There are some hobbies that you can just buy the kit and work it all out yourself, but others where you need to be a bit more careful – and scuba diving definitely falls into the latter category. But while you shouldn't go and jump in the deep end by yourself (literally), there are plenty of places you can get trained properly around the UK.
Dip your toe
The way many people start off is with a taster session, which are usually held at a swimming pool (when it's closed to the general public) and priced at around £20. These sessions will see the equipment explained to you and you'll be guided in a bit of underwater exploration of the deep end, so you can experience the sensation of breathing underwater.
The next step
If you decide you want to take things further, the next step is to enrol on a course accredited by PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) or BSAC (British Sub-Aqua Club). Basic training will usually be carried out in a swimming pool or perhaps a protected shallow area of open water, usually being delivered over a series of evening sessions which progressively introduce new elements. It can however be undertaken in a "crash course" style longer session too.
Weekend sessions can also be undertaken to dive in open water, and learner divers will be taken to a maximum depth of 20m (which is pretty deep compared to a swimming pool!) as they gain their qualification. On completion of an initial course such as BSAC's Ocean Diver qualification, you'll be permitted to dive to with similarly qualified "buddies" – as long as you don't need decompression stops – and under the supervision of an on-site dive manager. So basically that means at approved venues.
What you'll need
For the taster sessions you'll just have to take swimwear and a towel, but once you're booked on for proper lessons you'll probably want to buy your own snorkel and facemask too. A wetsuit will probably be provided if required – and is also something you'll probably want to purchase for yourself if you take it up seriously.
Divers all have a logbook to record their dives, and you'll probably want a printed decompression table. A dive reel and marker buoy is also used by most divers to assist with navigation and for safety. As you progress you'll also probably want to own your own breathing apparatus.
So what comes next?
Since more than 70 per cent of the Earth's surface is covered with water, the world is almost literally your oyster. Many divers choose to put their qualifications to good use on holiday in sunnier climes, swimming with exotic fish or marvelling at coral reefs. While others get their wetsuits on and explore Britain's murkier coastal waters or gravel pits, perhaps checking out sunken wrecks or cave systems as they go along.
Using BSAC's course framework as an example – the organisation's Sport Diver course will allow you to dive to 35m upon completion, using mandatory decompression stops where required. It will also enable you to rescue fellow divers if required and take on some of the responsibilities for dive planning and supervision. Further qualifications are also offered enabling you to lead dives and instruct others – as well as involving boats, navigation and advanced diving skills.
Finding a course
If you're ready to dive in (sorry), check out the BSAC or PADI websites to see the locations of accredited instructors – or simply search for scuba diving lessons in your desired location.
PS. Scuba stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, in case you were wondering.
Have you tried scuba diving? Leave a comment below...