Both Lucy and Ellie are PADI certified, so some of these answers may be skewed towards our experience and PADI teachings.
What is scuba diving?
Scuba diving is a sport, using Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) to help those with the correct training explore the underwater world. Once you have completed the basic course with a recognised organisation (PADI, SSI, BSAC, RAID) you can get other qualifications to help you dive with more confidence and in different environments.
What do you have to do to learn to scuba dive?
To learn to scuba dive you have to complete a number of knowledge reviews, exams, and skill circuits before you can get into the water.
The classroom time and knowledge reviews can take a couple of days, interspersed with pool skills where you will learn the essentials for scuba diving comfort and safety underwater. These include (but are not limited to):
- buoyancy practice
- mask clear and removal/replace
- regulator (mouthpiece) removal/recovery
- procedures to follow in case of an emergency underwater
Once you have mastered these in the pool you will move to the open water where you’ll do the skills again but will be able to swim about and enjoy the view!
To complete your open water you will have to complete 200 m continuous surface swim or 300m swim with mask, fins, and snorkel and a 10m float/tread water.
Is it expensive to learn to dive?
As with most activities, it depends on where in the world you are learning and who you choose to qualify with. Based on PADI, prices range from £300-500 for your Open Water course, which includes your equipment hire. There are a few ways to complete your open water course:
- eLearning in advance of confined and open water dives (a time saver)
- Confined and exams in advance and referral to complete open water dives abroad (an even better time-saver if you are close to a local dive school)
- Complete everything abroad
Do you have to be a good swimmer to be able to scuba dive?
While you don’t need to be a marathon swimmer, you do need to be able to swim! To complete your open water you will have to complete 200 m continuous surface swim or 300m swim with mask, fins, and snorkel and a 10m float/tread water.
Once you’re certified the amount of swimming you’ll be doing is completely dependent on the environment you are diving in. There is often a little bit of current out in the ocean. Depending on your entry and exit points you may be able to complete a drift diving meaning a strong swim isn’t really required. However you must be prepared to swim a little against the current at some point!
Do you have to own your own equipment?
No, you don’t! Scuba diving equipment can be expensive and really the price can be reassuring given you are relying on properly functioning equipment to keep you alive as you explore the oceans! All dive centres and liveaboards offer equipment hire, and some even include the equipment hire in the price of the fun dive.
As you gain experience and try out different types of equipment you’ll begin to get a sense for what you like to dive with, which might inform what you purchase. For those looking to get started but not knowing where to begin we would suggest looking into a mask and a dive computer to get started, with fins following a close third!
Does it feel claustrophobic?
There are a few factors which some divers might find claustrophobic when they get started.
- Firstly, you are surrounded by water! This in itself is an alien experience and takes some getting used to. Your hearing is affected by water and this, partnered with changes in your vision from wearing a mask and the feeling of breathing through a mouthpiece, can be a lot to take in to begin with.
- Breathing through a mouthpiece can also take some getting used to. It can be quite noisy and sometimes this, partnered with just being able to breathe through your mouth (and not your nose) can be a bit overwhelming.
- The other factor can be wearing a mask. It can sometimes feel like you have lost your peripheral vision making your view small and closed in. There are lots of masks now that are clear plastic or silicone which can give you a wider field of vision.
- Finally, although dive equipment for the most part should and can be comfortable, it can take a little getting used to. If you’re a little short (like we are!) you might bonk your head on the tank valve whilst trying to look around, and the BCD jacket could feel a little constricting. As you gain experience, you’ll be able to determine what equipment to be sized up with (before you have your own) and how to set-it up to ensure maximum comfort and maneuverability.
Where can I scuba dive?
There are scuba diving destinations all over the world! Depending on what you want to see and the conditions you want to be diving in, you can scuba dive anywhere, from the UK and Europe to the Caribbean, Asia and even lesser known locations such as Iceland!
Keep an eye on our blog to read about the dive destinations we have visited and check the PADI website; it can be a good place to research locations and what wildlife you’re likely to see at different times of year.
How deep are you allowed to go?
How deep you are allowed to go depends on the certification you hold.
- For recreational divers, once you have your open water you are qualified to 18m which is deep enough for lots of great dives. As you’re more shallow there is more light and often more colour and schools of smaller fish about.
- If you choose to get your advanced certification you will be qualified to dive to 30m.
- For those wanting to push themselves a little further you can complete your deep diver certification which will allow you to dive to 40m.
It must be noted that deeper diving comes its safety considerations as you take on more nitrogen which can leave divers feeling confused, giddy, or stressed. Therefore, it’s important to complete proper training before doing deep dives.
If you choose to begin tech diving you will be able to go deeper for longer!
How long can I stay underwater?
How long you stay underwater depends on your air consumption, but most fun dives last between 45min and 1hour. There are also some factors which may cause you to consume your air a little quicker than normal:
- You breathe more air from your tank at depth (20-30m+) so a deep dive will cause you to empty your tank faster
- If you are swimming in current – especially against the current – you will breathe heavier. Think about when you go for a run you are breathing quickly and panting; the same is true for exerting yourself underwater.
- If you are excited you will breathe faster. Perhaps you’ve seen your first shark or are on a night dive spotting new creatures!
What if I run out of air?
As part of your standard dive equipment you will have an SPG (submersible pressure gauge) which will tell you how much air you have in your tank at any one time. You will begin to exit the water usually with a third of the tank’s air remaining (or whatever is agreed between yourself and your buddy or instructed by your guide), to ensure you aren’t caught short without any air!
Diving and Health
Can I dive if I have asthma?
For any pre-existing health condition you must see a doctor who will/will not sign you off as fit to dive. When you sign up to learn to dive or as a new customer at a new dive centre (qualified or student alike) you have to complete a medical waiver. If you answer YES to any of the medical conditions (including asthma) the dive centre will ask you for a medical certificate saying you are fit to dive. If not it is their discretion whether or not they allow you to dive. Your GP will suffice but if you want to get a dive medical that is possible too. We know some asthma sufferers who dive (those whose asthma is allergy activated) so it is possible, but it is always best to seek medical advice. We are not doctors so this is just advisory.
Ultimately, whatever you do you take a risk with diving so it’s best to be sure that your physical and mental health are tip-top and you have sign-off from your doctor to reduce the level of risk.
Can I dive if I need to wear prescription glasses?
Yes! If you don’t want to splash-out on a prescription mask just yet (yes, they exist!) and you wear contact lenses you can go scuba diving; hooray! You do need to be aware that as part of the skills circuits you will need to flood and remove/replace your mask underwater and will therefore need to keep your eyes firmly shut on these skills. Make sure your instructor is aware before you get in the water!
Can you scuba dive when you’re on your period?
Yes! You can swim when you’re on your period, so naturally you can scuba dive on your period! There are some scientists that believe that the pressure of the water temporarily stops you from menstruating. However what that can mean is that you get a heavy bleed right after you get out of the water. Not all boats have bathrooms on board, and if you’re doing 2 dives on the boat you might feel uncomfortable or self-conscious. It really is up to you how you choose to manage your period and if that affects how you dive (1 tank trips only, for example). You might want to consider a menstrual cup which can be in for longer and doesn’t have the same leaking side-effects that tampons can have.
Obviously if you are diving in a dry suit, you can use any sanitary protection that best suits you!
What are the bends and are they common to get?
When you breathe, oxygen from the air transfers from your lungs into your bloodstream. Air is made up of 21% Oxygen and 78% Nitrogen. As you breathe compressed air underwater the pressure of the water makes the nitrogen molecules small enough to move into your bloodstream too. The deeper you are underwater and the more pressure exerted on your body, the more nitrogen you take on. When you end a dive, you go up slowly and perform a 3 minute safety stop at 5m below the surface, to give your body a chance to ‘off-gas’. This literally means the body transfers the excess nitrogen from your blood stream to your breath, for you breathe it out as you slowly ascend.
The “bends” or decompression sickness (DCS) is the term for when divers ascend too quickly from depth and the nitrogen in your blood doesn’t have time to move back to your lungs for you to breathe out. Small bubbles of nitrogen form in your body which cause discomfort and can be dangerous if not treated properly. This can be done by going to a decompression chamber, which recreates being at depth and brings you back up to sea level slowly.
As with most diving injuries, if you follow your training and dive within your limits, you will not have to worry about DCS.