New Diver FAQ

Why do they call it SCUBA?

SCUBA stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

How old do I have to be to be able to go SCUBA diving?

10 years old or older.

How long can you stay under with those oxygen bottles?

SCUBA tanks do not contain pure oxygen, they are filled with pure, dry, filtered, compressed air.  How long you can stay under water is determined by how deep you will be diving and how hard you are working.  The deeper you go, the less time you have.

Diving can only be done by good swimmers and people in top physical condition, right?

You don’t have to be an Olympic swimmer to become a recreational SCUBA diver but you do have to pass some basic swim tests. For the first course, the open water course, it isn’t even timed.

SCUBA diving is dangerous isn’t it?

It’s probably about as dangerous as bowling if you are trained properly. Modern equipment is very reliable and is not a concern for divers, training with a recognised training agency and through an actual dive centre, any risk is minimised.

Why do my ears hurt when I go to the bottom of the pool?

As you go deeper under the water, the pressure on your body increases.  Since the pressure on the outside of your body increases above the pressure in your inner ear, your ear drum starts to get pushed in and you feel pain.  If you were to continue to dive deeper your eardrum would eventually burst.  Good news! Its very simple to “equalize” the pressures using techniques you learn in your SCUBA class to avoid pain and the possibility of a ruptured eardrum.  Diving should not be painful.

SCUBA diving is expensive isn’t it?

Would you take up skiing and not buy skis?  Why would you get into SCUBA diving and not expect to have to buy the SCUBA equipment needed to dive safely?  Rental gear does not fit as well and is not as comfortable as your own gear would be.  Studies show that divers that own their own equipment dive more often and are far more likely to keep diving.  SCUBA diving is an equipment intensive sport and does require some significant purchases.  Properly maintained, your equipment may give you many years of enjoyment.  Don’t just think about how much you are spending now, think about how much it will cost you over a period of 5 to 10 years.  Since SCUBA equipment is used for life support, you should buy the best performing gear you can afford.

Can I buy my equipment on-line?

Some things can be purchased on-line but you really should buy items that require a proper fit at your local dive shop. Your local dive shop is there to help whatever kit you’re after. Local Dives Shops will also service your equipment when required, buying from them will make sure they will have any parts required. They are also the most likely place to get your cylinders filled, keep in with your local shop, you wouldn’t want them to disappear. You can’t buy compressed air online, support your local dive centre.

Can I dive with contact lenses?  What if I wear glasses?

You should be able to dive while wearing contacts.  If you wear hard contact lenses you will want the gas permeable type.  If you wear glasses, masks can have lenses bonded to them so you can see underwater.

Divers who wish to wear contact lenses while diving should ask their ophthalmologists or optometrists to prescribe “soft” contact lenses. “Hard” lenses or rigid gas-permeable lenses, the other two commonly prescribed types of lenses, have been found to sometimes cause symptoms of eye pain and blurred vision during and after dives, in which the diver accumulates a significant inert gas load. These symptoms occur as a result of gas bubbles forming between the cornea and the contact lens.

For more information on vision issues, see the complete article by Frank K. Butler Jr., Captain, Medical Corps, United States Navy on High-Pressure Ophthalmology from Alert Diver.

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