Rapture of the Deep!
What’s it like to breathe underwater? The first time I tried it I had to fight my animal instincts that what I was about to do was wrong. Very wrong. Submerged ten feet down in a swimming pool, my fears immediately gave way to euphoria as my initial lungful of air was shockingly, incredibly natural. I was calmly flying in slow motion, as the only sound I heard was my breathing bubbling toward the surface. Initiated into the dreamlike world of SCUBA: Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, I had become a fish, and I was hooked.
For most people who’ve tried, scuba diving has transformed them and planted the seeds of a lifetime obsession. Is it dangerous? As with any adventure sport, some risk is involved. Humans are not built to breathe underwater, which means that every time a diver descends, they are completely dependent upon their equipment, skills, and emergency training to ensure that they surface safely.
This truth, while it may sound frightening, should not discourage prospective divers, but it should encourage them to approach the sport with an appropriate amount of respect. Scuba diving is not dangerous as long as a diver seeks thorough training, follows safe diving guidelines, uses proper gear, and dives within their experience level. According to the “Diver’s Alert Network (DAN) 2010 Diving Fatalities Workshop Report,” a diving fatality occurs in 1 out of every 211,864 dives. How risky is that? Compared to other activities, diving is safer than driving, having a kid, skydiving, or running a marathon. For a responsible diver who seeks training and dives within their limits, the risks of diving are low.
It’s not necessary to be super fit to scuba dive, but you will need to have a basic level of good health. In many areas it’s necessary to have a medical test before scuba diving and it’s probably a good idea to have one even if you don’t need to. You’ll definitely need to be able to swim and float to the minimum standard required in the Open Water Swimming Tests. If you’re not sure you want to learn to dive or just want a quick taste of what is to come in the Open Water course, the Discover Scuba Diving program is for you.
Discover Scuba Diving is PADI’s (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) program that allows those interested in scuba diving to experience what it’s like to dive by completing some basic training and completing one or more dives under the close, direct supervision of a professional. It usually takes between a few hours and two days, and most PADI certified dive shops offer a similar trial program. The only requirements are that you’re at least 10 years old and are in good health. Completion of the Discover Scuba Diving program can be counted as partial completion of the Open Water course. The aim of the program is to have you in the water as soon as possible. There are several other reputable diving certification organizations, another being SSI – Scuba Schools International.
Scuba diving may be performed for a number of reasons, both personal and professional. Recreational diving is performed purely for enjoyment, and includes cave diving, wreck diving, ice diving and deep diving. Recreational diving, in general, allows a direct ascent to the surface and does not exceed no-decompression limits. Some diving associations extend the definition of recreational diving to include diving in an overhead environment – such as in a cavern or shipwreck or under ice – within a specified distance from the surface, provided the divers have proper training and follow safety protocols. For example, PADI allows certified recreational cavern divers to swim into a cavern as long as they remain within 130 feet of the surface. The most common recreational scuba diving certification is the open water diver certification.
There are many area PADI-certified dive shops to choose from, providing training & certification, and diving excursions to close-by lakes as well as exotic Caribbean coral reefs. For a list of area dive shops, see the “Dive Shops” category in the Marine Service Index on page.