This past weekend, I took a two day course to become a certified open water scuba diver through the Professional Association of Diving Instructors also known as PADI with a local dive shop called Lett’s Dive based in St. Petersburg, FL.
My weekend was hosted at Lake Denton in central Florida. Both Saturday and Sunday were approximately 8 hours in order to go through everything. There were breaks in between each day, but they were short and sparse in order to get through everything in a timely manner.
Before arriving to the dive site, it was required that you complete your online training the Monday before your scheduled dive. The online training consisted of 5 different sections that are mandatory and 2 sections that were optional. The online training consisted of text, videos, photos and questions to ensure all the information gets to every student despite the different styles of learning.
Out of the 5 mandatory sections, there are different subsections topics that range anywhere from 5 to 25 more specific topics in the one main section. Overall, there is quite a bit to cover in the online training portion that can take anywhere from 12 to 15 hours to complete if worked on thoroughly.
I recommend starting the online portion as soon as possible and working on a little bit everyday. It can really make or break your experience before the dive because if you rush through the course and know nothing, things can get dangerous very quickly.
The hardest part of the entire experience was being consistent with the online training and getting it all done before it was due. The training gets boring quickly but once you get it out of the way, the rest is the fun part.
A group of us booked a hotel for the weekend and I am glad we did. After being in and out of the water all day, there was no way I could have made the drive home and back. Although scuba diving is not a physically demanding hobby, it is a hobby that can easily wear you out after a dive or two.
I packed a few sandwiches and plenty of water in order to save money and time while on the dive site. If you do plan on going to Lake Denton, there really isn’t much to eat around so it’s best to pack. Staying hydrated is also super critical, so bring plenty of water and a sugary drink or two to get your energy up throughout the day.
When taking my course with Lett’s Dive, they provided the diving cylinder, the BCD, the dive computer, the regulator and the weights. The student was required to have a wet suit, fins, snorkel, mask, diving gloves, their PADI dive log and booties. All the things we as students had to provide where relatively inexpensive compared to the equipment Lett’s Dive provided. I personally purchased everything I needed and more for less that $60 second hand.
Lake Denton was $15 a day to dive, but gave you free range to stay and dive the whole day. I thought the price was fair for the location. The only thing that discouraged me from this site was the amount of people at this location. In the morning the site is packed and gear is everywhere. Getting in and out of the water was like getting in and out of a maze of people. There was so many instances when scuba divers where bumping into one another by mistake.
In some cases the big crowd was good because we learned how to manage certain challenges in the water that we necessary didn’t learn in the online portion. For example, if another diver kicked your regulator out of your mouth or your mask off your face, how would you handle it? As crazy as it sounds, it happened more than once over the weekend.
The most important take away this weekend was: diving is scary, but worth it if it means overcoming your fears to try something you never done before. When you watch the videos or fill out the paperwork, you don’t really understand the risk you take getting into the water. Once you get about 20 feet deep and can’t see the surface, that’s when things become intimidating because you know so many things can go wrong.
To be brutally honest, I didn’t think diving would be scary. Then I got in and actually started diving. My mind came up with a million things that I didn’t like about diving or what could go wrong when diving. After playing mind games with myself for the first half of the day, I let myself enjoy the experience. I took a breath and knew everything would be fine if I was aware and communicative throughout my diving experience.
After getting over myself, I was in love with the hobby and couldn’t wait to get out again. A lot of the time, the only thing holding us back is ourselves and I couldn’t find this more true when it came to my experience diving.
My advice to you: TRY IT. You might hate it or you might love it. The important thing is you tried. Diving is not for everyone, but it is a great skill to put on a resume, even if it is just a recreational hobby. For example, preparedness, conflict management, and problem solving were just a few of the skills I used over the weekend.
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