Scuba dive your way to sanity
In today’s non-stop world of social media and 24/7 communications, it’s ever more important to get away from it all. The current buzzword is ‘mindfulness’ where you achieve inner peace by focusing on the present and concentrating on your breathing. So what better way to achieve this than by immersing yourself in a different world?
Scuba diving offers you the ultimate ‘get away’ where nobody can interrupt you and you can feel the joy of weightless exploration. So to find out more, we asked Nick Mobley of the London School of Diving for the low down on what’s involved and how to get started.
What is scuba?
Scuba stands for ‘self-contained underwater breathing apparatus’. It is a unique activity where you can experience the wonders of the underwater world without having to come up for a breath every 30 seconds or so.
Is it fun?
If you enjoy the water or snorkelling it is highly likely that you will enjoy scuba diving! The sensation of being a part of the underwater environment rather than an observer of it is amazing! Scuba diving is also a very social activity – divers of all ages love to swap stories about their experiences.
Who are PADI?
PADI are the Professional Association of Dive Instructors. They are the largest ‘governing body’ of divers worldwide with around 85% of all divers holding at least one of their qualifications.
How old do you need to be to learn to scuba dive?
You can try scuba diving from the age of 8 years old with a PADI ‘Bubblemaker’ experience. Bubblemakers allow participants to a depth of 2 metres in a pool or confined water environment.
The full PADI Open Water qualification can be undertaken from the age of 10! This qualification allows you to dive to a depth of 12 metres (10 & 11 year olds) or 18 metres (12 years and up). There are restrictions placed on youngsters though as to who they must dive with – for example 10 & 11 year olds must dive with a parent or a PADI Professional.
What is in a scuba tank? What do I breathe underwater?
Contrary to common perception, the gas in a typical scuba cylinder is not Oxygen (which can be toxic at depth) but compressed air – yes, the same stuff we breathe every day…just a lot cleaner! As people become more advanced divers there are other gas mixes that can be used for different types of dives, but the basic gas in your tank is air.
Is it hard to learn?
This depends on the individual. In order to complete the PADI Open Water Course there is some theory involved. The reason for this is that it is important to understand what happens to the body underwater and at depth and to understand how your equipment functions in order to prevent anything going wrong.
From the diving perspective, there are various skills that one needs to learn in order to ensure that the dives are safe and fun without harming the underwater environment. Most of these skills come fairly naturally to most, but they do need to be mastered!
The underwater skills should be practiced under qualified instruction in a pool or confined water environment before implemented in ‘open water’.
How fit do I need to be to dive? Are there any medical conditions that would prevent me diving?
Anyone who is generally fit should be able to learn to dive. To complete the PADI Open Water Course you need to be able to swim 200m (untimed) and tread water for 10 minutes.
There is a self-certifying medical form that needs to be completed and only if there are issues with this do you need to seek the advice of your GP to see if you are ok to dive.
How do I get started? What are the costs involved?
Getting started is easy! The PADI web site has a Dive Centre Locator where you can enter your postcode to find a centre near you. If possible, choose a PADI 5* CDC (Career Development Centre) or PADI 5* IDC (Instructor Development Centre) as these are recognised as the top schools.
London School of Diving is one of the UK’s only PADI CDCs and has its own purpose built pool on site! If you are not sure that you want to complete the full course, start with a Discover Scuba Experience for about £25. To do the Referral portion of the course should cost in the region of £250 and the full course (Referral and Completion) around £400.
Why should I get certified?
The main reason to get certified would be so that you can dive anywhere in the world without having to redo your basic skills. The Open Water Certification demonstrates to any dive centre that you have attained a level of competence to allow your to dive without an instructor. It is recommended though, that when you are unfamiliar with the conditions or the site you are diving that you always dive with a guide.
How long does the course take?
The PADI Open Water Course has a number of different options. The course is split into two portions, the ‘Referral’ which is the pool and theory portion and the ‘Completion’ which are the four qualifying dives in open water.
Both portions of the course need to be completed to achieve the PADI Open Water certification. However, you have 12 months to do the Completion once the Referral has been done and the Completion can be taken at any PADI centre worldwide, not necessarily at the centre where the Referral was taken.
The different options for the Referral are: a two day programme; a one day accelerated programme with self study prior to the course; an e-learner programme with online study prior to the pool work. Recently, PADI launched ‘Touch’ where all the course materials are available through an interactive ipad app!
Where can I dive – UK and abroad?
You can dive wherever there is a body of water pretty much! Around the UK there are many dive sites with plenty to see and explore including wrecks, seal colonies, basking sharks and even sea horses! Our waters are quite cool, so a thick wet suit or a dry suit may be required.
There are many places around the world with more temperate climates and beautiful reefs and aquatic life! Popular destinations include Egypt’s Red Sea, the Carribean, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to name just a couple!
How long does the certification last?
Once you are qualified, this lasts for ‘life’ – there is no requirement to complete the course again (although PADI provide plenty of continuous education opportunities). However, if you have not been in the water for a while, it is recommended to complete a ‘Scuba Tune-Up’ to refresh your skills before you jump back into the water.
What equipment do I need? What should I buy?
Most dive operations will provide all the kit you need as part of your course (make sure you check this is not a hidden extra when booking!) so technically you don’t need any special kit in order to get qualified. There is a phrase though ‘Uncomfortable mask, uncomfortable dive’ so this should be your first purchase. After that, you can acquire the kit as you go and when you need throughout your diving career.
Is scuba diving dangerous? What about sharks?
As with most activities, there are some risks, but that is what the course will teach you – how to minimise risk and dive safely and enjoyably! As for sharks, they are wonderful creatures! If you are lucky enough to see one under the water it will probably be going the other way as you are ‘big and noisy’!