You are reading this because you are interested in Scuba Diving. That wasn’t too tough to figure out, after all this is a blog on a scuba diving website. The odds are; there is a chance that you are not as of yet a Scuba Diver yourself. With this in mind let’s have a look at how we can go about fixing that problem.
PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, is the leading trainer and certifier of scuba divers in the world, and they offer a couple of options when it comes to learning how to safely Scuba dive. You can take the course through a local Padi Dive Center in your area, or take a portion of the course online, enabling you to complete the course at the location of your choosing.
The course itself is a combination of academic learning, practical application, and training in the water. The required five academic sessions, and five confined water sessions (training in a pool) are usually taught at the dive center and a local pool nearby. You will be taught dive theory, skills and dive equipment use, and maintenance. Passing these benchmarks takes you to the Open Water portion of the course where you take your new skills to a natural body of water. Oceans, lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and flooded quarries may serve the purpose in your local area, and here you will complete four dives with our instructor over the course of two days. Upon completion you will be certified to dive to a depth of 60 feet anywhere in the world.
And it’s a big world, with a lot of different water conditions. In the Pacific Northwest where I learned to dive, the current sea temperatures (June 2017) are in the low 50’s F. This is cold, and can actually put a bit of a damper on the experience. Did I mention it is cold? As a matter of fact, if you live in the good ol’ U S of A, and if you are near a coast somewhere other than Florida, Texas, or Hawaii, the coastal waters are cold. Even sunny San Diego’s waters are just under 70, and for a total immersion sport, that is still cold.
Do not despair future Scuba enthusiast, we at West End Divers on the island of Roatan surrounded by a crystal clear warm tropical sea, have an option involving not only becoming a certified diver, but travel, adventure, excitement, with new places, people, cultures, sights, and local delicacies!
There are two other options when it comes to getting your Open Water certification which we highly recommend. Padi’s eLearning option is an Internet based course allowing to complete the academic portion of the class at your own pace prior to starting the in water portion of the instruction. They also offer the Course as the Padi Touch App for use on smartphones and tablets.
The course here at West End Divers goes something like this; you sign up on Padi.com for the Open Water eLearning course, or the Touch App, and during the signup process fill in West End Divers as the dive center where you will be completing your certification. Next step is to make a simple airline reservation to the beautiful tropical paradise that is the island of Roatan. We advise checking into Delta, American, and United for the most convenient routes. Drop us a quick email to tell us you are coming so we can get the red carpet dusted off. While the excitement builds for your upcoming vacation it is the time to complete your academic portion of your eLearning course in the convenience of your own home.
Academics completed, you land on Roatan and drop by the shop to meet the staff and get scheduled for the morning. To start there is that unavoidable paperwork where we need to know if there are any health issues, next of kin, and this bit about how nothing will be our fault. With this necessary evil outta the way, you and your instructor will do a quick review of the knowledge you have gained during your eLearning course, and make sure there is no confusion and that everything is understood.
Then it is hands on! You will be taught the set up and use of the equipment on the dock, and take it to the end where the sea plunges to a depth of four and a half feet. Donning your exposure suit, and a lightweight wet suit, you slip into an ocean whose warmth and comfort are only surpassed by its clarity and beauty.
Let’s pause a minute and discuss one of the main reasons learning to dive on Roatan is probably a far more pleasant experience than most places in the world. It is water temperature. In the dead of winter when the storms come in and it actually rains sometimes, the water temperature plunges to a brisk 800 (warm), which is the same temperature as the pool back home at the club. In the warmer months, of which there are 9 of them, the water can get to the high 80’s at the surface and near to 84 at depth. The word we are looking for here is “Comfortable”. The smallest of wetsuits provides all the warmth you will need, and many choose to dive in just their bathing suits! As mentioned I learned to dive up north where the temperatures are just silly cold. A full seven millimeter wetsuit, with another wetsuit jacket over that, along with gloves, boots, and a full hood is required to prevent hypothermia, and gives you the maneuverability of a new frozen Teddy Bear. All this spongy neoprene you are cocooned in is quite buoyant, so to add to the joy, a weight belt sporting 30 pounds of lead is cinched to your middle. This is to enjoy visibility so good that if you extend your arm, you can almost make out your hand in the murk. Contrasted with warm water, tropical exposure protection, and 6 pounds on a weight belt, that has you swimming with the freedom of skinny dipping, I look back at my personal decision, and shake my head.
You, on the other hand have made what in my opinion is the better decision. You are immersed in clear tropical water so warm that that you don’t even think of the temperature. As your first time breathing underwater (warm), your instructor goes through the basic skills of Scuba diving making sure that you are confident in how all the equipment works, and there is a bit of practice swimming in the shallows, just to get a feel of it (warm). Then it is on to the boat, and the 5 minute ride to the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere, where you are taken on an actual 40 minute scuba dive touring the reef with your Instructor. The only danger here is falling in love with diving, and dedicating part of your life to it (many of us have succumbed). Over the course of the next couple of days you will be trained in the skills required to scuba dive in shallow (warm) water, and then taken to deeper (warm) water to demonstrate the skills to your instructor. In just three fun filled days you are a certified Open Water Diver!
The next couple of days can be spent diving the different dive sites on Roatan, and checking out what a real coral reef is all about. Although limited to diving 60 feet deep and shallower, with the clarity of the water (has anyone mentioned warmth?) you are able to see much deeper, and like many of us you may want to explore these out-of-bounds areas. Not so fast my diving friends there are skills and a bit of knowledge to obtain in order to explore these areas safely. No problem and we will cover it next time when we tell you about Padi’s Advanced Open Water Certification (warm water version).