So you like fish, you like to get all dressed up in tight-fitting stuff, and you like to strap all sorts of things on. You're also interested in scuba-diving, though, so let's talk about that and keep this clean.

Fact number one: the word "scuba" is actually the acronym "S.C.U.B.A." What does SCUBA stand for? Well, it's not "So, Can U Breathe Alright?" It stands for "Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus," mostly because scuba diving involves using a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. Scuba diving is a popular watersport; so popular that over one million people become certified scuba divers worldwide every year. It basically involves putting a heavy tank full of compressed air on your back and diving into deep water with a tiny rubber tube being the only thing that keeps you alive. Still interested? Then read on, intrepid explorer.


The first step to becoming a scuba diver is to determine how serious your interest is. Will you dive in warm waters a few times a year at some pricey resorts or are you interested in hardcore cold water diving and exploring shipwrecks? It's important to ask yourself questions like these because you can enjoy diving without becoming certified. If you vacation in popular diving spots like the Caribbean, Acapulco, or the Florida Keys, you will easily find offers for "resort" dives. These are usually 1-day or weekend crash courses in diving which include a guided dive with a dive master. You do not get certified and can not go unsupervised, but you are certainly allowed to enjoy the marine life in the area. Although often expensive, this type of introduction to diving is a wonderful way to decide if you want to pursue getting certified. You will probably even get a few underwater disposable camera shots of yourself with colorful fish. Oooh. Ahhh.

If you have a more vested interest in diving and want to become certified, there are physical and mental aspects to the sport that you should consider. It's fairly obvious that this is a sport with a healthy amount of risk.

Physical Considerations

Swimming Ability: You first must determine whether you are physically able to scuba dive. Question number one: do you know how to swim? If the answer is "no," then we suggest a hobby that does not involve water. However, a more incisive question is: are you comfortable being in water for hours at a time? Even if you know how to swim, scuba diving can be tiring, so your swimming skills should be fairly strong. If you are overweight, tire easily, have diabetes, a heart condition, or any other predisposition to drowning, then talk to your doctor before scuba diving. He or she might have an opinion that you'd like to hear. Oh, and having a stomach of steel to combat those 5-foot waves comes in handy too.

Breathing Ability: Another thing to know is that some people have problems getting used to breathing through their mouths instead of their noses. This problem can be easily fixed through practice with a snorkel or regulator in "safe" environments like a pool or bathtub.

Equalizing Ability: A harder problem to overcome is equalizing the pressure in your ears as you descend lower and lower into the water. That is, being able to "pop" your ears, like on a plane. As you go deeper in the ocean, pressure builds, and it is crucial to your physical being that you be able to pop your ears. For an explanation why, ask your doctor or scuba instructor. It's complicated. Just trust us that you need to practice popping your ears. Now some people find this easier than others. Some can just swallow, yawn, or hold their noses and blow gently (we repeat: GENTLY). We like to use a trick called the "combo-yawn-and-wiggle-your-jaw-from-side-to-side" (trademark pending). Whatever the method, it sometimes takes a pretty long time to kick in. The important thing to remember is that if you are having trouble equalizing, for the love of God, don't go any deeper! Tell your buddy (more on this below) to hold up and make sure you pop your ears, because the alternative can be ruptured eardrums. Those hurt.

This leads to an important note: when you have congestion it's really hard to equalize. People with colds and allergies should reschedule their dives. Try diving into a good bowl of chicken noodle soup instead.

Mental Considerations

Panicking: You must not panic while scuba diving. Period. Not necessarily in case you get in trouble, but in case your buddy has a problem. Buddy? Whenever diving, you should always have a "buddy," someone who you'll stick next to, and who will watch over you while you watch over them. If your buddy has a problem, it's your responsibility to get someone (most likely the dive master) to help him or her. If you panic, your buddy might not get such help.

Fear of strangers: Speaking of your aforementioned buddy, we must reiterate that everyone that dives must have one! Diving with a friend or loved one makes you feel safer because you pretty much can count on them to watch over you. So if you are a bit shy around people you don't know and don't feel comfortable being paired up with just anyone you meet on a dive boat (you really have to trust your buddy in what could be survival conditions and you may both have to breathe out of the same regulator if, God forbid, something disastrous happens), you might want to consider snorkeling instead. You must communicate with your buddy. But don't worry -- other divers are generally great people to get to know and random buddies can end up being friends for life.

Squirmies: Are you squeamish around sea creatures and plant life? Yes, it's true that you would rarely encounter things like sharks, barracudas, and piranhas, but how do you feel about jellyfish, slimy stingrays, and thick kelp forests? If you get all icked out by thoughts of sea crap floating into your face or swallowing sea water, you might be prone to getting "the squirmies." Again, not the best candidate for scuba diving. Now be honest with yourself; if these things make you nervous and kinda freak you out, maybe you should stick to eating sea life instead of looking at it.

Sea sickness: Well, this is kinda a mixture between the physical and the mental (many times, people don't get sea sick unless they think about it). In any case, if you are prone to getting seasick, you should probably take up tennis. Scuba diving involves going on boats to get to dive sites.