Let me say first that scuba is not a sport for everyone. There are certain medical conditions or anxieties (such as fear of open water) that are not compatible. If you live somewhere like Arizona and don’t like to travel, then no, scuba is probably not of much interest. However, the current training options and better designed equipment combined with travel opportunites available through the internet and other sources have helped bring scuba from an extreme sport more into the mainstream. There are millions of certified divers from age 10 all the way through 80s and perhaps 90s (I can’t personally vouch for in the 90s). Since people often plan vacations for the holidays, especially to warm climates, I want to walk you through some fundamentals if you’ve ever considered trying scuba.
Two of the best indicators of if you would enjoy scuba (Self-contained breathing apparatus underwater) are if you like to snorkel and if you visit one of the big aquariums and think to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be cool to be inside the tank?” A lengthier explanation of scuba training is contained in the Short Story Archives on my web site, Going Under is a Good Thing: Try SCUBA, but the essentials are that you have classroom sessions, sessions in confined water such as a pool, and then sessions is open water such as the ocean, a lake, or a quarry. The classes enable you to become familiar with the principles of diving, the equipment, and how to physically dive. There are academic tests and performance tests, all under the watchful eye on an instructor, and there is a great emphasize on safety. While some of the material will be unfamiliar, good instructors are patient with explanations, go over things as many times as required and address any questions/anxieties in a professional way. Once you have completed your training, you are issued something called a Basic Certification (there are other terms as well) and you are considered qualified to dive on your own without a dive professional. I will say that personally, I believe most people who are genuinely brand new to diving don’t become genuinely comfortable with the equipment and procedures until they have completed 8-12 dives. By the way, that is my opinion and not supported by empirical data.
Something I want to point out is that part of what has made scuba more accessible is that there are many training options these days, to include on-line training for the academics and split location training that can be a wonderful choice for people who don’t live near a dive destination. The split training, usually called Referral, allows you to do academic and pool sessions in one place and open water training in another. You can train with your local dive shop and then go somewhere like Key Largo or perhaps to St Croix, or any other place that has a training agreement and complete your certification. If scuba is something that interests you, but you aren’t quite ready to go the distance, take a one-day introductory course often called Discover Scuba, or something along those lines. This gives you a whole day with an instuctor learning the basics, trying the equipment, and having the experience of being in the open water. In most cases, you can then apply that one-day training against the full certification course if you choose to move forward.
While taking a course with a buddy who may then be able to travel with you may be more enjoyable than going it alone, there are plenty of single divers who have a great time meeting new “buddies”. Scuba opens an extraorinary world to you and I would strongly encourage you to check out the training and travel opportunities that are literally all around you.