I Want to Learn to Scuba Dive, But How Do I Get Started?
People stop me on the street or call me frequently and inquire how they go about getting into a “fun” scuba classor are curious about how to find a “good” scuba instructor. They have this impression of instructors being gruff and grouchy, expecting them to pass some sort of Navy Seal Team initiation process and know that the closest they’ve ever come to being in that sort of shape was when they were watching an action movie with various super-human seeming commandos in it. Or perhaps they’ve seen scuba instructors on a recent trip, cruise or vacation that seem “young” and like they were having way too much fun to be actually taking the teaching of such a seeming scary endeavor seriously enough.
Well, fear not! Locating a qualified scuba instructor who is personable, skilled and qualified to handle your needs and concerns and still keep the experience fun and exciting is far easier today than it has ever been! Each of the various instructional agencies offer contact information for local retailers or instructors via websites or phone. Good resources for finding a training agency are available online as well by using your favorite search.
Start with a shop that is convenient for you based on when you’ll be visiting it for the class. Will you be attending after work or from home? Is it close to where you might be picking up a person taking the class with you? It really doesn’t matter what training agency you choose. In the end, regardless of what anybody tells you, the particular training agency you choose to take your class with is of very little consequence. Each and every training agency will teach you how to safely enjoy scuba in a fun and entertaining manor and will offer courses designed for you to succeed at your own pace.
Once you’ve found local shops or instructors one of the most important first things I recommend people is to walk in and spend a little time talking to the instructor who is going to teach your course. If the instructor isn’t there or available, find out when he or she will be or make an appointment to meet with them. Have a small list of questions or concerns ready for them. It’s wise to inquire about the class schedule. What dates and times does the class meet? Where is the pool? What exactly does the course fee cover? What if you or anybody else in your group requires some extra attention? Is there a fee for this over and above the cost of the course? What if you need more time in the pool to get comfortable with scuba? Again, an extra fee? Are there make up dates available in case you cannot make the scheduled dates?
Ask the instructor exactly what you should expect from their course over the course offered by the guy down the street or across town. Don’t be afraid to shop and let them know you are shopping. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the “because my agency does it this way – Rah, Rah, answer as the answer to all these questions isn’t nearly as important (well, unless extra fees are too high) as the way in which they are answered and explained to you. The test is to see how comfortable and excited the instructor makes you feel about joining their dive class. Keep in mind that if you feel the instructor isn’t clear to you in explaining things, is distracted by goings on around them, or even seems to be irritated and/or short with you in their answers, it’s only going to get WORSE when you get into the pool and the open water for your class where things are more stressful for the instructor. In 34+ years in this industry I’ve never once seen an instructor get MORE entertaining, MORE patient or EASIER to deal with at the pool or the ocean.
And remember, none of this would mean you have met a bad instructor. Far and away the vast majority of scuba instructors I’ve met over the years have all had an excellent sense of diver safety in their minds first and foremost. They have all been trained and kept abreast of the current training
techniques required and expected of them. It’s more a matter of personality. There have been many I’ve come across who are lifelong friends of mine still to this day. There are some I don’t really care to socialize with and there are a few that I’ll go out of my way to not cross paths with ever again, but I’d be hard pressed to ever say that I feel they are not a good scuba instructor with their students safety, well being and enjoyment in mind. We simply don’t have personalities that mesh.
Finally, once you’ve found an instructor you are comfortable with be sure to remember that this person is going to be teaching you the use of life support equipment in an aquatic environment that while beautiful and exciting to visit, can hold many perils for those who are not prepared. And this instructor is responsible for your well being for the duration of the course. Be sure to respect this by showing up to class on time and prepared. If there is anything that was asked of you before showing up to the class, pool or ocean, be sure you have it all handled. And mostly, relax and be prepared for a fun and rewarding past time that you can enjoy with family and friends for many years to come!