How to Get a SCUBA Certification

Pennyroayl Scuba Center

So many of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites are marine reserves. That means…I must have a SCUBA certification if I want to photograph them.

Late this summer I made that happen. Actually, I already had my open water certification circa 1996. As an undergrad at MTSU, I took SCUBA as one of my sports electives & I got YMCA certified then. I did my open water checkout dives but never went diving again. Reason being, shortly after I became certified, I got pregnant with Zoe and never found the time, money or SCUBA buddy to go diving with. Needless to say, my skills had gotten a little rusty (uhhum…non-existent) and I needed to get trained again. Luckily, getting certified was simple and affordable.  Here’s what I did to get my open water PADI SCUBA certification.

Find a dive center near you

I started with online searching for dive centers near me. I found several places that offer certification around Nashville and I visited websites, looked at class schedules, read online reviews, if available, and sent inquiry emails. Ultimately I went with Music City SCUBA. They were very responsive via email, we spoke on the phone and they were equally helpful, very professional, had dates that would work in my schedule and had an online/study at home component to prepare for the written test.

Next step is simple: Register and pay the man

The class I registered for included access to online study material, videos, the fees associated with the pool skills component and the open water dive component, and the equipment rentals I needed to get certified.

Study, study, study

After I was fully registered and paid up, they sent me the medical release form, the other paperwork I needed to complete, and the class materials.  I’m not going to lie, there is a lot to go over. I recommend giving yourself more than a week to study this material. I signed up only a week in advance & that pretty much meant that every day after work I had to spend several hours reading and watching videos; learning all about the world of SCUBA. My immediate goal was to make sure I could pass the written test. My long term goal was actually to make sure I know the material inside and out. I’m no fan of dying 30 feet underwater because I skimmed a chapter, knowing I only needed a 75 to pass. Thus, I studied in earnest.

Pass the written dive test

Saturday morning I went to the Music City SCUBA dive shop and, along with 5 other students, met Sean, the dive instructor and Lori, the dive master. We took several practice tests and Sean went over the answers with us. We reviewed the throughly confusing dive tables and became convinced that owning a dive watch is the way to go. Taking the official written test came next. 50 multiple choice questions. Of course, some of the questions were worded kind of tricky – you know, like every test. After everyone was done, we swapped papers, just like in elementary, and graded each others papers. I passed my test with an 84. Woo-hoo! Hard part is over with.

SCUBA tanks
SCUBA Certification Checkout Dive

Pass the contained water skills test

After lunch we reconvened at a pool in a nearby sportsplex to go over the practical skills. For the next four hours we did a lot of stuff. We had to do a swim test, which included treading water (or just floating if you could pass it that way) and swimming for several meters.  We learned how to assemble our equipment, how to stretch our legs out in case we get a muscle cramp from all that kicking, how to put our mask back on underwater in case it got knocked off, how to communicate with our dive buddies that we are out of air and need help, and the proper technique to grab our regulator in case it got knocked out of our mouth, just to name a few. It’s amazing how many specific techniques you need to know in order to be a safe diver.

Pass the open water skills test

The following Saturday and Sunday we met early at Pennyroyal SCUBA Center, a 22-acre freshwater quarry, just over the Kentucky line. The open water portion of getting certified entails completing four dives, over two separate days. During those dives we tested the same skills learned in the pool, except in much deeper and open water. After we demonstrated the skills, we dove around the quarry, getting more comfortable underwater. We swam around to varying depths, which gave us practice getting our buoyancy (one of the hardest skills for a beginner to master), and we had fun finding the different underwater attractions put in the quarry for divers – the motorcycle, the yacht, a basketball court complete with bowling balls in case you fancied practicing hoops while you’re down there, a lion statue, and a t-rex.

Check, check, and checked out.

I passed all of my tests: written, contained water and open water . Now I’m a certified PADI SCUBA diver, the first step needed in being able to photograph all of the marine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I definitely have a lot to learn before I am a master diver (getting an advanced certification is next on my list) or an expert in underwater photography. In the meantime though, this isn’t a skill I want to let sit dormant. I had a blast getting checked out as a diver & I can’t wait to start photographing the underwater world.

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