If you always wanted to explore the underwater world floating weightlessly like an astronaut, exploring unusual underwater creatures like a researcher, or acting like a treasure hunter looking for lost objects then scuba diving can make your dreams come true!

Scuba Diving is easier than what you might think and it only requires a small amount of time for training to get started. Whatever your purpose for scuba diving, once you get into it then you will have the full access to the 70% of the world which you once never had access to.

Here, we will help you get a spectacular experience of what’s underwater following this beginner’s guide for scuba diving.

The Physical Prerequisites for Scuba Diving

With the help of advanced diving equipment and proper training, everyone of all shapes and sizes can engage into scuba diving. Mostly, people who are physically fit and those who love the water can easily learn to scuba dive.

However, there are a few restrictions and medical conditions which can prevent you from scuba diving. Make sure to check with your physician for the physical requirements you need to meet before you enroll in a scuba diving course.

Basic Health Assessment for Divers

Are you pregnant or attempting to conceive?

Are you taking any prescription medications? (Anti-malarial and birth control pills are exempted.)

Are you over 45 years old? If yes, are you engaged to one of more of the following listed below:

Currently smoking cigarettes or a pipe?

Has a high level of cholesterol?

Has a history of stroke or heart attack/heart disease in the family?

Currently receiving medical treatment?

Has Hypertension?

Has diabetes that’s not controlled by diet modification alone?

Or if you ever had or presently have:

Has any form of lung, heart or other medical ailments?

Has behavioral, psychological, or mental problems (fear of closed or open spaces, panic attacks)

History of fainting or blackouts?

Has decompression sickness?

Has had ear disease, hearing loss problems or any types of surgery?

Has bleeding tendencies?

Before heading to the waters, you will need to complete a medical questionnaire like above and will be asked to get a physician’s clearance if they have any existing medical conditions. This way, you can be assured that going full steam ahead with scuba diving course will not cause any problems to your physical health.

What is the Right Age for Scuba Diving?

The scuba diving age requirements often vary among different countries and organizations, but as a general rule, children starting from 8 years old can be allowed to scuba dive, but it all depends on their level of maturity.

Presently, there’s no upper age limits that exists for scuba divers as long as you passed the physical and medical examinations required for scuba diving.

Do you have to Know How to Swim before Scuba Diving?

Well, not exactly. But, before enrolling in a scuba diving course, you have to be relatively comfortable in the water. While it is not necessarily a requirement that you should know how to swim, a diving student must not be so terrified with going into the deeper end of the swimming pool.

Better yet, it is always a good idea to learn the basics of swimming first before trying out a more advanced course. In order to earn a scuba diving certification, one must pass a scuba diving watermanship assessment, which varies upon the certification level and the organization you’re planning to enroll in.

Can I Scuba Dive Even if I Have a Disability?

Yes! You can.

In fact, scuba diving has increasingly becoming popular among people with disabilities. There are a lot of scuba diving organizations dedicated to helping and teaching people with disabilities to do scuba diving.

All new scuba divers should learn how to efficiently use their bodies to adapt in a completely different environment. With the help of different adaptive diving gear developed for divers who are experiencing difficulties in using the standard diving gear and equipment, it is possible for disabled divers to move freely underwater.

Scuba Diving Must Haves: Technology, Gear and Equipment

scuba diving gear

Photo via Amazon.com

When you’ve finally decided to get ‘committed’ on scuba diving, consider buying diving gear in 2 phases:

First, you’ll have to consider all the basic things you need for your scuba diving class;

Second, buy all the major pieces of equipment—regulator, buoyancy control device and dive computer, and many others that you’ll need to purchase once you finally got your certification.
First off, let’s start with the basic gear for scuba diving.

Dive Mask

dive masks

Image via Amazon

Diving masks protect the diver’s eye when scuba diving. It allows you to see the environment underwater freely and aid your vision so that you can see not much differently while underwater than you would above it.

What to Look for: Choosing a mask is all about personal preference so just make sure that the mask you choose has a good, watertight fit.

Snorkel

snorkel

Image via Amazon

Snorkel is a simple curved tube that lets you breath while face down and floating on the surface of the water. As a diver, the primary use of a snorkel is to conserve the air in your tank especially if you’re just on the water’s surface.

What to Look for: You will want to choose a snorkel that breathes dry and feels comfortable in your mouth. Also look for a snorkel that attaches easily to your mask.

Diving Fins

diving fins

In order to move easily through the water, you will have to buy a great set of flippers too. Fins convert the power from your leg muscles into effective movement through the water.

What to Look for: When choosing for the right fins, look for the ones that has a snug fit and doesn’t bind the arches of your foot or pinch your toes.

Exposure Protection Suits

dive protection suits

Image via Amazon

Exposure protection suits are used for insulation and serve as your protection against the cooling effects of the water, which can rob off your body heat at least 25 times faster than the air. Form fitting exposure suits are usually made from spandex like materials, foam neoprene rubber or a fleece lining.

What to Look for: Exposure suits are meant to fit snugly on your body without restricting your movements or causing difficulty in breathing. Always choose an exposure suit that’s fit and comfortable and reject any suit that is too loose on your body.

For the next set of more advanced scuba diving gear, the list goes the following:

The BCs (Buoyancy Compensators)

scuba dive bc

Image via Amazon

BC (Buoyancy Compensator Device) is the most complex thing you’ll own once you engage in scuba diving. The BCs let you hold your gear in place while allowing you to carry an air tank with ease and minimal effort. It also allows you to float at the water surface and helps you acquire neutral buoyancy at any depth.

What to Look for: When choosing BC, look for the one with the right size and fit. Before trying one on, wear your exposure suit and check if it snuggly fits and doesn’t squeeze your body when inflated. BCs should not restrict your breathing and ensure that all the straps, pockets and adjustments are easy to use and within reach.

Regulators

dive regulators

Image via Amazon

Regulators convert the high-pressure air within your tank into air that you can breathe. A regulator also brings air into other places like in your BC inflator.

What to Look for: Look for a regulator with high performance and with a comfortable mouthpiece. The best regulators are the ones delivering a high volume of air even under heavy exertion and low tank pressures.

Dive Computers

dive computers

Image via Amazon

Dive computers allow you to constantly monitor depth and bottom time and recalculate your no decompression status, thus allowing longer dive times and keeping you in a safe envelope of no decompression time. Computers also monitor your tank pressure, ascent rate, log your dives and many more.

What to Look for: Choose dive-computers that are packed with helpful features and have a user-friendly interface. Even the most feature packed computers will be rendered useless if you can’t easily access some of the basic info you need such as depth, decompression status, time and tank pressure.

Mounting options are also an important feature to consider as this lets you position your dive computers where it will easily be accessible like your wrist, hoses, gauge consoles, or BCs. Before you buy, check out the user’s manual to see the special features and the user-friendliness of the machine.

The Basics of Scuba Diving: Essential Diving Theories You Must Learn

Underwater Pressure

Pressure underwater is different from the pressure above it, and it does affect aspects of scuba diving such as buoyancy, equalization, risk of decompression sickness and the bottom time. Review these basic concepts related to scuba diving to know how to dive safely.

  • Air is not weightless. Yes, in fact air has weight. The weight of air exerts about 14.7 psi of pressure on your body. This amount of pressure is referred to as ‘one atmosphere of pressure’ or the amount of pressure that the earth’s atmosphere exerts. In scuba diving, pressure measurements are in the units of atmosphere or ‘ATA’.
  • As the depth increases, pressure also increases. The deeper a diver descends in the water, the more pressure there is that’s exerted on his body. The pressure that is exerted on a diver at any depth is the combination of the pressures above him: both from the air and the water.
  • Air is compressed by water pressure. Air spaces, dive gear and air in a diver’s body will compress as the pressure increases and vice versa. This is according to the Boyle’s Law.

Boyle’s Law:       Air Volume =

This means that as you go deeper into the water, the more that the air is compressed.

For example, if the pressure measures 2 ATA, then the volume of compressed air is  of the original size of the air at the surface.

The Four Basic Aspects of Diving

Equalization- As the diver descends into the water, the pressure increases and causes the air in his body to compress. Delicate membranes, such as the eardrums are being sucked into our body’s air spaces like vacuum that’s why it causes pain and potential injury if you do not properly equalize your ears for scuba diving.

On the contrary, upon ascent, there is a decrease in pressure in the diver’s body, thus causing the air spaces to expand. The positive pressure that the diver experiences as he ascends through the water can lead to a reverse block or a pulmonary barotrauma—pressure related injury that could burst a diver’s eardrums or lungs.

To avoid pressure related injuries when scuba diving, a diver needs to perform equalization of the pressure in his body’s air spaces with the pressure around him. To do this, you need to follow these steps.

  • To equalize the body’s air spaces, the diver needs to add air to his body’s air spaces to neutralize the ‘vacuum’ effect as you go deeper in the water. You can do this by:
    • breathing normally- this adds to the lungs as you inhale
    • exhaling through the nose- this adds air to your mask
    • following ear equalization techniques- this adds air to your ears and sinuses

How to Equalize your Ears?

There are a lot of ways to equalize your ears and it is very easy as it sounds. Any of the following techniques will help you prevent pressure related injuries to the ears:

  • Wiggle your Jaw or simply swallowAs you descend through the water while keeping the regulator in your mouth, simply swallow or just wiggle your jaw.
  • Valsalva ManeuverGently pinch your nostrils and blow through your pinched nose.
  • Frenzel Maneuverperform a gentle Valsalva maneuver and swallow at the same time.

As a general rule, a diver should equalize his ears before he actually feels discomfort or pain when diving. Most divers do equalization a few feet from the surface and repeatedly do it upon descending every few feet in the water. There is no such thing as ‘over-equalization’, so feel free to do it if you feel like you have to. Also keep in mind that if you ascend a little, you’ll have to re-equalize your ears as you descend again in the water.

  • To equalize your body’s air spaces as you ascend, you have to release the air from your air spaces so it doesn’t become overfull as the air expands through pressure changes. You can do this by:
    • breathing normally- this releases air from the lungs as you exhale
    • ascending gradually to allow extra air in the ears, mask and sinuses to bubble out on their own.

Usually, divers are not required to manually equalize their ears on their ascent as it usually happens automatically. The water pressure decreases upon ascent so the extra air pressure in the middle ear automatically releases out of the Eustachian tube.

But if in case, the diver’s ears do not automatically equalize, you have to manually equalize them by the help of Toynbee Maneuver. To do this, just gently pinch your nose to close and then swallow to create a negative pressure and help suck out the extra air pressure from the middle ear.

  • Buoyancy- Divers can control their buoyancy or their ability to float up, sink or remain neutral through their BCD (Buoyancy Compensator) and by adjusting their lung volume.

As the diver descends, the pressure increases, therefore causing the air in his wetsuit and BCD to compress. As a result, he becomes negatively buoyant which causes him to sink. If he doesn’t compensate to his increasing negative buoyancy by adding air to his BCD, he’ll find himself experiencing an uncontrolled descent.

On the opposite, as the diver ascends, the air in his wetsuit and BCD expands thus making the diver positively buoyant. As he floats up the surface, the pressure decreases and causes the air in his body and dive gear to expand.

This speed up the diver’s ascent and it could be dangerous if not properly controlled. In order to counteract this rapid ascent, the diver must continuously vent out air from his Buoyancy Control Device to avoid Decompression Sickness. Newer guidelines suggest that a diver is allowed to ascend 30 feet per minute, although 60 feet per minute can also be accepted.

  • Bottom Time- refers to how long a diver can stay under the water before he should begin his ascent. Bottom time is affected by ambient pressure in 2 important ways:
  • First, Bottom time is reduced as there is an increase in air consumption. We’ve all known that the air a diver breathes in is compressed by ambient pressure underwater. So, if a diver goes 33 feet down the water, or equivalent to 2 ATA of pressure, the air that he breathes is compressed into ½ of its original surface volume.

This means that it takes twice as much air that the diver inhales to fill his lungs underwater than it normally does in the surface. The bottom line is, as the diver goes deeper into the water, he will use up his available air more quickly, thus reducing bottom time when scuba diving.

  • Second, Bottom time is reduced as there is an increase in Nitrogen absorption. The greater the surrounding pressure, the more quickly the diver’s body is going to absorb nitrogen. A person can only allow certain amount of nitrogen absorption before he should start his ascent, otherwise he faces a risk of decompression illness. The deeper the diver goes into the water, the lesser the bottom time he has before his body absorbs the maximum amount of allowable nitrogen.
  • Quick Changes in Pressure Causes Decompression Sickness- As stated above, an increase in pressure underwater causes our body to absorb more nitrogen than we normally do at the surface. As a diver, we should ascend slowly to allow nitrogen gas to expand and be safely eliminated from the body through exhalation.

However, if we ascend faster than what’s recommended, our body goes through a great change of pressure too fast that our body lacks the ability to eliminate all the excess nitrogen. This allows nitrogen bubbles to stay in our blood and body tissues, thus can interfere with the normal blood flow of the body, causing stroke like symptoms, paralysis and other problems which can lead to death. Rapid changes in ambient pressure are the most common root of Decompression Sickness (DCS).

Scuba Diving Lessons

You need to sign up for a scuba diving lesson and get certified before you can go ahead with scuba diving.

Here are some of the things that you can learn in scuba diving class.

Most Common Hand Signals Used for Scuba Diving

Practicing good communication skills is the key to an enjoyable and safe scuba diving. Using hand signals is necessary to show intentions, such as whether you’re going up or down, or ask your dive buddy if they are okay or to point out a problem. Refer to the image below for the most commonly used hand signals when scuba diving.

 

Image from PADI.com

Pre-Dive Safety Check

A pre-dive safety check normally includes five steps and it is done in the same order right before a diver jumps off the water. The steps include:
1. BCD (Buoyancy Compensator)– the first step includes checking if the buoyancy compensators functions well and are inflated before a diver dives into the water. Inflate and deflate your BCD and confirm if your buddy’s BCD also functions properly.
2. Weights– the second step is to confirm if the diver is wearing his weight system in place. The quick release system should be visible and accessible.
3. Releases– Check the buoyancy compensator’s releases and make sure they are snug. Check on your buddy’s releases to confirm that his clips as closed correctly and the straps are tightened adequately.
4. Air- Checking the air regulator is the fourth step of the pre-dive safety check. Confirm that the regulator functions properly, the tanks are full and the tank valves are open. A full tank has close to 200 bar or 3000 psi, an open tank valve shows that the gauge needle doesn’t drop significantly to nearly zero after 3 or 4 breaths, and breathing in the regulator should feel easy and comfortable.
5. Final Okay– Take a final glance at your gear and your buddy’s gear and ensure that everything’s in place. All the hoses should be secured in their proper positions and both of you should be wearing masks and fins.
Finally, you will soon learn and master all the scuba diving basics once you enroll in a scuba diving course. Watch this comprehensive video to help you with the mastery of such skills before your first official dive in the water as a scuba diver. Happy watching!

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