Scuba diving is the ultimate adventure for explorers of all ages. It’s a fun activity and develops your skills that are good to learn at any point in your life. But like any adventure, there are hurdles you need to overcome to become an experienced diver. That’s why we’ve put together this Scuba Divers Beginner's Guide, to help anyone understand the scuba diving basics, and break down any confusing language. From equipment to overcoming your phobias that pop up, scuba certifications, and tips and tricks of the trade, this Scuba Divers Beginner's Guide has it all. Read on if you’re interested in starting your scuba adventure!
Why You Need to Know Scuba Diving?
Scuba diving is a truly amazing experience. Under that water is a whole other world that most people on earth never get a chance to explore. Some people call it, “the last frontier,” because so much of our ocean is still unknown. The whole ocean hasn't even been mapped yet! Scuba diving is also an unnatural experience for the body. As humans, we have legs that are meant for the land.
Being submerged in water goes against our nature, and it is natural to have your body react against that process. That natural reaction shows itself in psychological and bodily reactions. Scuba diving is adaptative, which is why you need some instruction. What you are doing isn’t actually difficult, it requires patience, instruction, trust, and a little time for your body to adapt. We will go over the different certifications later in the Scuba Divers Beginner's Guide.
Common Fears for Beginners
Often people who would be interested in scuba diving never take up the activity because of fear. This shouldn't hold you back. It's also a great way to help you face your fears in a controlled environment with an instructor who knows what they are doing. In fact, therapists often recommend scuba diving to help fears of confined spaces or darkness. If you already have some of these apprehensions, don't despair. Just inform your instructor of your concerns. They will tell you if they are the right instructor to help you and recommend other instructors if they don't feel they are the one to help you. Below, the Scuba Divers Beginner's Guide will go over some common fears that come up for potential divers, and some fears that scuba diving can help overcome.
The simple act of putting on the full scuba diving gear can cause common anxiety. Why? Because it's a totally new experience. The gear is heavy, and breathing through the regulator isn't normal and not being able to remove the regulator is definitely an uneasy feeling at first. The way to deal with this is through calm and gentle patience from yourself and your instructor.
Claustrophobia is the fear of confined spaces. Most people have felt claustrophobic in certain situations, but having claustrophobia means you deal with this fear constantly. From elevators to airplanes, any small space makes you anxious. When you are scuba diving, water is surrounding you. So, those prone to claustrophobia should remember to take deep, calming breaths to maintain their peace of mind. Develop hand signals with your instructor to let them know if you are feeling panicky or if you need to go up. These hand signals often give new divers peace of mind and make for a much more confident first-time dive.
Fear that being in a confined space will cause panic. While claustrophobia is fear while being in a confined space, agoraphobia often develops after you've had several panic attack episodes. Agoraphobia also often develops in people who have attempted to dive before but have panicked under water. For this fear, it is best to talk to your instructor about how you are feeling and try to describe what happened if you've had previous dive attempts. Going over the safety guidelines with your instructor and reviewing hand signals before you attempt to dive is a good way to help with this phobia.
Galeophobia is fear of sharks. Through movies like Jaws and The Shallows, fear of sharks has been instilled in our psyche, and why not? Fast, almost undetectable, sharp teeth cause anxiety as well. Sharks can seem scary. But with modern technology, we have learned a lot about sharks. We know what they eat, (not generally humans), where they breed, their migration patterns, and where they feed. All this information lets us know which waters are scuba divable and which waters to stay away from.
Nyctophobia is about fear of the dark, but most people don't fear darkness itself. They fear what might happen to them in the dark. What they can't see coming, or who might hide in the dark brings on this fear. For potential divers with this fear, let it be averted with the knowledge that your first dives will be in the daytime at a depth of only 18 to 60 meters deep. If you go further with your diving training and learn to dive at low and dark lights, there are tools you can use so you won't have to dive blind.
This often means you don't like swimming where your feet can't touch the ground or even be on a boat with a lifejacket on. But the fear can be much more severe, meaning you don't like even having to deal with water in a bath. Scuba diving is great for someone who wants to overcome aquaphobia and often makes those dealing with aquaphobia much more relaxed in and around water. Great techniques to help calm yourself in the water is breathing in with a count of 5 and breathing out with a count of 5, repeating a mantra to yourself or focusing on the sound of the regulator.
Essential Scuba Diving Gear You Need
Good gear is essential to having the best experience in nearly every activity, and scuba diving is the same. You should always wash your diving equipment with fresh water after a dive to help prevent sand, sun, and salt from wearing down the equipment. Below is the Scuba Divers Beginner's Guide to the gear you will need to rent or buy for your scuba diving activities.
There are actually two types of wetsuits to choose from, wetsuits and skins. Wetsuits are foam neoprene rubber. They are thick and designed for water protection because water lowers the body temperature 20 times faster than air. Skins are made from spandex and lycra. They protect you from scratches and abrasions, but not water temperature. Your wetsuit should fit snugly, but comfortably, conforming to your body. Before you buy or rent a wetsuit, try several on. Different brands will fit different body types.
The dive mask gives your eyes a protective case so you can see everything around you. Your mask also helps your ears and sinuses deal with the higher pressure you experience as you go deeper. When you choose a mask, you'll find the best one by tilting down your head, putting the mask against your face, and inhaling. The mask that stays on your face is the one with the best fit. You can also attach a snorkel on the right side of your scuba mask, but snorkels are optional.
This is the piece that brings your air tank to your mouth on the right side of your body. When you inhale, the regulator pushes air to you. There is also a secondary regulator if your first one fails.
Fins are an important factor in the diving experience. They translate the energy from your legs as you move through water that is 800x denser than air. There are several types of fins that vary in terms of their size and how rigid they are. Beginner divers should look for fins that are lighter and allow flexibility while a more experienced diver will want a more rigid fin that is heavier and longer. The most important part of the fin is that it fits snugly, but doesn't bind your foot.
The tank holds the air you breathe, so it's the most important part of your diving equipment. You should have them inspected regularly and make sure the codes listed on the tank are up-to-date. Dive shops won't fill them if they aren't, and you also wouldn't want this piece of equipment to be faulty.
Buoyancy Control Device
The Buoyancy Control Device helps you move through the water. It fits as a backpack would and can be attached to your air tank. The Buoyancy Control Device lets you have neutral buoyancy at any depth by adding or releasing air into your system. Test the fit with your wetsuit before you buy one to make sure it feels comfortable.
The weight belt helps a diver navigate depth. It makes getting to your chosen depth easier. Once you are at the depth, you can adjust your weights to maintain that depth and stay even. To use the weight belt correctly, you should calculate your weight, the wetsuit, your air tanks, the depth you want to go to, and your experience as a diver. If you are a new diver, talk to your instructors about your weights, that way they can monitor your buoyancy and help you with your weights if you need.
Submersive Pressure Gauge
This device measures how much air you have in your tank, so you know when you should end the dive. There are two different gauges, analog and integrated. You see analog styles on traditional gauges. They look like analog watches and have a face with numbers and a needle that shows how much air you have in the tank. You need to calculate how much time you have based on that number. Integrated gauges combine with your other underwater instruments.
There are several types of dive computers. Basic ones are good for entry-level divers and have depth, direction, and tank gauge on the computer. More advanced versions of dive computers have features like compasses, Bluetooth integration, alarms, and lots of other technical functions.
While not essential, a dive knife is good to have if you get caught in some fishing line or net and need to cut yourself free.
These are good for diving at night and looking in smaller caves or holes to see interesting fish.
Again not essential, but if you want to take pictures of your underwater experience, this is a camera you'll need.
Your Ultimate Scuba Divers Beginner's Guide
The world of diving is very expansive. From choosing your certification school to expanding beyond entry-level dives, to best diving practices, there is a lot to learn. So, this section of the Scuba Divers Beginner's Guide will cover the basics. What does diving look like starting out, and where can it take you in the future.
When researching diving schools, you should consider basic things like whether the water is warm or cold, location, cost, the facility, instructor, and length of certification. This Scuba Diver's Beginner Guide recommends your instructor should have either a Professional Association of Diving Instructors certification and membership or a National Association of Underwater Instructors certification and membership (or both). These certifications will show that the instructor is maintaining their own skill set and learning new ones. Safety should also be a number one priority. Check online reviews to see if the school has had accidents or faulty equipment.
Basic safety rules to follow before you go on a dive are:
- Always check for faulty equipment
- Ask your instructor for help
- Listen and watch for instruction from your guide
- Remember to watch your air gauge
- Never dive alone
- Communicate with your guide and buddy
- Don’t dive with a cold or open wounds
- Always breathe
Entry Level Certification
An entry-level certification is called "Open Water Certification." The certification process will vary slightly depending on if the instructor is PADI or NADI certified. Some targets you'll have to meet while being certified are swimming for 200 meters, treading water for 10 minutes, completing a no mask swim, and be underwater without your mask on. The main difference between the certifications is that PADI certification requires you dive with a PADI certified instructor whereas NADI certification lets you dive alone if your dive is like the one you had during instruction. Both certifications will be accepted around the world for dives that are 18 meters deep (60 feet) with a buddy and the certification lasts a lifetime.
How To Have a Better Dive
Diving is a skill that needs to be practiced and maintained. The best dives rely on the dive having a proper form. The proper position for a scuba dive is your head is forward facing, squared shoulders, back slightly arched, arms in a streamlined position, and knees at a 90-degree angle with your calves slightly above your back and your feet in a relaxed position. The best way to create muscle memory for your proper form is to practice the form and have your instructor help control your positions.
Specialty Dives To Know
Decompression dives are dives that intentionally go beyond the No-Decompression Limits to extend your time at the bottom. If you do a decompression dive, you need to make a series of stops on your assent to allow nitrogen to be expelled safely.
This is where you descend to your depth and then join the current. It is important to judge the current correctly because a stronger current can push you farther away from your group. It also requires a good boat crew to follow you as you drift.
Diving with nitrox air in your tank is another technique. Enriched Air Nitrox adds 100% oxygen to the air you are already breathing and makes your dive deeper, longer, and safer.
Types of Advanced Diver Certifications
Advanced Open Water Diving
Advanced Open Water Diving is the next certification after your Open Water Certification. It allows you to dive to a depth of 30 meters (100 feet).
Deeper diver certification extends the depth of your dive, even more, allowing for 40 meters (130 feet).
Overhead Environment Specialties
This certification trains you for dives that present an additional environmental risk. Exploring wrecks, ice diving, and caverns are all covered under this training.
These diver certifications go beyond what a recreational diver can attempt. Their dives are higher risk, the style of dive they normally use is decompression diving, and they often use re-breathers to conserve air.
This certification is about learning how to help other divers. You go through emergency response training and learn in-the-water first aid techniques.
Scuba diving is great fun and truly mesmerizing with action and wildlife above and below you; there is so much to see, you rarely know where to look. While this Scuba Divers Beginner's Guide covers the basics, it is no substitute for an in-person course. If you're interested in venturing into the water, you should contact your local training center or a dive school.