Open Water Diver

img_4200For anyone interested in learning the ways of the scuba diver, this is the place to start. Get your certification, then continue your journey into the ocean realm. Follow along with me if you’d like, I’m always up for company.

I started in my hot tub. The 500 gallon tank in my back yard was a super safe place to play in the water. I had my goggles, a regulator, and a tank of air, so I strapped them on and went diving. It may be silly, but the first time I was able to see clearly underwater, and actually take a breath, was just a fantastic thing.

Anyway, to date, I’ve finished all the work that needs to be done up to the point of getting my ocean dives done.

It starts with signing up for a class. I chose SSI, which stands for Scuba Schools International. There are many options, PADI and NAUI being others that teach diving skills. The primary reason for using SSI is that I don’t have to do things in lockstep order. They seem to be more flexible with your schedule and learning needs.

So, you sign up. I signed up with Sea Stallion Scuba in Lake Forest, CA. It’s only a 4 mile drive from my home. One one weekend, starting on Saturday morning at 8 a.m., we covered classroom and pool activities. However, prior to the classroom bit, you have to be registered for the SSI Open Water online course. The cost was $70 for the online learning portal access. I must add that the videos, and instruction there are top notch. Excellent photos, videos, the works. It’s well worth the $70 even if you never went one step further in your diving education. Not that you’d do that, of course!

Back to the classroom.

Saturday morning, 8 a.m. meet with the dive instructor. For 4 hours, we go over material from the online portion, his notes, and videos. Open discussion, questions, the works. Then we break for lunch. Meet in the back of the shop at noon to pick out wetsuit and BC, tanks, weights. Then head over to the pool in Nellie Gail Ranch for the first pool session.

You learn how to put on you wetsuit. How to put on your tank. How to do whatever it is you need to do or don’t know how to do already.

Do 2 laps of the pool swimming, and tread water for 10 minutes in the deep end of the pool. If you can’t swim, well, what are doing in the water, right? Most people can actually swim, though you might think that’s not really necessary if you have all your scuba gear on and working.

After 4 hours in the pool, doing all kinds of drills, you head back to the dive shop to return your gear.

Sunday morning, meet again at 8 a.m. for more classroom instruction. Our class decided to take the final written test at the end of the classroom instruction. We all finished the 50 question, multiple choice test in about 20 minutes. The test is are review of the online training module, and any notes the instructor may have added. It’s easy, straightforward, and no trick questions are involved. You can miss 10 questions, which means passing is 80%. If you miss a question and can defend your answer, the instructor will not count the missed question against you. Everyone passes.

We then headed to the pool for another 4 hour session, learning how to share air with your dive buddy, locate you regulator, manage buoyancy, and a lot more. You’re preparing for your first open water dive in the ocean. One the pool is complete, you head back to the shop to return your stuff.

My recommendation is to purchase your own gear, and train in your own gear. Making the commitment was the hardest part for me. For some reason, I had reservations that I couldn’t really pinpoint. So I just took the plunge and the commitment part followed immediately. Sometime you just have jump in the water and forget dipping a toe in there first.

Now, I’m waiting to do my first beach dive. We dive out of Crystal Cove in Laguna Beach. That is where I’m headed in about 30 minutes. Going to check it out. I heard the waves were 4 to 5 feet today, which is not good for newbie divers. The scheduled beach dive was cancelled because of this “high surf” which is great for surfing, but not for newbie divers struggling to get beyond the break. Dealing with crashing waves when you’re weighed down with 80 pounds of gear isn’t the easiest thing to do, so they say.

I’ll pick another day, maybe next weekend. And I’ll keep you posted!

To recap:  Call a dive shop. Ask about training. Even better, drive to the dive shop closest to you and talk to the friendly person there about training. They’ll give you the full scoop. You will need to own the basics before your first pool day–a minimum requirement for our shop was fins, mask, snorkel. The rest is provided as part of your training. Again, I encourage you to purchase your own gear. Not a requirement, but well worth it.

Photo below:  That’s me with the silver hair, bent over with the blue and red tank. Just trying to center the weight over my legs. The other folks are on their knees, because this is some heavy gear. You’ll see. This is also a great motivator to get in shape! My position in the photo is also the position a diver assumes when he or she has the “bends.” But that’s a whole different story, which I will address in a later post.



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