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HOW TO BECOME A SCUBA DIVER: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE

If you wish to become a scuba diver or if the underwater world has simply sparked your curiosity, you’ve landed in the right place!
Before you fully immerse yourself, let’s start by dipping your toes into the basics. Scuba diving is more than a pastime; it’s a lifestyle and a commitment to exploring the grandiose underwater world.
Picture this: turquoise waters, schools of colorful fish, the feeling of weightlessness as you float among the coral gardens and the most beautiful creatures you could ever encounter. Intrigued? Here’s how to do it!

 

Step 1: Discover Scuba Dive

The first thing you’ll do is sign up for a Discover Scuba Diving experience (DSD). This introductory course (not certification) is basically a trial. It gives you a taste of the underwater world under the guidance of experienced instructors.

You do this to decide if scuba diving is indeed something you enjoy or if it’s just a one-time thing you did on vacation. During this session, they’ll teach you the basics of scuba diving: how to use the equipment, breathe underwater, and perform very basic scuba skills. You usually start in a pool, and then they’ll take you to shallow open waters so you can dive for the very first time.

become a scuba diver - girl scuba diving in coral reef with small fish

 

My first experience (Discover Scuba Dive) was very interesting. I loved discovering this whole new world; seeing the beautiful fish in their natural habitat was fascinating to me. But at the same time, it was overwhelming, as I wasn’t very comfortable in the water, and all the gear felt extremely heavy and constricting. The wetsuit they provided me with was basically choking me!

All in all, I was clearly not ready for it. Although this was back in 2014, it was only in 2023 that I finally decided to give scuba diving another try, got certified, became obsessed with it, and the rest is history!

As you can imagine, this first dive can make or break your future as a scuba diver. To prevent the latter from happening to you, I recommend doing some research so you can find a reputable dive center. Always check for credentials and customer reviews to ensure you have a positive experience.

Note: If you’re ever offered a “SNUBA” diving experience, skip it. You’re still better off doing a discover scuba dive.

*Depending on the location, the cost of a Discover Scuba Diving experience can range from $60 to $150 USD.


Before you sign up for this introductory experience, know that you need to be physically fit to do it. They will give you a medical questionnaire to fill out to ensure you’re okay to dive. If you do have certain medical issues, you’ll need to discuss them with your doctor beforehand.

Also, having a positive mindset is key for this journey. Staying calm at all times while you’re underwater is one of the most important elements when it comes to scuba diving. If you suffer from anxiety, I recommend seeking professional help ahead of time. Don’t be discouraged if you do! Many divers with anxiety learn how to cope with it and successfully dive.

Step 2: Open Water certification 

After deciding that scuba diving is indeed for you, even if you just plan on diving on holidays, you can now dive into theory by enrolling in a scuba diving certification course. Learn the physics of diving, understand the importance of buoyancy (a key skill for maintaining control and staying at the desired depth), and master the art of using scuba equipment.

There are a few agencies you can choose from to get your certification. The most popular worldwide are PADI and SSI. Beforehand, you’ll want to do your research to help you make that decision. I personally chose PADI because you’ll find them everywhere.

The Open Water (OW) certification typically goes like this:

  • Study the theory:
    You’ll be doing your course either through a self-guided online course or through instruction in a classroom environment, depending on the dive center. This part is extensive, and I think you should take it at least a week before you go for your first physical session. To be honest, this was my least favorite part of the whole experience because you need to digest A LOT of information, and it can be overwhelming. That’s why I recommend taking your time so you can break it down into more manageable studying blocks. After you get tested online, your instructor will also quiz you with around 40 questions.
  • Confined water skills:
    You need to demonstrate that you can swim proficiently for 200 meters without standing in the pool and using any stroke you prefer, as well as treading water OR floating for a specific duration (10 min). Then you’ll go through all the basic skills with your instructor.
    Usually, all the equipment you’ll need for this course will be provided by your dive center. I want to repeat that it’s important you look at reviews. Apart from wanting to have a qualified instructor, you want to make sure they offer you good gear. It’s so important to have good equipment, and I can’t stress that enough!
    Of course, rental gear is not going to be high-end, but it should be decent! Before my OW certification, I bought my own diving shoes, mask, and snorkel. It’s not mandatory, but I wanted to have my own just to feel more comfortable.
    If you want to do the same, research! Diving masks (not goggles!!) need to fit you right; otherwise, they might constantly leak and make your dives very unpleasant.
  • 4 Open Water dives:
    Now it’s time for you to practice everything you’ve learned. You’ll do 2 dives a day. Your instructor will still test you with some skills, but then you can just enjoy the new world you’ve earned access to! (up to 20 meters, as that’s the limit for Open Water divers)

*Depending on the location, the cost of the Open Water Diver course is typically in the range of $250 to $700 USD.

become-a-scuba-diver-girl-with-long-banner-fish

 

Step 3: Dive, Dive, Dive

The ocean is an immense playground, and each dive is a new adventure. You never know what you’ll experience. Practice makes perfect, and the more you dive, the better you’ll get at executing all your skills and feeling more comfortable in the water.

Explore different dive sites, encounter marine life, become more and more aware of yourself and your surroundings, master your buoyancy, refine your skills with each descent. There’s no shortcut to this crucial step!

Once you get the hang of things, diving becomes incredibly rewarding. It all starts becoming natural to you, and all those things you struggled with at the beginning of your journey seamlessly evolve into second nature.

Step 4: Learn about the Ocean

The learning doesn’t stop once you get your certifications. It actually never stops! Once you become a scuba diver, you’ll benefit from learning about the ocean, mainly for safety, environmental awareness, ecological conservation, increased fun during dives, adaptability to changing conditions, and effective communication with buddies and fellow divers.

It’s important to become familiar with marine life, learn their behaviors, and understand how you should behave around them. Similarly, recognize environmental conditions and know what to do under different circumstances.


You can join diving communities online where you’re constantly learning from other divers.
If you’re a woman I recommend joining these Facebook groups:

Girls That Scuba
Scuba Women

 

Step 5: LEVEL UP – Get your Advanced Open Water Certification 

After completing your OW certification, I recommend not rushing the process. I wanted to make sure I was a good enough diver before attempting to move onto the next level.
I said to myself, ‘I’ll do it once I master my buoyancy,’ and I’m very happy I made that decision. I did 25 fun dives in which I consistently practiced all my open water skills. Once I felt ready, I signed up for my AOW certification course.

This course feels much easier as you’re more familiar with the scuba world, so it’s not as overwhelming as the first time around. However, it is very important as it opens up more opportunities for exploration.

The AOW certification typically goes like this:

  • The AOW course consists of both theoretical knowledge development and practical application through five adventure dives (Deep Dive, Underwater Navigation Dive, Peak Performance Buoyancy, Wreck Diving, Night Diving.)
  • Two of the adventure dives are mandatory: the Deep Dive and the Underwater Navigation Dive.
  • The other three dives are elective, and you can choose from a list of options based on your interests and local diving conditions.

*Depending on the location, the cost of the Advanced Open Water Diver course is typically in the range of $250 to $700 USD.

scuba diver woman with whale shark underwater

Follow my under water adventures on Instagram
I’d love to inspire you 🧜🏽‍♀️ 👉🏽 @caroseditorial and @diving.nomads

 

Step 6: Gear Up Like a Pro

Apart from having my own mask, dive computer, wet shoes, and surf suit (I was diving in warm waters), I ended up doing my first 100 dives with rental gear. Although the BCDs and fins were fine, I wasn’t a fan of using communal regulators 💀.

I was on a remote island (Koh Tao, Thailand) where the gear I wanted was basically impossible to get and anything in the dive shops there was at least 2 or 3 times the regular price. So I waited, which in a way was great because I learned everything I didn’t like about certain items and had more of an idea of what would work for me based on my needs and experience.

I knew I wanted to dive for the rest of my life, so the investment had to be done. Once I was back in the UK, I went on a shopping spree and bought all my diving gear and then some more! 💸 Although the shopping process was more difficult than I expected (choosing the right items is not as easy as one might think). I’m now an expert on purchasing recreational dive gear and plan on making a detailed guide so you can benefit from my experience and avoid making preventable mistakes. So stay tuned for that!

Step 4: CHALLENGE YOURSELF

At this point, you’re a confident diver with many dives under your belt. You could always pursue additional courses/certifications and see where your path leads you. You might want to become a dive master, an instructor, get into tech diving, cave diving, wreck diving, or even commercial diving! The possibilities are endless.

I personally make scuba diving a significant part of my life because it feels like entering a different dimension—an obsession of mine. The ocean is simply magnificent. It’s a place where I go to connect with myself and the magical creatures I find along the way.
Whatever has motivated you to get into scuba diving, I hope this guide helps you start your own journey! Happy diving!

For inland adventures check many travel destinations I’ve covered HERE

Don’t forget to FOLLOW my under water adventures on Instagram 🧜🏽‍♀️ 👉🏽 @caroseditorial and @diving.nomads

 

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