Scuba diving is something I’ve always wanted to get certified in, but the frigid waters of Seattle were less than enticing. When I found out I was going to the Big Island in Hawaii, I knew this was the time to do it. I immediately started looking around online for what I needed to do to get certified in scuba diving in Hawaii.
There are several different certifications you can get, but after extensive research I chose to get certified through PADI. They are internationally recognized, meaning I can go to almost any country in the world that offers scuba diving and find a dive shop that’s certified by them. That was important to me because that meant that any PADI dive shop would know exactly what my skill level was and what dives would be appropriate based on my level of training. Safety is extremely important in diving, as it can be very dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. I also knew I wanted to continue diving around the world with my future travels, so having shops through them all over was a selling point.
After searching around, I found a program called a tropical referral where you can start your certification where you live and finish it at your destination. I didn’t want to waste a single day in Hawaii in a classroom, so I signed up at Seattle Scuba for my classroom and pool work. They sent me a DVD with quizzes to have completed by the time I started class, which took about five hours. The beginning of class went over the equipment and how to set it up.
Having never even snorkeled before, to say the first hour of my pool work was a disaster is an understatement. I consider myself adventurous, yet was terrified at the prospect of breathing underwater. Visions of suffocating kept popping into my head and I thought for a moment I wasn’t going to be able to pass this certification. My instructor was more than patient with me and explained how to effectively breathe and move around, and soon I was much more relaxed. The class went until almost midnight, but we had gone over every skill we would need in the open water.
Open Water Classes
Finally, the day had come and I was in Hawaii, ready for two days of open water training. I chose to go with Jack’s Diving Locker in Kona based on my Seattle instructor’s recommendation and their very high ratings online. After briefly going over what skills we would be covering, our boat was headed out to the first dive site. Dolphins surrounded us and played in the wake of the boat, which I took as a good sign for how the day was going to go.
As soon as I got underwater and started focusing on how beautiful underwater Hawaii was, all my worries went away. We were in a group of four for the first day, which made me feel much more comfortable and feel like I could take my time repeating a skill if needed. To get open water certified, the instructors have a series of skills you need to perform to show them you know your stuff. They include simpler tasks such as taking out your regulator (what you breathe through) and putting it back in underwater, dragging your buddy through the water to recreate a scenario if they were too tired or injured and couldn’t swim, and navigating with just a compass in whichever direction she told us. We had two dives the first day with a small lunch in between, and I realized had no idea why I was so worried about this originally.
The second day, most of the people on the boat were only on their first day of open water, so it ended up being just my husband and I in our own group with the instructor. On the first dive we finished up the required skills, including completely taking off our masks underwater and putting them back on (not easy when you’re a girl and your hair gets stuck in the straps!) and performing an emergency ascent, where you slowly exhale the entire time you go up (in the case of your oxygen tank malfunctioning and needing to get to the surface right away). We were informed we passed the skills, and the last dive after lunch was purely diving and exploring.
Conquering My Fears
From the day I took my first breath underwater to being where I am now with six dives under my belt, I’m so glad I pushed myself past my comfort zone to get open water certified. Diving was something I really wanted to do, and I’m glad I didn’t let my anxiety get the best of me. Exploring underwater opens up a whole new world when you travel, and I plan on diving as much as I can when I travel in the future.