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Fancy a go at Scuba Diving?

When you tell people you meet for the first time that you are a certified PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) scuba diver, their immediate reaction is “Wow. You are? I’m not sure I could do that!”
The response is often followed by a barrage of questions indicating curiosity mixed with a touch of apprehension and perhaps a fair amount of misinformation.

As an active recreational pastime goes, Scuba diving is probably one of the easiest to learn, there are only three basic skills , floating, kicking and breathing, there is more to it than that, but if you can breathe through your mouth, then the chances are you can learn to scuba dive.

 

The necessary skills are not tough for most people to master, during the PADI Open Water course, you’re introduced to knowledge development and safe diving practices. You rehearse equipment-related skills in a controlled water setting until you feel comfortable, as well as practice what to do if things don’t go as planned.

The bulky scuba gear worn by many divers may seem intimidating, but learning to use it is straightforward. If you’ve snorkeled, you’re already familiar with the mask, snorkel and fins.

The scuba unit consists of an air cylinder containing compressed breathing gas, buoyancy compensator (BC) jacket to help you float on the surface and maintain your desired depth underwater, and a regulator for you to breathe through. The exposure protection ( wet suit ) keeps you warm when diving in cool-water environments.

You don’t need to be a strong swimmer or an athlete to scuba dive, but some degree of comfort in the water most certainly helps. Even if you enter scuba training with less than total confidence in your water skills, by the time you receive your first certification card, your comfort level will be greatly increased.

If you are motivated to step through the door into an exciting new world, then the diving experience will prove both energizing and confidence-building.

Am I the right sex? Am I too old? Or are my kids too young?

Scuba diving is a nondiscriminatory activity and more women are pushing there own limits, making scuba no longer a macho activity, about one-third of newly certified divers are women. Women are coming to the sport to be part of that other world, it’s a very soothing sport and even Diving equipment manufacturers are targeting women divers with lighter, less masculine, better fitting and colorful apparel. Aside from pregnancy there are no special concerns for women regarding diving, and the recommendation is that women avoid diving while pregnant, as little is known about the effects on the fetus.

The number of female instructors and dive masters are also on the increase and this year we where joined by Erica a PADI professional and probably the first female Assistant Instructor here in Bulgaria. Erica has been conducting many a pool dive and Discover Scuba Diving experience and works very much at the students pace ensuring each progressive skill of your scuba diving lesson is mastered.

Next season when she returns, fingers crossed, Erica will be the first female PADI Open Water diving instructor here, “go girl” but the other side is many a female student will be pleased they can dive with a female instructor and making the sport more popular amongst women.

So anyone with the physical ability to handle the equipment and the emotional maturity to comprehend the rules and take responsibility for his or her safety and that of his or her dive buddy, can scuba dive safely and enjoyably.

There is no upper age limit on learning scuba, as long as you maintain relatively good physical and mental conditioning, it’s never too late to learn scuba, many divers continue into their 70s and 80s.

Minimum age restrictions do apply, in general, children must be 10-12 years old, depending on the agency, to be certified as “Junior” divers, who may dive only under restricted conditions (i.e., limited depths and supervision by a scuba professional or certified adult diver).

Getting certified

One of the convenient and by far the easiest ways of seeing if Scuba is for the would-be aquanaut, is to do a “try dive” under the direct supervision of a dive professional this is generally done in what we call confined water (a swimming pool or a safe beach environment), or maybe bite the bullet and try the PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience.

 



For the more adventures the PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience allows those interested in scuba diving to complete some basic training and a confined water dive to a depth of about 5-6 meter under the direct supervision of a professional. On completion of the PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience the student will understand basic scuba safety and learn some basic skills such as regulator clearing ( simply taking your regulator out of your mouth and putting it back in), mask clearing ( how to clear your mask from water ) and last how to use an alternative air source ( sharing air in the case of an emergency ), which are all credited toward the PADI Open Water certification.

Where do I go next?

The PADI Open Water diver certification course is the next step up the ladder it is divided into sections, knowledge development, confined water training and open water training.

In Knowledge development the student studies with the instructor and also independently studies how diving affects your body, dive safety and dive planning, there are also knowledge reviews and an exam at the end on the material you have studied.

Confined water training (shallow enough to stand in), students learn all the basic skills they need to safely enjoy scuba diving. On completing the confined water skills it’s on to the Open Water diving.
The Open Water training is usually done over four or more dives, the skills practiced in the confined waters and knowledge gained are practiced with the instructor until you are completely confident and can perform them with ease

The open water certification is for ever and never has to be renewed although if you have never dived for a while it is always best to brush up your skills with a scuba review, a short refresher course.
As a PADI Open Water diver you will be able to dive to 18mts (60 feet) when you are accompanied by a diver of the same or higher certification level.

From here on in your diving skills takes on a new prospective through the PADI dive experience there are specialty courses the diver can take such as underwater navigation, photographer, wreck diver, night diver or simply move through the recreational diving certifications and on to the first of the professional certificates Dive Master.

70% of the world dives the PADI way, and serves over 130,000 individual and professional members and is located in more than 180 countries; PADI materials are also available in 26 languages.

Ian Wilkinson