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Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Scuba Certified

PADI scuba certification cardContents

What should I look for when selecting where to go for scuba training?

The best place to go for scuba lessons is your local dive center. Dive centers have the advantage of having all of the scuba equipment you will want to learn about on hand. In addition, your local PADI dive center will have a knowledgeable sales team to assist you in selecting equipment that fits properly and is suitable for local diving. You will also find trained service technicians who can help you properly service and maintain your equipment. Your local PADI dive center also offers local diving activities, international travel, and opportunities for you to meet other divers.

Whether you choose a PADI dive center or a dive center with another affiliation, it is important to ask whether the certification you will be issued is sanctioned by the Recreational Scuba Training Council (RSTC). If it is not, find another place to get your training. No one else in the dive industry will accept your certification card if it is from an organization that is not a member of the RSTC.


What does "certification" mean?

If you have ever talked to a diver, you probably have heard the word "certification" come up. Or perhaps you've asked about going out on a dive at a resort or dive center but were told you needed to be "certified" before you could go.

Certification simply means that you have been properly trained in the use of scuba equipment and the techniques of safe scuba diving. There are many different kinds of scuba certifications, but the certification most divers start with is the PADI Open Water Diver rating. This rating allows you to rent and buy scuba equipment, get air fills from dive centers, participate in professionally led dives, and dive in conditions that are similar to or better than the conditions you are trained in. For current pricing, see Aquatic Adventures Online.


What is PADI?

PADI stands for the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, the largest scuba certifying agency in the world. More than 60 percent of the divers certified in the world are certified by PADI, and more than 70 percent of the scuba instructors in the world are PADI instructors. PADI's strict adherence to training standards and its international presence means you will get the best scuba training available and that your PADI certification will be recognized throughout the world.

To learn more about PADI, visit their Web site at


How long does it take to get certified?

In order to complete your PADI Open Water Diver certification, you must complete 5 confined water dives, 5 academic sessions, and 4 open water dives. The confined water dives are generally done in a swimming pool or a lake or ocean area that is similar to a swimming pool in terms of water clarity and access to shallow water. These dives can be completed in anywhere from one day to five days depending on how the dive center runs your training. During these sessions you will learn how to do basic diving skills such as mask clearing, regulator clearing, and air management. Weekend students at Aquatic Adventures generally finish their pool training on a Saturday and Sunday. Weekday students usually complete their training in 2 or 3 evening sessions.

Academic sessions involve viewing video tapes, reading a manual, answering a series of questions based on the videos and readings, and successfully passing quizzes that verify your understanding of the material. Diving safely requires you to have a basic understanding of dive physics and physiology. You will be asked to apply that knowledge in the pool and in open water, so it's important to learn the academic material. Fortunately, most of this work can be done independently in the comfort of your home. At Aquatic Adventures, classroom material is completed in as little as one Friday evening and part of Saturday.

The four open water dives are done in a lake or ocean where you demonstrate the skills you've learned for your instructor under the kinds of conditions you will be diving in. Because divers in training can only do three dives in a day, you will need at least two days to complete your open water dives. When you're done, you will be issued a certification card with your picture on it, proving that you are a certified diver!

All together, your certification training will probably take about 35 hours of your time. If you are going on vacation and want to learn to dive before you go, start your training early. You will be less rushed and will enjoy your training much more.


Are there ways for me to dive if I don't have enough time to do a whole certification course?

If you have limited time but you still want to try scuba on your next vacation, the PADI Scuba Diver course may be the perfect choice for you. The PADI Scuba Diver course is a subset of the Open Water Diver course. Instead of completing 5 academic sessions, 5 pool dives, and 4 open water dives, Scuba Divers complete 3 academic sessions, 3 pool dives, and just 2 open water dives. Although Scuba Divers are allowed to dive only under the supervision of a PADI professional and only to depths above 40 feet, most students can complete the course in as little as 2 or 3 days.


What is a referral?

While the PADI Scuba Diver course is a way to avoid doing any training on your trip, you may want to consider a referral course if you live in a cold climate and can't do the open water dives because of the weather. Aquatic Adventures provides a program whereby we will take you through the classroom and pool portions of your certification course in Wisconsin and then make arrangements for you to complete the open water dives with another PADI dive center during your vacation. Our regular referral program begins in November and runs through April, but you can arrange for a referral at anytime during the year. For current pricing see Aquatic Adventures Online. This fee covers the classroom and pool portions of the course, and you can complete this work in one weekend. The receiving dive center will of course collect a fee for the open water dives. These fees range from $75 to about $300. In most resort areas, the fee for completing the open water dives is about $150 to $175 and includes basic equipment rental.


How old must I be to get certified?

Divers must be at least 10 years of age to participate in the PADI Open Water Diver course. However, children between the ages of 10 and 12 must attend the course with a parent and are required to dive with a parent or PADI professional at all times. In addition, they are limited to a depth of 40 feet. Children between the ages of 12 and 15 can dive with any certified adult but are limited to depths above 70 feet. Because of these restrictions, children are issued a Jr. Open Water Diver certification when they complete the course. When they turn 15, children can apply for the full Open Water Diver certification.


Will my certification expire?

No, your certification will not expire. As an Open Water Diver, your certification is good for life. If you do not actively participate in scuba for an extended period of time, however, it's a good idea to take the PADI Scuba Review to brush up on your skills. For current pricing or to sign up for a Scuba Review, see Aquatic Adventures Online.


Do I need to be a good swimmer to become a scuba diver?

Being a good swimmer will definitely make you more comfortable in the water, but the swimming requirements for the Open Water Diver course are rather modest. You will be asked to swim 200 yards without stopping, but you can do any stroke you like and can take as long as you like to complete the distance. You will also be asked to tread water for 10 minutes in water too deep to stand.


Are there any health conditions that might prevent me from diving?

Almost anyone who is in good health and reasonably fit can participate in scuba. However, there are some conditions that may prevent you from diving. Women who are pregnant, for example, should definitely not dive. In addition, if you have ever had a lung disease or lung injury, you should consult a physician before diving. If you are concerned that your health may be a problem, stop in at your local PADI dive center and ask for the RSTC Medical Statement or download the RSTC Medical Statement from our "Forms" page. This form will assist your physician in determining whether diving is safe for you.


How much does it cost to get certified?

The cost of getting certified can vary greatly depending on where and when you take your course. For current pricing at Aquatic Adventures, see Aquatic Adventures Online. That price includes course DVD rental, books, equipment rental, and pool fees. Students are required to have their own mask, fins, snorkel, and boots, but AAI provides student discounts to help reduce this cost. Students are also responsible for entry fees to the parks where we train. If training is done on one of our trips, the student is responsible for boat or resort operator fees.

AAI also offers private instruction for an additional cost and online instruction through PADI. If you train during the cooler months, AAI offers a referral program where you can do your confined water and academic training in Wisconsin, and do your open water dives at another PADI facility. See Aquatic Adventures Online for our current referral pricing. Complete details regarding our referral program are available on our PADI Open Water Referral webpage.


Divers need buddies, right? So do I need to bring someone with me to class?

Yes, divers need buddies. For safety reasons, you should never dive alone no matter how many scuba classes you've taken or how many dives you've done. But you won't have to supply a buddy for your certification class.

Although it is nice to have a friend or family member join you in your training, it is certainly not necessary. Your scuba training will provide you an opportunity to meet many other people who are interested in diving. Many of those new divers will be looking for buddies as well. So if you have a friend who's interested in learning to dive, bring your friend along. If not, you're sure to meet someone in class.


Is diving really dangerous?

Because the media tends to portray diving as high adventure or dangerous, many people falsely believe that diving is an extreme sport. Fortunately, the truth isn't quite so exciting.

Because of the strict training standards found in most scuba courses, the reliability of scuba equipment, and the strict adherence to safe diving practiced by most trained divers, very few people are injured while diving. In fact, the rate of injury per participant is about the same for diving as it is for bowling. Generally when injuries do occur, it is because someone participates in diving without proper training or a properly trained diver disregards his training.


Do sharks attack divers?

Unfortunately, some sharks have been known to attack divers, just as some bears have been known to attack hikers. But just like bear attacks, shark attacks are very rare and generally only occur when divers harass these animals.

The sad reality is that people kill sharks by the millions every year, and many shark species are now endangered. Most divers today consider themselves lucky to see sharks because sharks are becoming so rare.

Like most marine animals, sharks are usually frightened by the bubbles made by a scuba system and swim off almost immediately upon encountering divers. Normally, sharks must be enticed with food before they will interact with divers. If you ever encounter a shark that looks threatening, stay toward the bottom and swim away slowly.


Do I need to buy all of my equipment right away? I hear it's expensive.

Equipment is an important part of scuba. High quality, properly maintained equipment not only provides us with the ability to visit the underwater world, it gives us greater safety while doing it.

You probably won't be much of a diver if you do not buy scuba equipment, just as you wouldn't be much of a skier if you never bought skis. However, scuba equipment is rather expensive. After all, it's life support equipment! So most dive centers offer equipment rental as a way to allow their students to purchase equipment over time.

If you can afford to purchase some of your equipment during your training, your PADI instructor can assist you in mastering how to properly use it. If you can't afford equipment now, ask your instructor for advice on how to make a wise decision when you do decide to purchase.


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