

‘Have they ever had to deal with an emergency?’
‘Have they ever run out of air?’
‘Have they ever lost a diver?’

As I said these are not questions you should be afraid of asking at this point and the body language should be looked at to see if they are being honest, little things like pauses, glances at each other before they answer, seniority of answering and the like. I hope you can see now why I personally feel that getting them away from the office/school to a neutral place so you can both relax is important, this is your money you are about to spend, and your life you are putting in the hands of someone else to guide you into what is going to be something you will always find an excuse to go do.

PADI

The great thing about learning to scuba dive with PADI is that it gets you in the water within a few days as a basically qualified diver (to a depth of 18m and with pressurised air) and you can then take that with you anywhere in the world, the only real problem I have with the basic course is the lack of amount of information and skills in an emergency situation, they cover the basics like the Controlled Emergency Swimming Assent (CESA) and the importance of dropping your weights and becoming buoyant at the surface, but there wasn’t really much after that like how to get to the shore with a buddy that is having problems and how to get them out of the water, or even how to bring a diver up from depth when they are in difficulty. This isn’t even covered in the advanced open water and you have to wait till you get to the rescue diver course till you are taught it in detail. I personally feel this is something that should be covered in the basic open water course with PADI because of the importance of having that knowledge as a novice diver. If you have the opportunity the level of rescue diver is something that all divers should aim at with the PADI system till they change it (probably never will though) so you have a greater confidence in the water and with your kit, and others that are with you will respect any decisions you may have to make in an emergency. While you may be trained in this area and others not, do not take complete control ordering people around but listen to others because they may have noticed something you have missed.

In Cornwall at the South-West tip of the UK I have met a few instructors and dive masters and was impressed by the ability and knowledge of them all, there was only one I would not go to for a course because he had an inane habit of lying, or embellishing the truth and I wasn’t impressed but to mention the name of the school and instructor at this time would not be fair. There was many a time when I was learning that I asked my instructor questions that were not in the books and the confidence he gave me in answering my questions was brilliant, he did get a little annoyed because there were things I would ask about that for a beginner are not thought important but as I explained before there are things you should know when you are first qualified, mainly so you have more respect for your equipment and your buddy that gets a little overlooked when you are excited at seeing that first fish at 15m and start following it, forgetting about the rest of the group, it is something everyone does at first from what I have personally seen other divers do as they go through the basic open water qualification with PADI.

Air trapped in hood??

Most divers will at some point get a hood that is slightly too large and it will bubble up making you more positively buoyant with air trapped and looking like a cone head. Well with a simple search on the net it is easy to find how to sort this so I am not claiming anything on this one but felt it was worth mentioning.

The easiest way to solve this is to get a wire coat hanger, straighten it out and heat the end up till it is red hot, not hotter else you will set fire to the neoprene and have the hood outside if you can or at least open the windows for the fumes. I stood mine on an axle stand which seemed to work really well, but anything that lifts the hood and keeps it steady while you are concentrating on making the holes would work.

This is hot enough to melt but not set on fire.

This is hot enough to melt but not set on fire.

 

Axle stand to support hood.

Axle stand to support hood.

What I found was that none of the things I read on it mentioned one important thing, which is really simple and basic physics. Turn your hood inside out, melt the hole from the inside and you will get a thin funnel to the hole and a smaller and neater hole on the external side. If you think about how you are positioned in the water then the front hole would be melted at a slight angle back from the front of the hood and the rear holes would be made by pushing the wire through toward the back of the hood, it doesn’t have to be massive channels but will help with the flow of air out of the hood. If you do not make the channels and go for a level hole through, still make it inside out as will get a neater hole on the external.

This is what not to do, melted from the outside.

This is what not to do, melted from the outside leaving messy holes.

 

As you can see neater holes, but this is on the inside on my hood.

As you can see neater holes, but this is on the inside on my hood.

You will need a pair of pliers to hold the wire as you heat it, and then move it to where you have your hood. I have not been diving yet to try this out but as soon as I do I will let you know the outcome of the wise information that many a diver that has gone before me. I made 4 holes in my hood, and 3 or 4 seems to be the amount that is advised on the many posts you will find about this, in a few weeks when the water temperature has increased I will know if it works or if I have ruined my hood, so if you try this I hold no responsibility for your kit but many have before and seem happy with it.