Prevent Shark Attacks When Diving

Prevent Shark Attacks When Diving

The History of Scuba Diving

The History of Scuba Diving

December 22, 2015 Comments (0) Adventures, Ocean Adventures

Scuba Diving 101

Scuba Diving 101


If you asked a hundred divers why they became interested in scuba diving and what keeps the heading back to the water time after time, you would undoubtedly get a hundred different answers. every diver has their own personal reasons that attract them to  scuba diving, whether it is for the adventure, the thrill of new discoveries, group involvement, and personal accomplishment or just simply for fun.

In 2009 I decided it was time to find out for myself with my own eyes what lay below the surface. So, I joined a beginner’s scuba diving class that was held at our community clubhouse and pool.

Scuba Diving 101I’ll take you through some of what it was like as a beginner diver and what to expect taking your first breath underwater! I actually published a book entitled “Scuba Diving 101 – Taking Your First Breath” about 3 years ago which detailed many aspects of beginning scuba diving. There were great moments, and also scary moments that make the hair on your neck stand up!

The first step to becoming a scuba diver is to complete your training for the first level of certification called “Open Ocean Diver”. There are many Diver Certification Organizations throughout the world that issue diver certifications, some certifications able transferable from one organization to another organization to meet qualifications for training to the next diving certification level. I did mine through PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors), which is the most well-known in the United States.

Your class training will prepare you to complete all required pool dives, open ocean dives, and safety demonstrations, to obtain your certification. This certification will allow you to purchase and fill oxygen tanks, as well as dive without an instructor (always use a dive buddy). Until you have your “Open Ocean Diver” certification dive shops will not allow you to purchase oxygen for tanks.

What is Scuba Diving?

Scuba Diving is considered swimming underwater using a Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, or SCUBA. During scuba you are breathing the same air you are breathing right now only it is compressed, however depending on the type of dive and depth this can contain a mixture of other gases, more on this in later chapters.

With modern technological advances in scuba equipment such as masks, breathing regulators, buoyancy control devices, fins, gauges and/or computers, scuba divers can explore our underwater world. Modern scuba diving is very safe and easy to learn with some basic skills, which we will be going over throughout this book.

Diving has been around since primitive man was forced to collect food from the seas. How do we know this? Because scientists have found many undersea artifacts on land that prove man has been diving the seas for thousands of years. Ancient swimmers used cut hollow reeds to breathe air, the first rudimentary snorkel used to enhance our abilities underwater. Around 1300, Persian divers were making rudimentary eye goggles from the thinly sliced and polished shells of tortoises. By the 16th century, wooden barrels were used as primitive diving bells, and for the first time divers could travel underwater with more than one breath of air, but not much more than one.

Why Do People Do It?

The undersea world is filled with thousands of new adventures waiting around every corner. Maybe you want to see for yourself what life is really like underwater, or maybe your quest is to discover a new area that no human has yet to ever lay their eyes on.

Some people do it because of the great exercise you gain, after all carrying up to 100+ pounds on your shoulders down a shoreline can take quite a bit of stamina, not to mention battling surf on your way in and out, and let’s not forget the surface swim. Yes, diving can and will demand that you get yourself in shape. I remember my very first shore dive; I honestly thought I was in great shape, until I struggled to heave all the gear on my back and then walk down to the beach. It was an eye opener for me as to just how out of shape I really was.

I have talked to hundreds of divers and each one has their own reason for scuba diving, but the majority of answers were, “I wanted to see for myself what fascinating things the oceans have to offer”.

Is scuba diving safe? That depends, “how responsible is the scuba diver?” Yes, there are certain risks, as with any sport. What makes scuba diving seem riskier than another sport is because of the inherent fear we all have of drowning and the thought of depending on mechanical gear as life support. Many people are afraid of the water, and some afraid of sharks, or afraid of replying on some hoses and tanks to keep them alive in an air-less environment. Scuba diving is dangerous as a person wants to believe, statistics show us that in almost all rare instances of a scuba fatality it is almost always diver recklessness that was the cause.

The truth is that each year the number of fatalities decreases, even though the number of people diving is increasing dramatically. Why is this? Because responsible associations such as PADI and NAUI recommend a complete training and certification “before” diving in open water. Almost half of all scuba-related fatalities happen on tourists “dive packages”, rather than organized scuba trips by reputable dive shops.

Fatalities range around 5 per 100,000 divers. About a third of those are the result of heart or circulation problems. The most common being a heart attack or cardiac arrest, which tragically is almost always fatal if it happens underwater.

With the proper training a scuba diver is confident, prepared, responsible, knows the risk and how to avoid them. Proper training will give you the skills and confidence that you will need to enjoy scuba diving.

Most scuba diving fatalities claim the lives of the ignorant, the reckless and the irresponsible. Don’t become a statistic!

Scuba Diving Fears – are my fears normal?

If you asked “Is scuba diving safe?”, the answer would be “How responsible is the scuba diver?”. Scuba diving as with many sports is not without its risks, but those risks are very manageable if you are a responsible and safe diver. What does make it riskier than other sports are the innate fear that people have of drowning and the fear of relying on their scuba gear as a “life support system”.

Anxiety is a common problem in scuba diving but is rarely talked about. Fear and anxiety have their place in diving, as these are the body’s response to threat. Dealing with anxiety underwater and preventing it from progressing to a full-blown panic is vital while scuba diving. The truth is, you are not alone in your fears, there are many people that are afraid of the water, afraid of sharks, afraid of the sometimes darkness at depths or night, or even having to rely on a complex contraption of hoses and mechanical parts to provide in air in an otherwise airless environment.

The reality is, scuba diving is not as dangerous as people tend to believe. In the rare instances where there is a scuba diving fatality it is almost always shown that it was caused by diver recklessness or irresponsibility. Scuba fatalities range around 5 fatalities per 100,000 divers. Almost a third of those are related to heart or circulation problems, like heart attack or cardiac arrest.

Here is a small list of things “more” dangerous than scuba diving:

  1. Riding a bicycle on the street
  2. Being a passenger in a vehicle
  3. Smoking
  4. Sailing a yacht
  5. Fishing from a dock

Who Can Scuba Dive?

Almost anyone can learn to scuba dive. Divers range from 8 years old and over and come from all walks of life. Scuba diving is a very diverse community of individuals.

Children as young as 8 years old can start diving with some programs specifically designed to be taught in the safety of shallow water and aimed for young children. From the age of 10 years old children can be certified as Junior Open Water Divers, and 15 years of age and older can be certified as Open Water Divers. There are no upper age limits for scuba diving. As a Junior Open Water Diving student, children are taught basic scuba skills, underwater photography, navigation and environmental awareness.

PADI Junior Open Water Divers ages 10 to 11 may only dive with a PADI Professional or a certified parent/guardian to a maximum depth of 40 feet, ages 12 to 14 must dive with a certified adult.

Junior Open Water Certified Divers are automatically upgraded to Open Water Diver on their 15th birthday with no need to recertify.

You will need to be in at least a good state of health. This is not to say that you have to be in super fit shape but you should be free from any serious medical problems. In some cases, you might be required to obtain a doctor’s permission to take a class, for example if you are age 45 or older and smoke then you will need your doctor’s permission. You will be required to fill out a medical questionnaire and any concerns that you or your instructor have will be referred to a medical doctor for assessment.

The medical questionnaire is extremely important and could mean the difference between your life and death, so do not even think about attempting to lie or withhold anything about your medical condition. DO NOT LIE!

Scuba diving is accessible to people with disabilities. There are many instructors trained to provide courses tailored to people with disabilities that want to learn scuba diving. There are even societies whose primary goal is to facilitate and promote diving for people with disabilities.

The PADI Open Water Diver

You must be at least 10 years old to undertake the PADI Open Water Diver course. There is no maximum age limit. You’ll need to be able to swim 200 meters unaided (or 300 meters with flippers and snorkel) and tread water for ten minutes. Bearing in mind that the average swimming pool is approximately 25 meters long, this equates to approximately 8 lengths (without stops). You will need to complete a health questionnaire prior to your training. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, this may not necessarily preclude you from diving. If you have any health concerns, it would be prudent to visit your doctor beforehand to discuss them, and, if necessary, obtain a note confirming your fitness. This may save the inconvenience and expense of a doctor’s examination once you reach the resort.

The course consists of three major sections:

  1. Knowledge Development – this can be either done online, home study or in a classroom). I suggest you do the classroom course because you will get far more from the class and open discussions among others in the class will help you to learn faster and to become a safer diver.

 If you do the home study or the classroom study you will be required to purchase the PADI Open Water Diver manual and associated video. It is best to purchase the Open Water Diver Student Kit, which includes the PADI Open Water Diver DVD-ROM, eRDPML (electronic dive planner with instructions), student record book, Log book and a water resistant pouch. Cost averages around $85US.

There are 5 sections in knowledge development; these sections are explained later in this chapter.

  1. Confined Water Dives – This is typically done in a pool setting or another body of water with pool type conditions to teach you the basic skills you need to learn as a scuba diver. You will be required to complete 5 confined water dives. You’ll learn everything from setting up your gear, to properly clearing water from your mask without surfacing, to sharing air with a buddy in case of an emergency.
  1. Open Water Dives – This is where you will get the real experience, under close supervision by an instructor and possibly other dive masters. You will practice the skills that you learned in your confined water dives and put them to real practice.


Section One covers:

–    The underwater world

–    Dive Equipment

–    Scuba Systems

–    The Buddy System (Your partner in the underwater environment)

–    Confined water dive preview

Section Two covers:

–    Adapting to the underwater world

–    Respiration

–    Dive Equipment

–    Buddy System communication and procedures. There are many hand signals that you need to learn for communicating under the surface of the water. These are generally:

  1. OK signals on the surface, on the surface to the boat or shore, OK with gloves on, OK on the surface when you have one hand occupied
  2. STOP signal
  3. Something is wrong
  4. Distress signal on the surface and the danger signal to your buddy
  5. Going up or ascend
  6. Going down or descend
  7. Low on Air
  8. Out of Air
  9. Buddy breathe or share air signals
  10. Come here
  11. Me, or watch me
  12. Under over or around obstacles
  13. Level off at this depth
  14. Go that way
  15. Which Direction?
  16. Ears not clearing/equalizing /Barotraumas – pressure problems
  17. I am cold
  18. Take it easy or slow down
  19. Hold hands
  20. Get with your buddy
  21. You lead and I shall follow

The above are just some examples of the general signals that need to be learned but each dive destination might have a unique and different set f signals that you’ll learn over and above these. For example, the signal for a certain fish variety or current direction. Your instructor and dive master will guide you through these and generally most are common sense.

–   Confined water dive preview

Section Three covers:

–    The Dive Environment

–    Dive Planning
This would be the basics of gathering your equipment, safety procedures, gaining a buddy, dive conditions etc.
–          Boat Diving

–          Problem Management

–          Confined water dive preview

–          General Open Water Skills

–          Open Water Dives 1 & 2

Section Four covers:

–          Dive accessories

–          Health for diving

–          Breathing Air at Depth

–          Confined water dive preview

Section Five covers:

–    Special Dive Table and Computer      Procedures

–    Using the Dive Table (RDP – Recreational Dive Planner)

The RDP displays to you how to easily manage the planning of your dive safely, showing you how to stay within the limits of time and depth underwater without going into decompression diving. This means that you’ll know exactly how deep you can go and for how long before you have to surface maintaining a safe dive profile. As recreational divers we ensure that we can safely surface at any time without having to make decompression stops.

–    Basic Compass Navigation

–    Confined water dive preview

–    Open Water Dives 3 & 4 and optional Skin Dive

–    Dive Safety Practices Summary

Exam Tips
The exam has 50 questions. 48 of them are multiple choices. 2 of the questions are “put these in the right order” type of questions.

10 to 15 of the questions are related to the Recreational Dive Planner. These are either problems that need to be answered, like find the Pressure Group, or the answers can be found in the fine print of the dive table.

Have you noticed that the quizzes were almost identical to the knowledge reviews which were almost identical to the study questions within the chapters which were almost identical to the key points at the start of the chapters?

There are no trick questions on the exam. Read the question and select the answer that best answers the question for how it is written. Don’t add words or thoughts to the questions; just answer them for how they are written.

There are some questions on the hand signals. Ask your instructor to mimic the hand signal because the illustrations are poor and sometimes it is hard to tell what the signal is.

The exam is not timed, so do not rush yourself.

This is not like taking an exam just for the sake of passing a class in school, these are necessary skills you need to know to keep you alive in the underwater world, so don’t cheat your way through anything!

*Remember the order of the different ascent types, CESA, and how to use the RDP and read Dive Tables.

The Confined Water Dives

Will prove that all of the effort studying the book has been worth it. This is where the fun really begins.

As mentioned there are 5 Confined Water dives. These dives progress with the skills in the same fashion as the rest of the PADI course – easing you gently into it and progressively getting harder but with your confidence stronger.

Personal Experience

Pool dives are a great place to learn and practice all the skills that you will need when you are in the open ocean. So if you feel you are not quite as comfortable with a certain skill then this is the place to ask your instructor for more time practicing, in order to keep from holding up the rest of the class however you can usually work something out with the instructor to give you time either before or after class. If you feel you need some one-on-one instruction, then please do not feel too embarrassed to ask, after all it is your life out there so make sure you know what you are doing. Ask anything you want, there are no stupid questions, and chances are someone else in the class is thinking the same thing as you.

Now I can tell you that the strangest thing to get use to for me was removing my mask underwater and continuing to breathe through the regulator with my nose exposed to the water. Look, we are land breathing humans, or brains are not wired for breathing underwater, in fact when you remove your mask your brain is going to be telling you exactly the opposite! You’re thinking if I breathe the water is going to go straight up my nose and I’m going to choke! And no you cannot cheat by holding your nose pinched with your fingers. I know it can be somewhat unnerving the first time, trust me all of us have been there, but you can do it and after the first time it will be easier and seem even normal after a while. Plus, it is a required skill to become certified. You may be wondering why you have to practice this when you are never going to intentionally remove your mask under the water when you are diving. Here is a very good example why, when you are diving with your buddy or with a class it can get kind of crowded with a lot of new divers down there trying to stick close to each other. At about 40 feet, as everyone was swimming along trying to remain close to each other, one diver got in too close behind another diver and the fin of the guy in front of him kicked and knocked his person’s mask off. The diver was able to quickly grab the mask, put it back on, clear it, and everything was fine. For a new diver at 40 feet this could have caused panic and any numbers of things could have gone wrong but instead the new diver had practiced the skills necessary to breathe without his mask, and recover the mask. So yes, every skill you are require to learn has a proven purpose and you should work diligently at performing those skills.

The confined dives are also a great place for you to just relax and enjoy the sport of scuba diving, enjoyment and adventure are the main reasons you got into scuba diving aren’t they? So have fun with it too!

NOTE: All of the skills are demonstrated by your instructor first.

Confined Dive One covers: (General use and feel of dive equipment)

–          Mask defogging – prevention of mist in your mask

–          Donning and adjusting your equipment (in water)

–          Inflation and deflation of your BCD (Buoyancy Control Device)

–          Breathing underwater

–          Regulator clearing

–          Regulator recovery – how to retrieve and replace your regulator should it fall or be knocked for the mouth

–          Clearing of a partially flooded mask (if water should leak in)

–          Practice underwater swimming in scuba gear

–          Equalization – a simple technique to equalize your ears with the surrounding pressure as you go into depth

–          Submersible pressure gauge – you are shown how the gauges on your console work

–          Practice hand signals

–          Alternate air source use – switching to your buddy’s octopus if you are in an out of air situation

–          Ascents – taught the correct signal for ascent and to ascend slowly

–          Exit and equipment disassembly

–          Debriefing

You will note that all of the equipment was assembled ready for your use directly in the pool – we do this is confined dive as to get you familiar with scuba in the water more quickly. You have waited long enough already.

Confined Dive Two covers:

–          Equipment preparation and set up

–          Don scuba equipment (first use of your buddy)

–          Pre-dive safety check – to be performed before any dive in training and everyday diving

–          Deep water entry (seated position)

–          Snorkel breathing and clearing

–          Surface swimming with scuba

–          Snorkel/regulator exchange

–          Five-point descent (the correct way to execute a descent)

–          No mask breathing

–          Mask replacement underwater

–          Disconnection of low pressure inflator hose

–          BCD – oral inflation

–          Proper weighting at the surface – buoyancy test

–          Air depletion exercise

–          Five-point ascent (the correct way to execute a ascent)

–          Weight removal at surface

–          Deep water exit

–          Don scuba equipment

–          Deep water entry (giant stride)

–          Exit and equipment disassembly

Confined Dive Three covers:

–          Equipment assembly

–          Don scuba equipment

–          Pre-dive safety check (as always!)

–          Deep water entry

–          Neutral buoyancy underwater – fin pivot

–          Neutral buoyancy swim

–          Cramp removal – different techniques taught if you have a cramp whilst diving.

–          Tired diver tow (assist your buddy if out of breath)

–          Air depletion/alternate air source

–          Free flow regulator breathing

–          Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent (CESA) – how to reach the surface in a controlled manner if out of air on a dive

–          Exit and equipment disassembly

Confined Dive Four covers:

–          Don scuba equipment

–          Entry

–          Buoyancy control – hovering underwater

–          Buddy breathing

–          Exit and equipment disassembly

Confined Dive Five covers:

–          Equipment assembly

–          Don equipment

–          Entry

–          Remove and replace scuba unit – underwater

–          Remove and replace weight system – underwater

–          Remove and replace weight system – surface

–          Remove and replace scuba unit – surface

–          Exit and equipment disassembly

The Open Water Dives

You will complete your training as an entry-level scuba diver by applying all that you have learned and further developing your knowledge and dive skills in a dive environment under your instructor’s supervision and direct guidance.

You’ll make at least 4 Open Water Dives and perhaps an optional skin dive, during this part of the PADI Open Water Dive course. Prior to certification, you’ll meet specific learning objectives that you’ll read about in the Open Water Divers manual.

You’ll learn in a sequence that establishes skills and knowledge from simple to the complex, with later skills and knowledge building on what you learn first. For this reason, it is important to successfully complete each section before moving on to the next.

Personal Experience

I remember my first open water dive very clearly, it was a in Laguna Beach, California at a dive site called Crescent Bay. There was medium surf; I noticed that the instructor and other dive masters had all chosen to enter the water carrying their fins to put them on after passing through the surf. So following the example I did the same, however I quickly discovered it difficult to swim past the surf with only booties on and putting the fins on floating in the water is not an easy task if you are not good physical shape and flexible. I found it difficult to say the least to bend that much in the wetsuit I was wearing, which leads back to a previous subject of making sure you are wearing a properly fitting wetsuit.

I later found from many other instructors that they advised putting your fins on while you are at the surf’s edge on the beach, then doing the backwards duck walk into the water, REMEMBER walk backwards. This accomplishes several things, one when you get into the water you are ready to go, and secondly in case there are any problems, i.e. rip currents, you are prepared because trust me you cannot fight the water with no fins on, and third it will keep a wave from knocking your fins out of your hands and the possibility losing them.

I heard stories of how many scuba divers leave their snorkels off and do not use them after their required classes for certification. This is NOT something that you want to do, if some people want to take their lives into their hands irresponsibly then yes there are idiot born every day, but do not let this kind of behavior influence you in diving in a safe and responsible manner. Wear your snorkel; you will be amazed how something so simple can end up being the thing that saves your life!

At the surf’s edge when you put your fins on, still on the beach remember, also put your mask on and your snorkel in your mouth before entering the surf. This is a very important safety issue, you never know what can happen when you enter the surf, so be prepared!

During my first open water dive, we surface swam about 500 yards out to where the dive float had been placed. Now if one of your fears is sharks, this is where your anxiety is going to be most prominent because you feel you are constantly thinking you must look like a floating seal up there on the surface and you can’t see into the water if it is anything other than glass calm. So be prepared to face this anxiety head on, control it, relax and remember that you have more of a chance of being struck by lightning on a sunny day then a shark attack. Soon your anxiety will decrease and you will feel calmer, don’t let anyone lie to you and tell you it will completely go anyway because it won’t, and it shouldn’t, a little bit of fear causes us all to act in a safer manner. My secret was, and yes I’m speaking from experience after having grown up watching “Jaws” on the big screen! I placed my arms and hand across my chest, floated on my back, kicked my fins and concentrate more on talking with my dive buddy on the way out, after a while I noticed I wasn’t thinking about it very much anymore.

Once we reached the dive float and went under for the first time, you will notice right away that this is way different than being in the swimming pool, the water was much cooler, and got colder the farther we went down in depth, and the visibility was nothing close to what you saw during your confined water dives. After all, this is the ocean! As you are sinking, you begin to think to yourself, wow this is so cool, and I’m doing this aren’t I?

You will find it difficult at first to control your buoyancy, so be careful not to go shooting back towards the surface. Your first instinct, to keep from lying flat on the bottom of the ocean floor is going to be to put a few small bursts of air into your BCD. Be very careful because reaction time is not instant so you may over compensate and find yourself rising to the surface out of control. Remember try to control your buoyancy by taking in a deeper breath or letting breath out rather than using your BCD. But don’t worry your instructor will work with you on buoyancy control and you will get better and better with each dive that you do, after all practice makes perfect.

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