Scuba diving is like escaping into a different, underwater world. Once you are certified, you can go anywhere in the world and dive.
If you think you might like scuba, give it a try. Most diving centers have "try scuba" classes in a pool, with professional divers to help you try it. If you like it, you can begin the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certification process.
You need to be 13 years old to do a PADI class, which I did, but if you are 10 to 12 years old, you can sign up for a "traditional" class at a local dive center. In a PADI class, you will learn controlled swimming ascents, buddy breathing in case you or a buddy are out of oxygen and knowing how to properly weight yourself in fresh and salt water.
Once you know the information, then there are at least two pool dives, a swimming test, and finally four ocean dives (in one weekend). You will be tested to make sure you are safe, can navigate in poor visibility conditions, and can do everything correctly and safely underwater without perfect conditions.
You can rent much of the equipment, but you will need your own mask, fins and snorkel. When you go to try on wet suits, do it on a cool day -- I got blisters trying mine on during the summer! Wet suits should be hard to get on because they have to fit you tightly or you will be cold under the water because of the loss of heat, which causes hypothermia.
The other parts of the gear that you will wear while scuba diving include:
- Buoyancy Control Device (BCD): holds your oxygen tank and weights, as well as inflates and deflates, so you can float on the surface, even wearing all of your gear.
- Regulator: a part that goes in your mouth and gives you oxygen.
- Cylinder/oxygen tank: holds about 4,000 PSI, which lasts a different amount of time depending on the depth of your dive.
- Wet (or dry) suit: A wet suit is lets a thin layer of water in, which your body will heat and a dry suit goes over a set of really warm pajama-like clothes and your skin stays dry.
- Hood: keeps your head warm.
- Gloves: protect your hands from sharp objects and keeps them warm, too.
- Submersible Pressure Gauge (SPG): tells you how much air pressure is left in an air tank.
- Alternate air source: also called an octopus, it is a second regulator that you will use if your buddy runs out of air.
- Compass: points north and helps you find your way if the visibility is bad.
- Dive computer/watch: shows you how deep you are and some plan your dive depending on how deep you are and tell you how much time you have left on a dive.
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