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Diving FAQ

Is it hard to learn to scuba dive?
How do I get started learning to scuba dive?
How long does it take to become a certified scuba diver?
How old do you have to be to become a certified diver?
Do I have to be a great swimmer to be certified as an Open Water Diver?
Is scuba diving expensive?
What equipment do I need before I take scuba lessons?
I have a medical history. Can I still dive?
My ears hurt when I dive to the bottom of a pool. Will they hurt when I dive?
What are the different certifications?
How long does a tank of air last?
Which piece of equipment should I buy first?
Can I dive in contact lenses?
Are sharks a big concern?
Is scuba diving dangerous?

 

Is it hard to learn to scuba dive?
No, in fact, it's probably easier than you imagine especially if you're already comfortable in the water. Entry-level diver course is split into knowledge development, confined water (pool) skill training and four scuba training dives. The course is "performance based," which means that you progress as you learn and demonstrate knowledge and skill.
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How do I get started learning to scuba dive?
The best way is to visit a local Dive Center.  See our
Links page for some recommendations.
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How long does it take to become a certified scuba diver?
The PADI Open Water Diver course (the beginning course) is typically split into five or six sessions with tremendous flexibility.  The course may be scheduled over as little as 3 or 4 days, or as much as 5 or 6 weeks, or anything in between, depending upon the student needs and logistics.  As a rule of thumb, most students complete their initial certification in 3 or 4 weeks.
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How old do you have to be to become a certified diver?
12 years old. If you're between 12 and 15, you receive a Junior Open Water Diver certification, which means you should dive with a certified adult.  When you turn 15, you can upgrade your Junior certification to a regular Open Water Diver certification.
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Do I have to be a great swimmer to be certified as an Open Water Diver?
You need to be is a reasonably proficient swimmer who is comfortable and relaxed in the water. The swimming requirement for certification is an easy 200 yard non-stop swim (with no time or specific stroke requirement) and 10 minutes treading water.
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Is scuba diving expensive?
Like any hobby or recreation, you can invest a lot or a little, depending upon your interest level.  Because most dive centers and resorts rent equipment, you can invest in equipment over time, renting what you don't have until you make the investment. Besides distant dive destinations, you probably have good diving not too far from where you live, so even travel costs are flexible enough to accommodate even the tightest budget. To pick an average, most people find the costs of scuba diving similar to those associated with snow skiing.
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What equipment do I need before I take scuba lessons?
Scuba courses vary in what equipment they provide, so it's best to check with your instructor ahead of time. Generally speaking, though, you'll probably want your own mask, snorkel and fins, which are all pieces of equipment that are most comfortable when personally fitted. Your local Dive Center or Resort can help you select quality equipment that fits right and lasts.
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I have medical history. Can I still dive?
To do a diving course you will first be required to have a dive medical. Failing this medical, or having certain pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and epilepsy will prevent you from diving. So will pregnancy.
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My ears hurt when I dive to the bottom of a pool. Won't they hurt when I scuba dive?
Your ears hurt because water pressure pushes in on your eardrum. In your scuba course, you'll learn a simple technique to equalize your ears to the surrounding pressure, much like you do when you land in an airplane, and they won't hurt at all.
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I'm planning on getting certified. I've been to several shops, and they all offer different certifications. I've heard of PADI, NAUI, YMCA, NASDS and SSI. Which one should I go with?
This question is frequently asked.  The short answer is that agencies all must follow a minimum standard set by an industry organization, so they differ less than you might expect. However, instructors differ a lot, and you should try to talk to the instructor you will be taking the course from and determine exactly what will be offered, and how you feel about them. Finally, some instructors add significantly to the standard course (and may also charge more). You should ask exactly what you are going to get for your course fees, what else you will have to buy, and where you have to buy it.
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How long does a tank of air last?
This is a common question that, unfortunately, doesn't have a single answer. People breathe at different rates, and you breathe faster when you're swimming than when you're resting. Also, the deeper you go, the faster you use your air, and, you can get different size tanks. So, the answer is "it depends;" this is why divers have a gauge that tell them how much air they have at all times.

As an approximation, though, a diver sightseeing in calm, warm water in the 15 foot to 30 foot range can expect the average tank to last about an hour.
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I'm new to diving, and I want to buy some equipment. Which piece of equipment should be the first?
There are two schools of thought on this. One is that you should consider only purchasing your personal gear until you are sure what type of diving you like. This school believes you should buy only mask, fins, and snorkel, for fit and sanitary reasons. The other school of thought is that the rental gear you can rent, especially in tropical locations, is second rate and poorly maintained, and that gear you purchase will be better and more reliable. Typically, people agree that you should not buy a tank until you believe that you will be doing a significant amount of local diving.
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Can I dive in contact lenses?
The safety of contacts revolves around several issues:

Will nitrogen absorption affect the contacts?
It is possible that non-gas-permeable contacts will get bubbles under them. For this reason, if you do wear contacts, they should be gas permeable or soft, or they should have holes drilled in them.

What is the likelihood of losing a contact under water?
If you get water in your mask, and you open your eyes, you might lose a contact. It might stay in your mask, in which case you can possibly recover it. If you will be dangerous to yourself without contacts, (not able to see well enough to find the boat, and not used to dealing with things by sound) then this could be serious. You also have to consider the possibility that your mask will come off underwater, and that you will have to open your eyes to find it and replace it, and that your contacts might come off during this process. Losing contacts in the water has happened to a number of people.

What about the possibility of infection?
You are always at increased risk of eye infection when you wear contacts. There is some possibility that there are bacteria in the water that will increase the risk of eye infection. Quick treatment in the case of contact related infection is important. 

At least one study has indicated that there is an increased possibility of Acanthamoeba infection when swimming with contact lenses. Other practitioners, who do prescribe soft contacts for swimmers, claim that there is no proof that the contacts were the proximate cause of the infections, but give no arguments as to why they feel that there is no correlation.


Are there any special considerations regarding soft contact lenses?
Yes. Dr. Soni, Associate professor of Optometry at Indiana University has participated in a study which showed that 100% of soft contact lenses used in pool swimming were contaminated, when cultured. Normally, soft contact lenses are made up of a certain percentage of water. They absorb this water from your tears, and the amount of water they absorb is at least partially dependent on the salt content of your tears. When you swim with contact lenses, and you open your eyes, the lens readjust to the water content of the liquid you are swimming in. This causes them to stick to your corneas. It is claimed that it takes 1/2 hour after swimming for the lenses to equilibrate to tears, and that removal of the lenses before they equilibrate can damage the cornea, creating a "clear passage into the cornea for the bacteria from the contaminated lenses, which will cause infection." Even practitioners who strongly believe in swimming with contact lenses feel that disclaimers should be given when prescribing the lenses for this purpose. The lenses are not approved by the US FDA for swimming, but this may be just because no tests have been done.

Now, many people wear contacts in the ocean without problems, whereas others prefer prescription masks. If you have simple myopia, there are several brands of masks with snap in lenses that can be made up quickly in your dive shop. If you have a more complex prescription, there are optometrists who can glue lenses into your mask. Many people seem to really like these.
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In the movies and on TV, divers are always running into sharks or eels.  Are marine animals really much of a concern?
Virtually all aquatic animals are passive or timid. There are a few that can bite or sting defensively, but you can avoid these simply by watching where you put your hands and feet, and by not touching any animal you don't recognize. Divers aren't natural prey for sharks, so shark attacks are very rare -- more people die each year from bee stings than shark attack.
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Is scuba diving dangerous?
Not really. Statistics show that recreational scuba diving is about as safe as swimming. Certainly there are potential hazards -- which is why you need training and certification -- but like driving a car, as long as you follow the rules and use common sense, it's pretty safe.
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