Take the Deep Dive: Scuba Diving 101


This summer offers a renewed opportunity to travel. There is a collective desire to seize opportunities for adventure, such as scuba diving. Exploring the world below the surface of the water is on many people’s wish list. However, the equipment, the risks and the certification process are barriers. With the help of a local couple who recently obtained scuba diving certification, we’ve created a complete beginner’s guide for people looking to take the plunge. Along with this article, we also interviewed an expert diver and paleontologist who explores the intense waters in search of fossils. Read this article here.

testing the waters

In the spring of 2021, local writer Lani Furbank, her husband Zach Barnes, and Furbank’s parents traveled to Costa Rica to get their scuba certifications. After seeing friends’ underwater photos and hearing their diving stories, Furbank was inspired.

“[Learning to scuba dive]traveling and going underwater was like opening up a new level of life,” says Furbank.

Barnes agrees with her feelings. Ever since he was a teenager, he had wanted to learn to dive but was apprehensive because his ears had trouble balancing the pressure underwater. Before embarking on the journey, they decided to test things out.

“We took a discovery dive course at Aquatic Adventures in Springfield, Virginia,” says Furbank, who also noted that her parents were accompanied. “It was not a [actual certification] but a bonus pre-course. It helped us get familiar with the equipment and all the different intricacies of what you [need] get certified. »

After a successful training session, they set their sights on getting certified.

Let’s be certified

To win a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certification, there are three components: an academic course, pool training and open water training. The academic portion offers online or in-person classes, takes approximately 15 hours to complete at your own pace, and includes reading material and exams.

The academic component must be completed before entering the water.

“The biggest thing that freaked me out was the online course,” recalls Furbank. “[PADI] wants to let you know about everything that could happen to you, so the course is made up of all the risks and worst-case scenarios, which is honestly pretty terrifying.

After completing the academic course, training processes may vary depending on the dive company. For Furbank and Barnes, the training included four pool dives and four sea dives over a four-day period. There was about one instructor for every three to five people in their program.

If you’re looking to get certified, it can be helpful to take the training with a friend.

“You still have a friend [when diving] as is politics,” Barnes says. “And part of the training is removing the regulator from your mouth [which controls your air supply to the oxygen tank] at the bottom and breathing of the other person’s regulator. So it’s probably a little easier to do it with someone you’re comfortable with.

Other training elements include an endurance test where you are asked to swim 60 to 100 meters in open water without a mask or flotation device. Overall, however, people of different abilities should not feel deterred from diving.

“Instructors have told us about people who have various physical differences who can still dive,” Barnes says.

The case of the stranger

When choosing where to get a scuba certification, the possibilities are endless. There are places in the DMV that offer certifications, but Furbank and Barnes went with Costa Rica, which was cheaper than the United States. The total cost of certification can fluctuate between $350 and $500 due to the lack of standard pricing on training components.

As Furbank notes, “Part of the reason we went overseas was even with the airfare and certification, we paid [less than we would] for certification in the United States.

Barnes also adds that the cost of renting all equipment and gear should be included in the certification program, and if not, you should probably go elsewhere.

Put on your outfits

Basic scuba gear and gear required for divers include regulator, oxygen tank, buoyancy control device (BCD), weights, oxygen meter, mask, flippers and a wetsuit.

The buoyancy compensator and weights are important because you need to be level to float effortlessly. The goal is to spend as little energy as possible underwater so as not to use up the oxygen tank too quickly. BCD is a vest that adjusts your weight to achieve optimal balance while underwater. At surface level, the buoyancy compensator can be used as a lifejacket.

When dressing, it is important to be prepared for the weight of the equipment.

“The tanks are the heaviest part and most people will need help getting them onto their backs,” Furbank explains. “The dive team will set you up on the side of the boat and then tip you into the water. It’s a bit nerve-wracking for the first time, being dunked in the water with a huge thing on your back.

Conserve Energy

When it comes to scuba diving, energy conservation is the name of the game. With the help of a buoyancy compensator, you also want to physically exert as little energy as possible when swimming. You don’t have to be a fast swimmer underwater to be successful in scuba diving, but rather a controlled, slow swimmer.

“One of our friends [who dives] is a very strong athlete,” Barnes said. “He usually runs out of oxygen first because he’s running around wanting to see everything.”

What’s on the horizon

On their first open water diving trip, a storm had just passed. Despite natural nerves for their first dive, Furbank and Barnes were taken aback by the experience.

“The waters were intense due to the storm,” Barnes notes, “but once underwater it was instantly calm. It was weird because being underwater was such a huge relief.

Guided by ropes attached to barrels anchored to the bottom of the ground 58 feet deep on their descent, Furbank and Barnes were greeted by sea turtles, eels and fish in every color of the rainbow. -sky. They spent 45 minutes underwater with a stop 10 feet below the surface – as a precaution for turns – before climbing back to the top.

Both Furbank and Barnes described the experience as transformative and are looking forward to planning their second dive trip – hopefully to Cozumel, Mexico.

DMV Dive Shops + Communities

Diving on the Atlantic coast: 7672 Airpark Road. Gaithersburg, MD;
bordatlantique.com // @atlanticedgescuba

Aquatic Adventures Diving Academy: 5408-C Port Royal Road. Springfield, Virginia;
AquatiqueAdventuresva.com // @learn2diveva

Blue Octopus Diving: 4154 Duke St. Alexandria, Virginia;
blueoctopusscuba.com // @blue_octopus_scuba

Blue Planet Diving: 1755 S St. NW, DC;
blueplanetdc.com // @blueplanetdc

National Association of Black Divers: nabsdivers.org // @officialnabsdivers

National Diving Center: 4932 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC;
dcsurfaceinterval.com //

SCUBA Professional Training Diving School: 4601 North Park Avenue #C-13 Chevy Chase, MD; scubaedu.com // @spediveschool

Underwater adventure enthusiasts*: www.uasdivers.org

*Editor’s Note: Underwater Adventure Seekers is a diving club for recreational and scientific divers and is part of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers. Founded in 1958, it is the oldest black diving club in the world.

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