Getting Scuba Certified/Fear of Scuba Diving/Resort Courses
A lot of people are introduced to scuba diving through a “Discover Scuba” class while they are vacationing in the tropics. In fact, this is probably how most divers took their first breath of compressed air. This explains why such courses exist – without them, we’d have far fewer scuba divers and an industry that would not be as robust as it is.
However, by no stretch of the imagination does this suggest that a “discover scuba” or “resort course” is a good way for you to be introduced to scuba diving. In fact, I believe that such courses wind up scaring a high percentage of divers away from diving – people who could be enjoying the sport as much as me, or more, had they only been properly introduced to the sport!
The reason is quite simple. A “discover scuba” class typically consists of a short class where you learn the basics, followed by an introduction to the equipment and some short pool experience. Then, you are off to the boat and ready to jump into 30 feet of water to see what you can see in the Ocean!
That is all well and good if you are the type of person who a) LOVES the water, b) blindly trusts that they can breath under water with the scuba equipment and c) are quick to learn what to do and are not prone to panic if you make a mistake, or your mask floods while you are thirty feet under water.
If a, b or c does not apply to you, then your “introduction to Scuba” coudl wind up being an uncomfortable and even scary experience, tuning you off of the sport forever. I have heard from dozens of people, “Oh, I tried that. I could not do it.” “Oh, I tried Scuba and it was too scary.” “Oh, I did that, and it was terrible.” Invariably, these people were turned off of scuba because of the resort course that they took, figuring it would be “fun” to try scuba diving.
Unfortunately, trying scuba is usually fun in only one place – 4 feet of pool water, when you drop to your knees and take that first breath. Wow, that is neat! It is also fun when you swim to the deep end, clear your ears, and hang out at the bottom of the pool fo ra few minutes. Wow, tha tis neat!
What is not so fun is moving immediately to the open ocean where you cannot easily “stand up” if you freak out, or decide for any number of reasons that you want to “abort” breathing from your regulator. Perhaps you’re going to sneeze, or throw up, and you just want to get out of the water – easy enough to do in the pool, not so easy to do in the ocean.
The best way to learn to scuba dive is to simply get yourself certified. A “discover scuba” course is simply a way to entice you to get certified. And, unfortunately, it has the reverse effect on way too many people. So, rather than “discover scuba” find your local dive shop (they are located even in the middle of the country where there is no ocean, just look) and sign up for a scuba certification course (there are several agencies, but in the end you’ll probably go with whatever the diveshop teaches). Maybe they will let you try the gear in the pool even before you pay for the course. Certification requires three things – class work (you take quizzes and tests until you pass them) “confined water dives” which is to say, the pool sessions, and “open water dives” which are conducted in the ocean, a lake or a quarry.
The pool sessions are critical. Spending several hours in the pool over the course of several days, is what many people need to “bond” with their equipment. Our brains don’t naturally trust that we can breathe underwater, and so there is naturally a bit of anxiety attached to the process. Some people are more anxious than others. But most people who are acclimated to the process by spending sufficient time in the pool, get bored of the pool and want to see the fish or the wrecks that makes scuba diving interesting to them. Unfortunately, without sufficient time in the pool, many people are just not ready to go into the ocean and this ruins their first ocean experience because they go from pool to ocean in the course of a couple of hours. Too much, too fast for too many people.
For me, I did the classes and confined water diving in the northeast. I then went to Jamaica with a “referral” form, that let me complete the course in the crystal clear warm waters of the Caribbean where I completed my two “open water” dives (actually, they made me start in the pool again and do all of the skills, just to make sure I was ready for the ocean) and voila!, I was a certified diver.
I highly recommend this approach. While I know one certified diver who “quit” diving because he was never at ease in the water, I know far more people who never got certified because of a bad experience had while doing the “ocean dive” in a “discover scuba” course. I know of nobody (they exist, of course) who went to get certified and did not complete the certification successfully. And so, I suggest the certification route. Putting aside that it will make you a safer more knowledgable diver, it will vastly increase your chance of having a pleasant open water dive in the ocean and believe me – a good dive goes a long way to make you want more of the same!
There will be bad dives in the future of any diver. But with experience, the negative experience can be dealt with, and even if it is not dealt with, the positive experiences tend to outweigh the negative, and keep divers diving – you just need to have those positive experiences “in the bank” for them to outweigh the bad – and if you lack experience and have a bad one immediately upon entering the ocean after “discover scuba” you may very well wrongly assume scuba is not for you when all you needed was more time in the pool to get used to everything!
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