Open Water Diver (Certification)

Getting certified as a scuba diver has been on my life’s to do list for as long as I can remember and I finally had the opportunity to go for it.
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Certified Diver
After years of dreaming about becoming a Scuba Diver I had finally decided to take the plunge as it were and really do it. I had researched online trying to determine what I would need and how to go about making my dream a reality. The information is really overwhelming to say the least.
  • What will I need?
  • Where do I go to take the classes?
  • Which organization – SDI, PADI etc.?
I had so many questions, I knew no one that was an actual diver or had even done it. I just knew that I really wanted to go diving. Not to mention the fears.
  • I’m 46 yrs. old
  • I smoke
  • It’s been years since I really swam a lot
  • I must be nuts!
Living in a small town I only had one choice of a dive shop that was close. I began investigating the shop and what it had to offer, I even went down to the local river to watch them make their annual winter dive. I watched, I talked to the shop owner and some of the divers. Something just didn’t feel right. I didn’t get the feeling of friendliness from the shop owner, it was more of a, “Yeah I’ll see ya when you sign up for classes”, feeling.
From all the reading I had done I knew this wasn’t a good sign, everyone recommended finding someone you feel comfortable with. It will make the diving experience or break it. My first roadblock in my journey. Now I had to start looking outside of my local area for a dive shop that had what I was looking for.
My next stop was a dive shop located closer to my work, about 45 miles away from where I live. Talking to the shop owner I was impressed. He had all the answers and a really good personality to go along with it. In talking to him I found out he was planning to move his shop soon but hadn’t found a location yet. So here I am, I found the personality but the location he was thinking about was going to make it really difficult for me to do. So far I learned two things:
  • Find an instructor and shop your comfortable with.
  • Find a stable dive shop.
Nothing against either place, It just wasn’t lining up the way I wanted. I didn’t feel comfortable.
At this point I knew I had a planned vacation coming up in Florida and I figured why not add visiting local dive shops there and seek some more answers, maybe even pick up some gear while I’m at it. It’s Florida right, who would have better scuba gear than shops in Florida? Had to be better than Ohio!
My first stop was a dive shop just outside of Tampa, Fl. called: Diver City  Scuba and it just so happened the owner of the shop was there that day. During our conversation I found out he was originally from Ohio. He answered all my questions and made me feel really at home. I felt as though I was welcomed and even other divers coming in the shop started talking to me and offering advice. This is what I was looking for!  I ended up leaving the shop with my fins, mask, snorkel and dive boots. He even gave me a deal because I payed cash!  Beyond purchasing what I knew I needed to start my classes he answered a question I had regarding which training organization I should pick, from the very beginning I really didn’t know which was the best. This is what I took away from the conversation:
It really doesn’t matter, each offers a different way of training and is looked at differently throughout the diving community. Each have different names for the classes although similar, but the main thing is: Find an instructor and shop your comfortable with and get in the water and start your training, it’s a life changing experience. I couldn’t agree more!
While in Florida I stopped in two other shops just confirming my feelings, looking at gear and dreaming. I walked away with this: Every shop I stopped in was very welcoming answered all my questions and even taught me new things to look for. Everyone was eager to share their stories and had a genuine love of diving. Everything I had hoped for and wanted in a dive shop. Now I had to match this feeling back in Ohio!
If your ever in the area of one of these shops stop in and say hello.
Now back in Ohio the search was on to find the dive shop that would get my business. I had my gear and I had a picture of what I was looking for in a dive shop. I expanded my search to Columbus, Oh. and after visiting I settled on Aquatic Adventures in Hillard, Oh. They Train SDI. The staff was very accommodating friendly and knowledgeable, not to mention the facility was impressive. I found the same feeling I got from the shops I visited in Florida. I set up my classes, paid my tuition and began with my online training. Online training was a breeze, I aced the tests and felt really good. One step closer!
Next I had to get a complete physical because I was over the age of 45. The doctor seemed to be a little hesitant to sign off because of my age and the fact that I smoked, but after she explained the dangers of what I was about to attempt she finally did. Picking my heart up off the floor I walked out of the doctors office with my next step completed. I don’t know how I would have reacted if she didn’t sign off, made me wish I would have started this journey when I was younger, but I couldn’t be stopped now!
I signed up for classes that allowed me to complete my certification in 2 weekends. The first Saturday and Sunday would be classroom and pool dives and the second weekend would be in Circleville, Oh. at the Twin Quarries dive shop. Hotels booked, since the dive shop was over 100 miles away from me, I waited for the day to arrive that I would begin my actual training.
The first half of day one was all about meeting the other perspective divers, our instructor and going over the online test that we had taken. Next we had to take our swimming test. We all had to float 10 minutes in the 12 foot section of the dive pool then swim 200 yards.

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Thank God I had spent the last month reviewing my swimming skills and actually out swimming 200 Yards two times a week, if not I may not have passed this. It had been a long time since I had swam that much!
Now it was time to check out our gear and begin our training in the pool. After going through one heck of a time getting the right size wet-suit and almost killing myself to get it on I was ready, and so was everyone else! Somewhat embarrassing but I pushed through.

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We all put our gear on learning how to place our tanks on our BCD’s and the proper procedure for checking that everything was working properly and how it all functioned.
Going into the water for the first time I was well on my way, or so I thought. Coming from a swimming background and always in the pool or local watering hole when I was younger I figured this was gonna be a breeze. I have no fear of water and feel quite confident in it, but for some reason when I took that first plunge underwater to actually breathe it was another story. All I can say is my mind just didn’t grasp the fact that you really can breathe underwater with the proper equipment. I was only in 3 feet of water and I knew there was no danger but my mind just wouldn’t comprehend. Finally after 3 panic moments where I had to come up I convinced myself to stay under. Going through the motions and learning how to achieve a neutral buoyancy so that you can float near the bottom without touching it was what we were trying to achieve and at this point even though I was under water breathing I still wasn’t comfortable, enough.
 It wasn’t until our instructor told us to just go under and get a feel for everything by twisting and turning upside down and upside right did I get it. When I turned myself upside down in the 12 foot section I saw the bubbles from my regulator floating to the surface and how the sunlight was coming through the water and it all clicked for me. There was a beauty in that moment, a feeling of being completely weightless and all the reflections surrounding me that made me realize, it doesn’t matter where you are in the water, upside down, sideways whatever, as long as you can breathe and have control over your fears it was all good. From that point forward I was good, I got it! I wish I had a photo of that moment because it was truly magical for me, even in the pool.
Two days of learning our gear, how to enter the water, swimming just beneath the surface practicing safety. I was having a blast finally and didn’t want to get out of the pool, but that portion of our lesson was complete and it was now time to go back home and reflect on what I had learned and how I handled everything. Next weekend was the checkout dives in the quarry.
I have to say that I was very fortunate to have my wife with me for this and she recorded everything that she could on her cell phone from poolside. When I got home I was able to watch the videos and learn from some of the uncomfortable mistakes that I had made. It helped to refresh my memory.
Arriving at the quarry the following weekend I had a more realistic view of what everything was about and I was excited and ready.
Arriving onsite early I got prime parking and had all my gear out and ready. The next two days and four dives were all about reviewing what we had learned the previous weekend and practicing this in a real world environment, with the last day exploring the quarry and actually diving at our own leisure. I had a blast, I got nibbled on by bluegill as other divers feed them hotdogs. I rolled up on a big catfish that got right in my face and seemed larger than it probably was. I got to explore the sunken treasures that had been submerged for our entertainment, like the mannequin in the bathtub and a shark. The water temperature was 77-80 degrees both days, the company was great and I finally realized a dream that had been with me for many years.
I know it’s only a pool and a local quarry so far but I had the time of my life learning something new and the future looks bright. I can now dive anywhere in the world and explore some of the most beautiful sights the world has to offer.
Make the time to pursue a dream, fight through the embarrassments, meet your fears head on and stay safe but go after what you want with all that you have. It’s so worth it!

 I can’t wait to go diving again!

 

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