What is Scuba Diving?

The word “SCUBA” is an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Scuba diving is the sport of swimming underwater with equipment that allows the diver to breathe. The scuba diver carries his or her own air supply in a tank, which is also known as the “diving cylinder.” The cylinder contains compressed air (78% Nitrogen, 22% Oxygen). Scuba diving is a great way to explore the underwater world and certification can be achieved by anyone who is confident in the water. Scuba diving has been around since the 1940s, when it was invented by Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan.

Two divers swimming side-by-side.
Buddy up!

The main goal of scuba diving is to explore the underwater world in a safe and fun way.

Depending on what you want to do, the equipment and training is available locally to help you achieve your goals.

Preparing for Your First Scuba Dive

Female scuba diver showing ok sign, explore beautiful coral reef. Underwater photography in red sea, egypt.
Scuba diver showing OK sign.

The scuba diving industry is booming. People are diving all over the world for different reasons, but there are some things that every diver should know before they take their first plunge.

  • Find a dive center near you that offers instruction and certification courses for scuba divers
  • Learn about the equipment that will be used during your dives and how to maintain it
  • Research the best locations where you can go scuba diving

Becoming a Certified Scuba Diver

Becoming a certified scuba diver is fun and exciting.

First, with a certified instructor, you will do 5 dives in a pool or confined water environment to a depth of 15ft.

Then, also with a certified instructor,  you will do 4 open water dives with a maximum depth of 60 ft. Each dive will focus on a specific set of skills you will need to be a safe diver..

The following are some steps you need to take in order to become a certified scuba diver:

1) Determine Your Medical Fitness to Dive

Recreational scuba diving and freediving requires good physical and mental health. There are a few medical conditions which can be hazardous while diving. Those who have, or are predisposed to, any of these conditions should be evaluated by a physician. Filling out the diver medical form, (a prerequisite to beginning any training) provides a basis to determine if you should seek out that evaluation. If you have any concerns about your diving fitness, consult with your physician before diving.

2) Complete Your Open Water Certification Course for SCUBA Diving

If you are interested in SCUBA diving, but not sure if you want to make the certification commitment, you can sign up for a Discover SCUBA session. In these sessions a SCUBA professional will take you underwater, in a pool, so you can experience diving and make a decision if certification is something for you. Once you’ve decided, you must get certified, it’s the only way to dive safely. This will allow you to learn the basics of diving to keep you safe.

3) Practice, Practice, Practice!

After successfully completing your Open Water certification, you will get the Beginner level certificate for the organization you completed the course with. For your convenience, we have compiled a chart to showcase common dive certifications, but would like to remind you that this information may not always be up to date. You should contact the dive organizations, or your local dive shop, to figure out what courses are actually offered.

Scuba diving certification levels chart
Scuba Diving Certification Levels Chart

Choosing the Right Gear for Your First SCUBA Dive

Proper scuba diving gear is essential for any diver. There is a minimum amount of equipment that you will need for your first scuba dive. As you become more experienced you may want to add items that will make diving easier or allow you to do more things, for example using lights and a camera.

Let’s focus on a dive gear list for a beginner recreational dive in Manitoba. Because of the water temperature, we will need a little more thermal protection. We will go over what gear is needed and why it is needed.

The first step is to gather your basic snorkelling gear. For this step, fins, a mask and a snorkel is all you need.

The second step is to gather your advanced snorkelling, or skin diving, gear. At this point, you will need all of the equipment from the last step, with the addition of a weight belt and wet suit, and a little training to keep you safe.

From there you can branch off to freediving or become an Open Water SCUBA Diver. The equipment for freediving is basically the same as skin diving, with a few slight differences to improve performance. Freediving has its own set of risks and specific training is required to keep you safe. Open water SCUBA diving uses the same equipment as skin diving with the addition of the SCUBA air supply, a buoyancy compensation jacket, and dive computer.

The most common gear you’ll dive with is as follows:

  • Boots (5mm)
  • Fins
  • Diving Mask
  • Snorkel
  • Buoyancy Compensation Device (BCD)
  • Regulator Set (first stage, second stage, alternate)
  • Submersible Pressure Gauge (tank pressure)
  • Depth Gauge
  • Timer (submersible watch)
  • Compass
  • Lead weights (13.5kg)
  • Wetsuit (7mm)
  • Hood (5mm)
  • Gloves (5mm)
  • SCUBA Tank (80 cu ft)
Diver in scuba diving suit. Boots (5mm), fins, diving mask, snorkel, buoyancy compensation device (bcd), regulator set (first stage, second stage, alternate), submersible pressure gauge (tank pressure), depth gauge, timer (submersible watch), compass, lead weights (13. 5kg), wetsuit (7mm), hood (5mm), gloves (5mm), scuba tank (80 cu ft)
Common Scuba Gear

When in doubt about what gear you’ll need, it is a good idea to ask a local diver, dive shop or club for advice on location/temperature specific gear.

Save A Dive (SAD) Kit Checklist

Sometimes dives don’t go the way you were hoping for, so it is important to always have a Save A Dive kit with you.

Below you will find a sample version of a basic Save A Dive kit.

An advanced and downloadable SAD Kit Checklist is available for logged in Manitoba Underwater Council members at the end of this article.

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Sample Save A Dive Kit Interactive Checklist

What Makes a Good SCUBA Dive Site

In this section, we will discuss some of the factors that make a good scuba dive site. These include the water visibility, aquatic life density, and the quality of the corals.

The first factor that makes a good scuba dive site is water visibility. Having good water visibility means that you can see very far into the ocean or lake and have a clear view of what’s going on around you. It also means that you can see any aquatic life below you very clearly.

The second factor is aquatic life density. This refers to how many different types of fish and other water dwelling creatures are in one area at one time. Naturally, the greater the density, the greater chance that you will see animals and experience the wonder of life underwater.

The third factor is the quality of the corals at a given site. Corals are living organisms that grow on rocks or sand on the ocean floor or near shore. They can be many different colours and textures, and give divers something pretty and unique to look at.

The Process of a SCUBA Dive

Scuba diving is a recreational activity that is done underwater. It requires the use of breathing apparatus to breathe underwater and provides a great opportunity to explore the world beneath the surface.

The process of scuba diving starts by filling up the air tank with air from a certified air compressor. This should be done by certified professionals at a dive shop or club. Then the divers travel to the dive site where they don their gear. Next, with their dive buddy, they perform a predive safety check. Once everything’s done, they enter the water together and explore for about an hour (depending on depth and air supply) before heading back to shore.

How to Stay Safe on Your Next Dive

When you are diving, it is important to stay safe. You can do this by following these tips:

  • Stay within your training limits.
  • Plan your dive, and dive your plan.
  • Never dive alone.
  • Drink plenty of fluids before and after the dive.
  • Eat a light meal before the dive.
  • Avoid heavy meals for at least two hours before the dive.
  • Avoid alcohol for at least eight (8) hours before the dive.
  • Do not go diving if you have any head and or nasal congestion or are feeling unwell.

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