Scuba diving is an incredible water sport that my family and I highly recommend to anyone wanting to discover and enjoy the underwater world. Before going under, though, you must understand the basics of gear, breathing, and movement. Scuba diving classes are offered in most diving hotspots around the world, and you must be certified before any diving company will take you out. Your diving instructor will explain each piece of gear you need, where to purchase or rent your gear, and how to use it. This article is a primer to prepare you for your first day of class.

Scuba certification classes take place in a classroom and in water. You will be taught how your body uses air and how to breathe with air tanks. You will learn about air pressure in the tanks and about underwater air pressure and how it affects your body.

To start training, five essential items comprise scuba diving gear: mask, booties, fins, weight belts, and snorkel. These pieces of equipment must be fitted to your body. Each serves an important purpose and is integral to a good diving experience. These items are purchased, not rented. Novice divers can rent wetsuits. However, if you will be diving with any regularity, you will want to purchase your own wetsuit. Divers also generally purchase buoyancy control devices, diving gauges, and scuba regulators, though not until they are nearing certification completion. Air tanks, however, are nearly always rented from a local dive shop. Shops inspect and fill the tanks before and after every use.

To obtain open-water certification, you must be 15 years of age or older. Junior certification is available to those aged 10 to 15. You must be in good health and be able to swim 200 yards and float or tread water for at least 10 minutes. Some diving operations will want to see a doctor’s release if you have health issues like thyroid disease. Diving operators may also not accept people with health issues like asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

About the Author:

Dr. Randy Allan is a primary care physician who practices in the offices of Main Street Medical Clinic in Winnipeg, Canada. Dr. Allan also cares for patients at home, including performing various in-home lab tests. Dr. Allan and his family enjoy diving in locations around the globe including Australia and Thailand.