Scuba diving is world-renowned for being one of the most unique experiences offered in an outdoor activity. With a higher level of peril than normal, as well as a high barrier of entry, this activity is barred off to all but the most determined of adventurers. However, those select few have unparalleled opportunities at their disposal, ones that take them to explore the mysterious and beautiful world underwater. We created a scuba diving guide for beginners because of our past experience. We joined this exclusive cohort as scuba diving beginners in the pursuit to earn our NAUI Entry-Level Diver Certification.
I’m about to give you a first-person view into the wonderful world underwater and share my successes, failures, overall experience, and takeaways to answer everyone’s burning question: Should I do scuba diving?
We will be answering the following questions:
- Should I do scuba diving?
- How do you start scuba diving (what is the process)?
- Why should you do scuba diving?
- What are the pros and cons of scuba?
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Scuba Diving Guide for Beginners
Foreword: What is scuba diving?
Scuba diving is an underwater activity in which divers explore the oceans through the help of an underwater breathing apparatus. SCUBA is actually an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. As you can imagine, you use such an apparatus to assist you while diving underwater, allowing you to breathe underwater.
In scuba diving, you get to enjoy the beauty of the world under the surface, exploring points of interest such as natural (reefs, barriers, sandbars, animals) and manmade (shipwrecks, artifacts) features in the water.
Scuba diving also requires specialized equipment for a safe and enjoyable trip underwater, such as tanks, BCDs (“backpacks”), fins, and wetsuits, among others. More on this in a bit.
Scuba DIving Guide for Beginners: Prerequisites/What you need
The following equipment is used commonly in scuba diving:
- Face mask
- Oxygen tank
- BCD (Buoyancy-controlling device)
Note: This is the equipment needed to do scuba diving for beginners. A more advanced diver will take extra gear for specific purposes.
The items in bold were provided to us by the scuba diving shop that we got our certification. These items you often rent from a local shop, so it’s recommended that you buy the rest of the non-bolded items on the list (for us, we purchased our gear at the place where we got our certification after trying them out for the first few sessions. Check with your certifier for more info).
You also need to be able to do the following things:
- Be reasonably physically fit
- Be flexible
- Swim competently (you don’t need to be an expert)
- Stay calm in tough or scary situations (THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT)
Meeting these criteria is CRUCIAL to safety and survival underwater. If you aren’t able to fulfill any of these requirements, don’t cheat yourself and opt-out of scuba diving, or work to be competent in these areas before you go underwater. Being beginners in scuba diving isn’t easy, and it won’t get easier if you can’t even swim.
The Scuba Diving Guide for Begineners: Certification Process
In order to legally scuba dive as beginners, prospective divers must complete a basic certification program, thus allowing them to dive in conditions similar to those they trained in.
Note: I am outlining below the cert process for my NAUI Open Water Scuba Diving Certification. As such, I cannot testify to other certification programs, or if the process will be the same. However, they will likely cover similar topics.
- Online Course. First, we all took a course online with the organization we certified with (likely PADI or NAUI).
- Zoom Review Sessions. Next, the scuba shop that was going to teach us reviewed all the material we covered in the Online Course, with the opportunity to answer questions.
- Pool Days. Now for the physical part of Scuba Diving Certification. The instructors taught us all the skills we needed to know for diving in a shallow pool.
- Ocean Days. Adding on another level of difficulty by taking us deep underwater, we were tested on the taught skills in the ocean.
Next, let’s dive deeper (pun intended) into the aspects of each part of the Scuba Certification Process.
The Scuba Diving Guide for Beginners: Certification Experience
The following sections provide further information about each section of learning Scuba Diving, including my thoughts and experiences.
Scuba Diving Guide for Beginners: Course
Again, I took the course “NAUI Entry Level Scuba Diving”. Everyone has to go through an Entry-Level Course to start diving (although you can only dive in conditions similar to those in which you trained in).
The course is very extensive, including everything from basic info about SCUBA until advanced planning. Each section has a quiz about what you have learned, and at the end, you have a huge final test (70 questions!).
There’s a lot to cover in the course, and it can really seem intimidating at first. However, there are both videos and articles (do both!), and they can actually be pretty fun to watch/read. I actually watched them with my family during meals, so it can be a great thing to do together if the family is certifying together.
The topics are mostly technical, which makes it seem pointless on a scuba diving beginners’ level, but it’s important info for your own future use. However, it’s important to note that the actual dive training is more important.
Scuba Diving Guide for Beginners: Zoom Sessions
Note: This part will most likely differ from what your scuba certifiers are doing, as this was done on behalf of the scuba shop themselves. However, it still might be good info for you to know.
Next, we had the Zoom sessions, where an instructor from our local scuba shop ran through all the material again, though more condensed. We had the opportunity to ask questions to a live instructor who could most accurately answer them.
This was a really great experience for me, as there were a lot of more abstract concepts that were harder to grasp, but the instructor explained them in greater depth, as they understood that those were the hard parts. However, DO NOT use this as a substitute for the course itself. This was just a review on top of whatever we learned in the course, along with an “office hours”- style setting.
Scuba Diving Guide for Beginners: Pool Sessions
However, just an online course isn’t sufficient for scuba diving beginners’ certification. No matter how much you think you know about scuba diving from the course, it all fades away once you get in the water. It is much more intense and interesting.
First, we started off with a swimming test (I did it in freezing cold water, so if you are lucky, you won’t have to). So if you had any hopes that they would let you off easy with the swimming proficiency, you’d best leave that behind.
Next, they went through all the skills you would need to do underwater in case of emergency. Our teachers were very considerate and were sure to make sure that everyone was able to do the skills and were confident with their ability.
Here is a sample of some of the skills we were taught:
- Mask removals and clear (take out water)
- Regulator retrievals (oxygen tank skills)
- Weight dropping and BCD movements (equipment management)
- Emergency ascents (going up to the surface)
Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to get everything right the first time. The pool is the best place to make mistakes and learn from them.
I had a lot of struggles with the removal of the scuba mask, but the instructors persevered with me and made sure that I was confident in my ability to do the skill. If you don’t feel that you are competent by the end of the skill session, take it upon yourself to ask for more help and practice on the skill. Some people in our group who were still struggling with specific skills actually took an extra class to get up to speed. Do whatever you need to in order to stay on top of things.
Scuba Diving Guide for Beginners: Ocean Days
Now for the real test: the ocean. Everything was now a level more uncertain with lower visibility and an exponentially larger depth. There is no messing up here; only a calm risk assessment and problem-solving. We were officially certified once we passed all of the skills we learned in the pool, albeit 20+ feet underwater.
We were taken to San Carlos Beach in Monterey (on the West Coast). You could imagine the water was really cold (which is normal), but with the wetsuit on, you can feel the water is cold, but you DON’T feel cold. That’s one less thing to worry about.
We then descended to the bottom of the ocean near our entry point and completed all of our skills. Again, it was a lot more stressful to do them, but we were all well-prepared thanks to our instructors. It’s another world underwater, and we were just starting to see its beauty.
Once we passed all of our tests, we still had the requirement of diving in the water for a certain amount of time, so they took us for a fun dive. We went around the breakwater and into a kelp forest for our first real dive. 40 feet down, we saw dozens of different animals underwater, including otters, birds, starfish, sand dollars, and more! The marvelous experience made us forget all the stress and troubles of our training, and made it all worth it.
Scuba Diving Guide for Beginners: My Takeaway
I think scuba diving was a great experience for me, and I look forward to do ing more. Here are my thoughts on the whole experience:
It was a lot of fun.
Seriously. It was something that I never saw myself doing, and I’m extremely glad that I had the opportunity to do so. The unique ocean world is something unique that very few people have the opportunity to do. You won’t regret it.
SCUBA can be scary for some (or almost everyone).
I would be lying if I said that I was never once scared during my training. Not knowing the skills is dangerous (and you know it), because you won’t survive without them in a bad event. There’s always the chance of an accident to happen underwater, which is why I stressed so heavily to know your skills by heart.
Diving’s learning curve is often steep for beginners.
Even with great and helpful instructors and meticulous online prep, scuba diving for beginners is universally hard. You’re put into an unfamiliar and potentially dangerous environment and forced to carry out skills with perfection. It’s obvious you won’t get it right all the time; just make sure you’re getting the help you need.
The prep can be stressful and long.
As previously stated, doing these skills underwater, especially when you don’t feel completely ready to execute them, is nerve-racking. In addition, our prep was 40+ hours, which is quite a daunting commitment. This time is to make sure you are 100% comfortable in the water and set to SCUBA on your own. Whether it’s worth it is up to you.
Most stuff is unlikely to be used, but life-saving should the situation arise.
Looking back on the list of things we learned, you won’t often need to use skills such as emergency ascents and oxygen-sharing. You will use most often regulator recoveries and mask clears. However, don’t take this as an excuse to slack off in your training. Though it is rare that you use some of the skills, all of them are life-saving should an accident occur.
The ocean isn’t as picture-perfect as you think it is (usually).
The ocean is glamorized as crystal clear water, accented by coral reefs teeming with fish. While there are definitely some places in the world where you can experience this, just know that not every time you go scuba diving will you see this. However, each location you go to has its own wonders and sights.
Scuba Diving Guide for Beginners: Learning experience.
As I will explain in the next section, scuba diving taught me a lot and was life-changing in more ways than one.
Scuba Diving Guide for Beginners: My Takeaway/Why You Should Scuba Dive
Scuba diving teaches you to be calm and overcome your fears.
Scuba diving is scary, no doubt about it. However, it is a learning experience for you to be calm in tough situations. Just like in life, stressing out over problems or worrisome situations doesn’t help. Being confident in your abilities and coolly solving problems will. You will find that SCUBA has many applications in life that you haven’t even thought of.
It’s another skill to add to your toolkit.
Who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to do something new? Especially if you are looking for change and adventure, scuba diving is definitely the right thing for you.
You get an opportunity to open up more activities for yourself.
Building onto the previous point, getting a scuba cert opens the door to many other activities, especially scuba-related ones. You can now travel the world exploring the subnautical, and you can get further, more niche training in many aspects of diving to find the perfect experience for you.
In Boy Scouts, places like Florida National High Adventure Sea Base Camp offers unparalleled scuba and other aquatic activities. Check out the link for a quick guide! Or instead, take a look at the Big Island for the opportunity to swim with manta rays!
It’s great fun to explore underwater with animals and plants.
This is definitely the reason why you signed up; to see plants, animals, and other underwater POI. And although getting scuba certified is a handful, it pays off duly when you really get the chance to explore the oceans uninhibited. Trust me, it’s worth it ;).
Things that were once thought impossible are suddenly possible (LIFE-CHANGING).
This is the biggest takeaway of all. Of the many divers I’ve talked to, they had one thing in common: scuba diving taught them a life lesson—what seemed impossible before has now become a stunning reality. I would never have thought I would be 40 feet underwater, breathing only from an oxygen tank for hours on end. Even going deeper than the local swimming pool was out of mind.
Don’t even get me started on removing the oxygen tank and mask while underwater. But after just a few weeks of solid rigorous training, all of this was a walk in the park for me. The scuba diving beginners we were merely 2 weeks ago would never have expected to do all this and more.
My outlook on life was drastically changed; I began to look at obstacles in life not as gargantuan, but as things, I could traverse, and thus reap the rewards beyond.
Scuba DIving Guide for Beginners: Cons of Scuba Diving
Now, no activity is perfect, and each will have a few flaws. Scuba diving has 4 major downsides: fear, cost, potential monotony, and process.
It’s a scary experience for most.
Not surprisingly, having your life depend on a hose and an uncomfortable suit is nerve-racking. But with proper training and confidence, you grow into the challenge. However, if you are the type of person who has panic attacks or has struggled with keeping calm throughout your life, either choose to sit this one out or mentally prepare yourself.
Diving is time-consuming and expensive.
Scuba diving is one of the most expensive outdoor activities I’ve ever done. Another reason scuba diving beginners are hesitant to start is the steep price for the equipment. Buying all of the individual equipment (the bolded items from the “shopping list” at the top) can cost $700-800 dollars per person, which definitely isn’t cheap. You will also have to rent the BCD, oxygen tank, wetsuit, and more every time you dive. Instruction for certifications will also cost a lot.
Learning how to dive is boring until you actually get in the ocean for real.
To be honest, learning the ropes in the pool was not fun at all. The instructors would teach one skill, then go through it with everyone one by one. That means a lot of sit-out time. Once you think about it, there really isn’t that much you need to know, but it feels like it takes forever to do.
The certification takes a long time.
No matter how much you think you will enjoy diving, spending 40 hours just to get a basic certification seems a little over the top (which it is). After the arduous course and bland training, burnout is pretty much inevitable. But that’s the price to pay for a lifetime of adventure.
Scuba Diving Guide for Beginners: Conclusion
Scuba diving is one of the most exhilarating experiences available in the outdoors, but of course, it doesn’t come without downsides. If you do decide to take the plunge, look forward to seeing remarkable beauty wherever you go, whether above or below water. Scuba diving for beginners is no easy feat, but armed with this newfound info, we know you got this. We hope to see you down there. We hoped the Scuba Diving Guide for Beginners helped you in some way.
Note: Scuba Diving Guide for Beginners is an article that is tied into