Taking the Plunge – Learning to Scuba Dive
Personally I blame Jacques Cousteau. Ever since watching his programs on undersea exploration during the late 60s and 70s (when I was at an impressionable age) I have had the urge to learn to scuba dive. It’s been sitting there in the back of my mind for nearly 40 years and finally I am doing something about it.
Nowadays, although scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) diving is still classed as an extreme sport by most holiday insurance companies, scuba diving has very much come of age and is a well regulated and popular international hobby.
I think the itch to finally do something about learning to scuba dive really started playing up again a couple of years ago when I was on holiday in the Canaries. Outside a couple of the hotels there were big rectangular flags sporting wavy blue lines and the letters PADI. This is the acronym for the professional Association of Diving Instructors and seems to be the main international body that provides training and certification in padi idc indonesia diving skills.
Their ‘Open Water Diver’ course and level of qualification seems to be the basic qualification that is required if you want to be able to hire scuba gear while on holiday, as most diving suppliers will only let you rent gear if you have this level of training and certification.
Getting the qualification involves three phases of activity. Firstly there is the book/classroom type learning covering basics of diving and understanding scuba gear. The second stage is in-water exercises in a confined and safe environment, usually a pool. These involve getting familiar with the equipment and developing the practical skills to deal with a variety of emergency situations (like retrieving your mouthpiece and clearing you mask). The third phase is actual diving under supervision, in which you get to take to the open water to experience diving under the supervision of an instructor who is also rating you to see whether or not you can be certified as able to dive without this level of close supervision.
The beauty of these courses is that they can be split across different venues. The book learning is probably the most accessible component, particularly since PADI now do an online course that you can subscribe to. Alternatively you could do this part of the course with a local dive school. For example, in West London (where I live) there are a variety of dive schools, some with specialized deep-water pools, which offer full PADI open water diver certification courses. These courses cover all three of the learning stages outlined above and it seems to make sense to do at least the first two, the academic and pool-based learning locally. This will allow me to benefit from the convenience of scheduling in the training when it suits me without wasting part of my holiday on it. The third phase, the open water diving, can also be done through these schools but PADI runs an international credit transfer system where you can do different parts of the training in different places. This means I can do my book learning and pool dives locally and then book up for the open water part at one of the dive schools while I am on holiday. So I get to complete my training in the beautiful tropical waters where I actually want to dive.
This is the plan but before I do anything further, it’s worth checking that I really am happy with the practice rather than just the idea of scuba diving. Apart from signing up for the full PADI course, most dive schools also offer brief scuba diving ‘taster’ sessions. These sessions give you the chance to try out scuba gear and get the experience of being under water (and finding out if you like it) before committing to a proper course of study. What’s more, any time spent in the water and skills learnt are also transferrable credits that count towards getting my open water diver certification if, after experiencing the taster session, I decide I really do want to turn my dream into reality.