So you´re travelling around the world find yourself on a beautiful tropical beach and in a whim decide that you want to go scuba diving (and you totally should!). Or after hearing stories from your friends that just came back from their diving holiday, you decide that you want to take your classes locally.
That´s great, we love people who make spontaneous decisions. But hang on a second; there are a few things you might want to know before you take the plunge.
1. You need to be healthy
Before you start the course, your instructor will have you fill in a medical questionnaire. Not because we’re interested in all your personal medical details, but because some medical conditions don’t go so well with diving and you might want to have them checked out by a professional physician (someone that knows about diving, too!). You can find the questionnaire here. If you want to get certified on holiday it might be a good idea to get a medical statement from home, because doctors abroad don’t always have the same standards and they are not familiar with your medical history.
No worries though, if you have a medical issue or a disability, you are not necessarily excluded from diving. We’re used to accommodating different needs!
2. You also need to be fit, kind of, and be able to swim.
No need to be a bodybuilder or a long-distance open ocean swimmer but we do expect you to carry your own equipment to the water (depending on location, that’s around 15kg for a full set) and not be completely out of breath from a 50m surface swim. It´s not a competition, so setting speed-records is not necessary.
I always ask my students if they can swim and most of the times this question is answered with a snort and ‘of course’ but you will be surprised about the amount of people that sign up for an Open Water Diver Course and have never been in the ocean and/or are not able to swim. This doesn’t have to be a big problem, but do yourself a favor and take swimming lessons before you sign up for the course. It will make you much more comfortable in the water and do wonders for your general safety in/on/around it. You’re gonna spend time on the beach/on boats, you know?
3. It might not always be fun
Of course you want to dive for fun, to enjoy all the beauty that the underwater world has to offer, but especially in the beginning you might feel uncomfortable. You might get water in your nose, you might get water in your eyes, maybe you really, really, REALLY have to pee but you don’t want to pee in your wetsuit, maybe you will get seasick, maybe you will get stung by a jellyfish. Or maybe it just feels plain weird to breathe underwater.
That’s perfectly normal. We’re land-based beings and underwater is not necessarily a natural environment for us, nor one that we’re well-adapted to. That’s why we have to rely on our equipment (or go freediving) and why you’ll spend most of your first dive just overcoming the weirdness of it all. Take your time and it will be ok.
4. We can’t read your mind so talk to us
One of the best things about being a dive instructor is that you get to work with lots of different people, all with different needs, challenges and goals. A good instructor will ask you WHY you want to go diving. Some (most) people just want to swim around and look at all the pretty fish, but for others it is more of a personal challenge. I had one student that was terrified of sharks and one of the reasons that she wanted to dive is to overcome that fear. These are things we need to know!
Although most of us are pretty good at interpreting facial expressions that are partially obscured by a mask and regulator, we can’t read your mind. Nor can we talk underwater, so before and after the dive you need to tell us what you need us to do different and how we can improve (we love constructive criticism). If you need more time, tell us. If you would like to work on a particular skill a bit more, tell us. If you would really like to see a shark, tell us. If you get seasick easily, tell us. Nothing is worse than someone not enjoying a dive because of a small issue that could easily have been addressed.
If there is something you don’t quite understand, if the purpose of a skill is not clear, or if you forgot how to do something, ask us! We rather have you ask too many questions than not enough.
5. You’ll have a very addictive new hobby
Diving is awesome, although I’m biased. Most people that dive for the first time are very positive and sometimes even describe it as a life-changing or spiritual experience. Not necessarily for everyone, but realize that it might become very addictive! Before you know it you’ll opt for a career change and become a dive master or instructor. Trust me, we have been there.
Is there anything you wish you knew before you started your course? Please share in the comments!