The ocean has mystified humanity since the beginning of time. Watching the endless stream of waves crash down as the salty ocean breeze sparked our ancestor’s sensors into life is deeply rooted in what makes us human.
As we slowly evolved as a species, so did our desire to explore the dark depths of the ocean. What started as a necessity to gather vital resources from the sea quickly changed into a pastime that people from all around the world took part in.
In modern-day times, there is a whole industry based on exploring the ocean called scuba diving. Today, we’ll take a deeper look at what scuba diving is, its history, and why so many people around the world adore the practice.
What is Scuba Diving?
Scuba diving is a type of underwater activity that involves the use of a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) to help the user breathe underwater. While the scuba is arguably the most important piece of equipment, divers also make use of a variety of other equipment when diving.
- Regulator – Used to regulate the amount of Oxygen a diver breathes in while underwater.
- Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) – Used to control the divers’ buoyancy underwater.
- Full Face Scuba Mask – This allows a diver to see clearly underwater.
- Fins/flippers – Helps the diver swim swiftly and efficiently underwater.
- Depth Gauge – Used to tell a diver how deep they are.
In some cases, scuba divers will also wear something called a wetsuit which is used to help a diver stay warm underwater. However, a wetsuit is not necessary for places with a warm climate. Using a dive watch is also relatively common amongst scuba divers looking to keep track of how long they’ve been in the water, which helps them know how much oxygen they have left.
The art of scuba diving is not particularly competitive. Instead, the activity is used as a means to explore the depths of the ocean while also learning about the plethora of marine life that calls it home.
Scuba diving can also be used in more practical ways like recovering missing items and in some cases, missing people. As you would imagine, recovering missing items and people doesn’t only take place in broad daylight in the ocean. In fact, there are many types of dives that differ in their own way.
Different Types of Scuba Diving
Based on depictions of scuba diving in the media, you would be forgiven for thinking there was only one type of diving, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. These are the different types of scuba diving that the media doesn’t always show you.
Open Water Diving
Open water diving is when a diver or group of divers plunge into the ocean from the side of a boat. These dives usually last for around an hour.
As the name suggests, shore diving is when a scuba diver ventures into the ocean from the shoreline instead of a boat. This is usually at beaches that have stunning reefs just offshore.
Drift diving is when a diver or group of divers use the natural current of the ocean to move them along. While this may sound dangerous at first, qualified diving schools and instructors will only select locations with a weak to mild current, meaning divers can easily swim against the current if they feel the need to do so.
Jumping into the ocean under the cover of darkness might seem like quite a scary thing to do, but it’s actually the exact opposite. During these types of dives, a scuba diver is able to see fascinating marine life that they would otherwise never get to see. These include illusive shrimp, lobsters, crabs, and stunning bioluminescent creatures like glowing jellyfish.
It’s not all done in the dark, though, as night divers always carry a strong underwater flashlight with them.
When people think of scuba diving, the first thing that comes to mind is exploring the wide expanse of the ocean, but there is a different kind of scuba diving that takes place far away from the sea. Altitude diving is the practice of diving into a lake or body of water at least 300 meters or 1000 feet above sea level.
Performing an altitude dive requires a significant amount of training and is usually conducted by the best of the best. This is because surfacing from a dive at 1000 feet above sea level could potentially lead to decompression sickness, which can ultimately cause death.
How to Become a Scuba Diver
Becoming a certified scuba diver is easier said than done. In order to become a scuba diver, you’ll need to do more than just strap a scuba tank to your back and dive into the ocean.
The process of becoming a scuba diver is usually done in three phases. The first phase will see you learning about the basics of scuba diving. This includes choosing the right diving gear, different things to consider when planning a dive, and the many different underwater signals and other diving procedures. This part is mostly theory and is done to ensure that you know what to expect before diving into the ocean.
The next phase will see you conducting a confined water dive, which takes place in a closed-off body of water like a swimming pool. During this phase, you’ll learn about the following:
- The correct way to set up your gear
- The correct way to enter and exit the water
- How to remove water or debris from your goggles
- How to control your buoyancy
- Underwater navigation
- The different safety procedures
The final phase of becoming a certified diver will see you and your trainer conduct your first open water dives. During this phase, you’ll put what you learned in the previous stages to the test. You will usually complete around four or five open water dives with your instructor before you’re certified to go scuba diving alone.
In terms of how long it takes to become a qualified scuba diver, that all depends on the individual. The main purpose of the instructor is to ensure that you become a confident and comfortable diver, not to rush you through the process. Certain individuals can obtain their diving certificates in just a few weeks, while others may take months to receive their diving certificates.
Requirements for Learning How to Scuba Dive
In order to receive your scuba diving certification, there are a few basic requirements that you’ll have to meet.
Different countries and organizations have different rules regarding the minimum age for scuba diving. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) has a minimum age limit of 10 years old. On the other hand, the Recreational Scuba Training Council (RSTC) has a minimum age of 15 years old. We suggest doing research on diving schools in your country to determine if your child is an appropriate age to receive their scuba diving certificate.
Physical Test & Medical Questionnaire
In order to become a scuba diver, you’ll need to conduct a physical test along with completing a medical questionnaire.
As part of your physical exam, you’ll need to prove to your instructor that you have basic water skills. This includes floating and treading water for 10 minutes and completing a 200-yard swim while wearing a mask, fins, and a snorkel.
The medical questionnaire is simply questions that relate to your health and any conditions that might affect you while scuba diving. Suppose you do suffer from any conditions that could affect your diving ability. In that case, you’ll need to visit a doctor to get their go-ahead before continuing with your scuba diving certification.
Final Thoughts on Scuba Diving
The art of scuba diving as we know it today stretches back all the way to the 1940s when Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Émile Gagnan designed and tested the first open-circuit scuba system.
Ever since then, the technology and methods surrounding scuba diving have evolved to new levels, and we’re now able to explore parts of the oceans that our ancestors could only dream of.
If you’re looking to take up a new hobby, we highly suggest you consider getting your scuba diving certificate. Not only is it a good skill to have that can be put to use anywhere that has a large body of water, but it will allow you the opportunity to venture into places that very few people have seen before.
If you plan on going on an adventure in the near future, check out our guide on Adventure Preparation to ensure you don’t injure yourself!