Unlock the door into the exclusive ocean world, with a scuba diving certification this summer. Here are our 10 essential tips that will prepare you to jump right in
By Shuvajit Payne and Kunal Bhatia
Your own rhythmic breathing echoes in your ears as you descend into the serene, blue abyss. Delve deeper and you reach a magical wonderland of vibrant colours, finned creatures and enchanting natural formations. It’s as if you’re in a surreal fantasy movie, but this isn’t make-believe — scuba diving is the key to this exhilarating reality of the underwater world. It takes extensive training to balance wonder with safety. Here is how to prepare for this otherworldly adventure:
Also known as a “try dive,” this experience is like a “try before you buy” option designed for first-timers curious to explore the deep seas. A common activity at beach vacation spots, Discover Scuba provides a quick, safe and controlled experience underwater with the guidance of a certified trainer. You’ll spend a full day with an instructor, who will give you a quick briefing on equipment, breathing techniques and basic safety protocols, before taking you on an epic-but-brief underwater dip, usually to a maximum depth of 30 feet. This experience will help you gain confidence in the water and decide if scuba diving is for you. For many, this is literally the first plunge before diving deeper into a long-term commitment.
PADI, SSI, NAUI, CMAS, SDI and many more scuba certifications exist, and the number of acronyms can be overwhelming. For a beginner, PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and SSI (Scuba Schools International) are the biggest names accepted in most diving spots worldwide. However, since the actual training is done by local dive shops, it’s critical to make sure they’re legit and accredited. Check out their reputation and reviews so that you don’t end up with some sketchy centre that just throws you into the water with a tank. Tanuj Mehta, a CMAS 2-star diver, shares, “Don’t skimp on research and don’t go for the cheapest option. Talk to the dive shop and the trainer to make sure they meet your expectations.” A skilled and inspiring first-instructor will shape your lifelong love for the seas.
PLAN AND SCHEDULE
Your first certification will be for Open Water diving and that requires far more time commitment than a quick vacation activity. The finest scuba learning centres in India are along the stunning coastlines of Goa, Puducherry, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra, or off the mainland in Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands. Choose a month, when you can avoid the monsoons and the crowds. Before you book your ticket, keep in mind that you’ll need to dedicate a minimum of 4 days solely to the course and that you cannot fly for at least 24 hours after your last dive for scientific reasons.
GET FIT AND FIERCE
Diving may seem like a relaxing weightless experience, but it’s physically demanding, too. Divers must handle heavy equipment, carry around weights to manage their buoyancy underwater, jump off boats and later climb back up. All of this requires physical fitness, so get your heart pumping and muscles flexing with some old-fashioned cardio and strength training. As Tanuj wisely advises, the first few dives will test your endurance. “It could be hot above water, low visibility underwater, and you might feel tired or hungry. Stick with it — it gets easier the more you dive.”
JUST KEEP SWIMMING
Before you dive into the big blue ocean, start practicing at the deep end of a pool. It’s critical to feel comfortable underwater, surrounded by water and to develop a deep love for all things aquatic. Swimming is an excellent way to improve your ability to control breathing and conserve oxygen underwater, which can prolong your dive time. Most open water certification courses require you to demonstrate that you can float for at least 10 minutes and swim 200 metres. Regular swimming and snorkelling can help build endurance and improve technique, so you can dive like a pro in no time.
Are you familiar with the pop in your ear when gulping during a flight? Well, that’s exactly what equalisation is — balancing the pressure between your middle ear and the outside environment. Mastering this technique is essential to preventing ear injuries while scuba diving. You can try swallowing, pinching your nose and blowing gently, or maybe even beatboxing (just kidding, that won’t work).
And if you thought you’d never need math, think again. Dive tables are important for planning dives and avoiding decompression sickness. So, brush up on those quick calculations to figure out how long you can safely stay underwater, based on your depth and air consumption.
SET THE RIGHT
Many enthusiasts get scuba-certified for the sole purpose of earning that uber-cool diver tag. Rather, the first certification is just the beginning. The thrill of diving and the opportunities to discover new worlds, all possibilities lie ahead. Best not to expect recreation during the course. “Usually, these dives are done in a sandy area in which there probably won’t be too much marine life to see. These initial dives are meant to familiarise yourself with all the different skills involved,” shares Tanuj. Perhaps in the future you may want to explore underwater photography, go deeper into shipwrecks and caves; maybe opt for a career in marine conservation or as a rescue diver.
If the aspiration is to master the deep blue sea, persistence is necessary. This is true for all learning occasions. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t nail everything on your first try. Becoming a skilled diver takes time and experience, so cut yourself some slack. If you’re feeling anxious or nervous, talk to your instructor and keep at it. The underwater world is a strange and wondrous place, so don’t be surprised if you feel a bit overwhelmed. Adhere to safety protocols, follow your instructor closely and be safe.
ALL YOU NEED IS
Don’t go broke buying gear — the dive shop has got you covered. No need for purchasing flashy wetsuits either. Just throw on something comfortable to swim in. But one thing worth hunting for is a dive buddy. Even after certification, diving is always recommended in pairs. A diving partner is like your bae in the sea world, boosting your confidence and practising buddy skills with you — communicating through gestures, signalling and sharing air. Being connected to other aspiring divers will also keep your diving enthusiasm surging.
MARINE LIFE AND THE
The vibrant marine environment is actually a vulnerable ecosystem, susceptible to deep damage from external agents. Having epiphanic moments intertwined with the fragile oceans, every diver becomes its responsible guardian. Imagine the excitement when you find Nemo on your first dive or perhaps go on to swim with sharks and huge manta rays. To share that experience forward with newbie scuba learners, comes the responsibility of understanding, respecting and protecting the oceans. So, even before you plunge, binge-watch content about the planet’s marine heritage and its challenge to ignite a childlike curiosity and sense of discovery.
Reproduced with permission from Mansworldindia.com