The first time I played with the idea of getting my scuba diving certificate was when I was around twelve years old. However, due to the busy life of a tennis trooper, filled with practice, tournaments and occasional schooling, there was no way I could do it. For the time I forgot about my smaller dreams. What a dramatic and sentimental start of this column.You probably thought that an article about scuba diving could not possibly get dramatic, well here I prove you wrong. Shall I continue?
Finally, the moment arrived in April this year on an island called Koh Tao, Thailand. I have decided to go with PADI, the largest recreational diving organization out there. If you decide to go with someone else, there might be a chance that some places do not recognize the diving association. If I were you I would not try to be special here and go basic. Once you decide on a place and time of your scuba diving pilgrimage then you can usually just register online and you will receive an email. After the payment you will receive a PADI login info which you need to access your study material. Yes study material. There is also a multiple choice exam at the end so it’s going to take you right into your freshman year. Yeaaah
First you have to complete the basic principles of scuba diving which you go over with your instructor and ‘classmates’. I had a great class which was basically a British “get-together” and me, I love Britons, especially when they feel dizzy after a 50 m swim around a boat. “Bloody Bollocks”. Well anyway, you can either study the material online or they can give you a book. What I would recommend is that you complete the study work before you go to the actual holiday or you mind end up like me and end up pulling an all-nighter before the exam.
Time for questions
How hard is the PADI open water exam?
Well it’s definitely not GMAT. To be honest, I would say it’s something between Biology 101 midterm and Acting 301 final. You need to know what Nitrogen Narcosis is, how underwater pressure doubles, what percentages of oxygen and nitrogen are in a standard scuba tank, and how to encounter a horny dolphin without being raped. The last one was optional.
How is the first dive?
After you finish studying all the material you are now off to the water. The first confined dive is usually in a pool or on a calm beach. Luckily mine was in a bay where Leonardo Dicaprio was shooting his first erotic movie The Beach. The Thai water temperature is usually super warm so that helps. You will go over the actual skills like setting up your scuba gear, how to get water out of your mask, entering and exiting the water, buoyancy, navigation, safety procedures, swimming without the mask and many more lifesaving skills. To be honest this was quite an overwhelming experience because the amount of information you process within those two days of studying just makes it a bit… demanding. But you will be fine.
What’s the fun in that?
The training is quite stressful I admit. However, the actual first dive was super relaxing and I would even say- spiritual. It definitely has the ability to give you the pure enjoyment of discovery. You also might feel connected to nature like never before and the experience of weightlessness is incredible. If you are fan of meditation, you will be a definitely fan of scuba diving. Your attention is focused on breathing and you might catch yourself “observing without any judgment”.
How much will it cost you?
Money, that’s all you care about huh? But to be honest, this one really depends on where you are doing your PADI. The prices lowered significantly in the last couple of years because there are much more driving schools than divers. I paid 300 Euros for a three and a half day course all-inclusive. That means the study material, rentals of equipment, and air. You can bring your own mask, snorkel and fins if you like but for me it’s quite uncomfortable to carry these three items in my purse.
Please don’t go for a night dive on your 5th or 6th dive. That is just very “so me” and I would not recommend it to anyone since I almost fainted due to blocked sinuses and not able to equalize while in the complete darkness 15 meters under water. Let me tell ya, it was not nice. I would go for a night dive only after completing the first 10 dives and being 100% healthy. You need be healthy for any dive actually. You don’t know how a minor cold will affect you under the water.
So have fun, zen-out and don’t forget about “Hi five, scuba dive”
–JK don’t do that