Scuba Diving

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It's a whole new world. A beautiful liquid realm full of life, colorful fish, swaying plants, fluorescent coral -- scuba diving lets you see it all up close and personal.

Diving can be an exciting and fun sport for people of all ages. You can dive in the ocean, a lake, or even in a swimming pool just for practice. There are even places where there are sunken ships to be discovered.

And when you go beyond the fun and the sport, there are the divers that revealed the Titanic for all to see, those who found gold doubloons and pirate treasure and those who discovered new forms of marine life. Scuba diving really is an adventure.

"Scuba" isn't really a word. It is an acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. Take the first letter of each word and you have scuba.

The scuba gear we use now was invented in the 1940s by famous marine explorer Jacques Cousteau and his partner, Emile Gagnan. They designed tanks that would give you air when you took a breath. Before this, divers wore bulky suits that gave them a constant stream of air.

Scuba diving used to be called a rich man's sport, but modern technology has made it cheaper, easier and safer for even children to become divers.

The truth is, diving can be a dangerous sport. But most accidents happen because people ignore their training or safety rules.

As obvious as it may sound, drowning is the most likely cause of trouble. You're underwater, you need air -- this is why you pay careful attention to your tank's gauges and your surroundings.

The chance of being attacked by a shark is low, but scuba divers should always dive with a buddy.

Wetsuits are used for most kinds of diving. They come in different styles for different kinds of diving. The suits are protection from the cold temperatures and from scrapes and scratches underwater.

Some other diving equipment:

Depth gauge-- A device that indicates how far a diver is below the surface of the water.

Descent or ascent line-- A line suspended from a boat or buoy, which is used by divers to control their rate of descent or ascent.

Dive flag-- A dive flag may be either a red rectangle with a diagonal white stripe or a blue and white double-tailed pennant. These flags are used to warn watercraft and skiers to stay away because there are divers in the water.

Dive lights-- Specially designed underwater lights used for night dives or dives in dark places such as wrecks or caves.

Regulators-- Regulators allow divers to breath comfortably underwater at ambient pressure. The air source is a tank of highly compressed air.

Diving can lead to several careers. You can be an instructor or guide for new divers or run a dive shop. If you're into the science of the sea, you can use your diving skills as an oceanographer or a marine biologist

Getting Started

Do you know how to swim? It may sound like a silly question, but being a good swimmer will keep you safe. You don't have to be a champ, but being comfortable in the water is a must.

You must be at least 12 years old to be certified in scuba. Classes take about six weeks.

It's best to begin with snorkeling (a small tube that fits in your mouth that sticks out of the water so you can breathe). With a diving mask and swim fins, you're ready to swim in warm water. With snorkeling, you float barely under the surface of the water.

When you're a beginner, you can learn basic techniques such as clearing water from your mask, clearing your ears and swimming with fins on.

If you love snorkeling, look for a diving class in your area. The local YMCA may have classes or you can check with the diving associations for recommendations. Never take a class from an uncertified school. Your health and safety could be at risk.

Your first scuba lessons will be done in a pool. Don't be in a rush to jump in a lake. Take the time to learn properly so you can be a relaxed and confident diver.

More accidents happen because people ignore the rules or act cocky. You don't have to keep up with anyone. Only do what's comfortable for you.

Scuba divers must also learn to take care of their own equipment. You will learn how to read gauges, check for items in need of repair and properly store your tanks.

When you begin diving, you will want to rent equipment. If you dive a lot, you can begin investing in your own. A low-end price is $1,000. It can run up to $5,000.

Many clubs are designed to include disabled divers, and there are clubs set up just for that purpose. Visually handicapped, mentally handicapped and physically handicapped people have all been able to dive safely.

There are special training classes for instructors who want to teach handicapped divers. Since your body weight is different underwater, it is a great sport for people who are wheelchair-bound or have limited use of their arms and legs.


Professional Association of Diving Instructors

International Diving Educators Association
P.O. Box 8427
Jacksonville , FL   32239-8427


How Scuba Diving Works
Learn all about the ins and outs of scuba diving from the folks at HowStuffWorks

A Brief History of Diving
Questions and answers on scuba diving

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