As you’ve probably seen from my copious amounts of underwater photos in Hawaii, my boyfriend and I recently became PADI certified Open Water Divers. This allowed us to go on several certified dive tours on Oahu and experience the ocean in a new and exhilarating way.
Today I’m going to talk about how and why we decided to get PADI certified and how the certification process works. Hopefully I can answer any questions you may have about getting certified and reassure any worries or reservations you may have about scuba diving.
Learning to scuba dive is one of the best things I’ve ever done.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was nervous about scuba diving at first. To be honest it was probably one of my biggest fears, which seems absolutely ridiculous now. There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of when it comes to scuba diving. There really is nothing to it besides staying calm and remembering to breathe! I know for me, it was the gear that was especially intimidating, but once I actually got into the course and learned about each piece of gear, it was a lot less scary!
Now let’s talk about PADI and what it means to be a Certified Open Water Diver.
PADI stands for “Professional Association of Diving Instructors” and they are the leader in scuba dive training. They have thousands of highly rated resorts across the world and have safely trained millions to dive. Another great thing about PADI is that they care deeply about the environment and the conservation of the ocean. They preach this tremendously through their courses and really emphasize the responsibility of divers to keep the oceans healthy. They are great advocates for our seas and no matter which course you take with PADI you will learn how to be a responsible and environmentally conscious diver. I would not recommend getting certified anywhere other than a PADI dive shop.
Choosing a PADI Course
PADI offers a wide variety of scuba diving courses. The most common course for new divers, and the one that Logan and I did, is the Open Water Diver course. This is the course that ultimately starts your scuba diving journey and lays the groundwork in terms of skills and education. The only requirements for this course are to be over 10 years old, in good physical condition, and an adequate swimmer.
(If you’re a parent looking to get your child involved in scuba diving, PADI does offer different courses for younger kids to start their scuba diving journey. You can check them out HERE.)
There are three main components to the open water diver course:
- Knowledge Development
This is where you learn the basic principles of scuba diving. It can be done independently online, or in class at a dive shop. I did mine in class at a dive shop and I highly recommend doing this over the online course. It’s a lot nicer to be talking to real divers and you have the freedom to ask any questions before you get in the water!
- Confined Water Dives
This is where you get to first practice the skills you’ve learned in the classroom. There are two dives that are completed in a pool with your instructor. You’ll learn the steps to set up your own gear, put it on, and start getting comfortable breathing and performing basic skills underwater.
- Open Water Dives
This is where you’ll finally get to practice your skills in open water! Depending where you’re located these dives will be done in a freshwater lake near your dive shop. You’ll complete four open water dives in which you’ll perfect the skills you practiced in the pool and get to start exploring underwater.
Choosing a Dive Shop
In order to get certified you need to find a PADI dive shop to do your training at. Now, for the Open Water Diver course you have a few options in how you can go about it. You can choose to do the entire course at a local dive shop in your area, or you can choose to complete the in class knowledge and confined dives at a local dive shop in your area, and then complete your final open water checkout dives at a different dive resort. People going on vacation tend to do this, so they can complete half the course at home and do the open water dives at their destination. Or you can even complete the entire course while you’re on vacation.
Logan and I were originally going to complete our knowledge in class and confined water dives at home in Toronto and then complete our final open water checkout dives on our trip in Hawaii. However, we ended up deciding this wasn’t the best option for us.
If you are considering splitting the course between home and another destination, there are a few things to consider; the first being cost. Dive shops in tropical destinations can often get away with charging a lot more, especially for divers looking to complete their open water course. We saved about $150 each by completing the entire course at home and then just registering for a certified diver tour once we got to Hawaii. You’ll also want to consider how much time you’ll have during your trip. If you’re doing your open water checkout dives, there are four dives involved, which need to be spread over two-three days. You’ll need to consider when planning your vacation that completing your open water dives could eat up a few days of your trip. As opposed to getting to your destination as an already certified diver and participating in a single day dive tour.
As I said, Logan and I completed our entire course here in Toronto at a dive shop called Aquarius Scuba. We highly, highly recommend this dive shop to anyone in the GTA. This shop actually wasn’t even the closest one to us; we had considered a few other shops before we found Aquarius Scuba. We had to drive about 45 minutes each day to get here, but the staff at Aquarius are incredible and we’re really happy we decided to do our training with them. Their course was a lot more reasonably priced than other dive shops in our area, which was one of the reasons we chose them over other shops. Their course schedule is also very accommodating, so regardless of if you work or are in school full time, you can still complete your training with them. For example, our open water course only took two weekends to complete, and they have courses continuously running every weekend. The instructors here are incredibly knowledgeable and you’ll definitely feel confident that you’re getting the highest quality education from them. They were extremely helpful in answering any questions and more than willing to spend extra time going over certain skills and concepts to make sure every student was completely confident in what they were doing in the water. Logan and I are both hoping to return to Aquarius Scuba in the upcoming months to do more advanced training.
Regardless of where you decide to complete your training, there are a few things to look for in a dive shop to ensure you’re getting the highest quality education.
PADI 5 Star Dive Center
Make sure the dive shop is rated 5 stars by PADI. There are more than enough out there, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a 5 star resort, and I wouldn’t settle for anything less. PADI has a tool on their website HERE where you can search for 5 star dive shops in your area.
Friendly and Knowledgeable Staff
You want to make sure the staff makes you feel comfortable and that they’re well educated divers. The last thing you want is to feel like you’re talking to a salesman who’s just trying to take your money or to get into the water with someone who’s not qualified to be teaching.
The Quality and Care of Dive Equipment
Always put your safety first. Make sure the equipment is in good working order and is carefully and consistently maintained by the shop. If you have questions or doubts; just ask! Any reputable dive shop will have no problem assuring you that their equipment is safe.
As I said before, I was very nervous about scuba diving before I enrolled in a PADI course. Although it’s been on my bucket list for years, if it hadn’t been for my boyfriend convincing me, I never would’ve taken the leap to get certified. I’ve always been a huge lover of the ocean and I’m so glad that I can now explore every single inch of it.
Scuba diving in Hawaii was a life changing experience. I got to see and interact with marine life from 100 feet below the surface; not many people can say that!
Logan and I went diving in Hawaii with a company called Living Ocean Scuba. I really do need a whole new post to talk about my incredible experience with them, so keep an eye out for that. For now I’ll say if you’re a newly certified diver, or even a seasoned diver, check them out. They’re a group of extremely fun and very smart guys who know their stuff when it comes to diving, the ocean, and conservation. We were so impressed after our first dive with them we booked another! Our second time out with them we actually did a 100 foot deep wreck dive. This was only our fourth dive as certified divers and our deepest dive to date. Thanks to my training through PADI, and the knowledgeable instructors of Living Ocean Scuba, I felt completely confident in the water and knew exactly how to act as a safe and responsible diver.
I know there are plenty of tourist traps that will take uncertified people scuba diving, but I say if you really want to explore scuba diving, check out PADI and get certified. It will be a hell of a lot more fun if you’re calm in the water because you’re a smart diver who has been trained specifically for this.
Plus, once you’re a certified open water diver you can only go up from there! PADI has a ton of more advanced certifications to enhance your scuba diving experience. You can take specialty courses like Deep Diver or Underwater Photography, and learn how to make your dives last longer with courses like Enriched Air, and you can even turn your passion for scuba diving into a career by taking the Divemaster course. The possibilities really are endless with PADI.
I am completely in love with scuba diving and am hoping to taking my training as far as I can with PADI to get the most out of my scuba diving journey.