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Scuba FAQ

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Beginning Scuba Diving

Do you need to be a good swimmer to scuba dive? top
The main criterion here is "comfort."  Yes, you do need to know how to swim, but the most important thing is to be calm and comfortable in the water, both at the surface and under the surface.  You do not need to have perfect swimming form, and you do not have to be a fast swimmer.  We all have limitations, and each diver needs to understand what his or her limitations are.  Swimming ability and comfort in the water are certainly limitations which differ from diver to diver.  Beginning scuba classes require minimum swimming assessments to ensure that all students can at least swim far enough to return to a dive boat without fins.
Can I scuba dive if my ears hurt whenever I go to the bottom of the pool? top
The answer is "yes," and the good new is that you have ear drums.  The discomfort you experience at the bottom of the pool is a result of the tremendous water pressure pushing against your ear drums.  If you did not have ear drums, you would not experience the pain.  There are very simple ways to prevent middle ear pain when diving.  Your instructor will cover these methods and help you select the best method for you.  IT IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO PREVENT PAIN IN YOUR EARS.  OTHERWISE, YOU RUN THE RISK OF DAMAGING YOUR EAR DRUMS OR OTHER DELICATE COMPONENTS OF THE INNER EAR.  If you experience pain and cannot relieve it, you need to surface and quit the dive.
How old do you have to be to take a scuba class? top
The minimum age for scuba certification is 12 years old, and there is no maximum age.  Physical, mental, & emotional maturity are more important than actual age.  Some 12 year olds may not be ready to scuba dive, while others are excellent students and go on to become excellent divers.
Do you need a medical exam before starting class? top
Divers need to have good health, particularly when it comes to the respiratory and circulatory systems.  If you are over 40, or if you have a questionable medical condition, your instructor will ask you for a physician's approval before certification.  Otherwise, no  .  .  .  a medical exam is not a course requirement.
How long does a scuba certification last before it expires? top
Your scuba certification does not expire.  However, your skills might expire or become a bit rusty from inactivity.  If you have not been diving for 12 months or more, it is strongly recommended that you enroll in a refresher course.  To remain minimally competent and confident with basic scuba skills, a diver should make approximately 10-12 dives a year.

General Scuba Diving

Is it better to buy or rent scuba gear? top
It all depends.  Ask yourself these questions:
  • Where will you do most of your diving?  (Warm water, cold water or both?)
  • How many times a year will you dive?  (If diving in both warm and cold water, how many times a year in each?)
  • When diving on vacation, how many days per week do you plan to dive?
  • Do you prefer cruises, land packages, or live-aboard dive excursions?
  • Would you prefer to carry extra baggage for personal scuba equipment that you know to be reliable or use rental gear at your destination?
Of course, we would all like to use our own diving equipment whenever possible.  But that might not always be possible or practical.  When using your own gear, you know how it operates and how well it has been maintained.  However, your budget or diving frequency might dictate that renting is more practical.  You can also consider renting scuba gear before you leave, and take reliable diving equipment with you from home.  If you have an idea of what kind of diver you are, or hope to become, dive store personnel should be able to assist you in making your decision about renting or making that prudent investment.
How long can a diver remain under water on a single tank of air? top
The answer depends on the depth, size of tank, activity of the diver, and breathing rate of the diver.  The deeper you dive, the faster your air is consumed.  Tanks, like divers, come in a variety of sizes.  Of course, the larger the tank volume, the more air the tank contains, and the longer the diver can remain underwater.  Divers at rest don't require as much air as divers who are working.  Likewise, experienced divers who are relaxed don't generally consume air as quickly as divers who use unnecessary arm and leg movements.  In general, larger divers will drain their tanks faster than smaller divers, and men will usually use more air than women.  Cold divers also use more air.  To give an "approximate" answer to this question, it is probably safe to say that most dives usually last about 30-60 minutes.  
Which is better - strap fins or non-strap fins? top
That's a good question, and you're likely to get a different opinion from everyone you ask.  In general, strap fins are wider, longer, stiffer, and require the use of wetsuit boots to prevent chafing.  Divers in Mid America use strap fins to accommodate the wetsuit boots to keep their feet warm.  Non-strap fins are made to have a bare foot inside, and most people find a quality pair to be very comfortable.  Non-strap fins are easier to pack for travel, and they are easier top use when snorkeling.  Strap fins tend to flop out of the water when the diver kicks at the surface, while non-strap fins remain underwater.  If you take a trip to the Caribbean, you are sure to see divers wearing both kinds of fins, each with a personal preference for their choice.
How about sharks? top
It's a lucky diver who is fortunate enough to see a shark.  Most of us hope to see one on a dive and seldom do.  Unfortunately, it's often the one who does not want to see a shark who is the only one who does. 

There are over 250 species of sharks, and only 5 are known to attack humans.  These "bad" sharks live in waters not normally visited by divers, so your chance of seeing one is very unlikely.  (Besides, you always hear that music playing whenever one of those sharks show up.)

The sharks you may see on the reef are going to be a variety which is not interested in an awkward bubble-blowing pile of metal and rubber.  Such sharks will have names such as nurse shark and reef shark.  Take photos if you are close enough, and be sure to log this special dive.

If you're still worried about sharks, try Minnesota's north shore of Lake Superior.  We make all the sharks stay on the Wisconsin side.

Advanced Scuba Diving

What is the difference between NAUI and other certifying agencies? top
There are some important differences between NAUI and other agency certifications.  NAUI is a Not-For-Profit Worldwide Education Association.  All profit for the National Association of Underwater Instructors goes back into diving education and making diving a safer recreation.

NAUI's purpose is to enable people to enjoy underwater activities as safely as possible by providing the highest quality practical education, and to actively promote the preservation and protection of the world's underwater environments.  To accomplish this, NAUI trains, qualifies, and certifies the best leaders and instructors in the industry, establishes minimum standards for various levels of diver training, and provides various programs, products, and support materials to assist NAUI leaders and Instructors with their diving supervising and teaching. 

NAUI's primary purpose is also reflected in the association's motto, "Dive Safety Through Education."  As a pioneer in diving education, NAUI constantly strives to increase the safety of diving by upgrading the Association's standards and programs.  We always want our diving to be fun, but it must be safe before it can be fun.  With NAUI, you can be assured of receiving maximum fun because you know the safety factors are in place.

NAUI Instructors are qualified professional educators who are granted academic freedom to teach diving in any reasonable manner as long as NAUI standards and policies are met.  NAUI does not have a rigid approach to teaching diving and does not require its Instructors to confine themselves to using only audiovisual materials in class.  NAUI training support materials are designated for flexibility in teaching, and NAUI Instructors are trained as competent teachers comfortable with a variety of classroom teaching techniques.  

NAUI Instructors may exceed NAUI standards in ways that do not jeopardize student safety.  Examples include exceeding the number of required open water dives or increasing the academic content.  The content of your class, pool and open water training at Smith Diving is not exceeded by any other dive shop in the Twin Cities.

One of the things the NAUI Credo states is that it is more important to train a few students well than to certify many marginally trained divers.  Therefore, Smith Diving limits student participation at the beginning level to 6 students in the pool and 4 students in the lake.  This means you are not in the pool or lake with 10-15 divers all trying to learn how to dive at the same time.  Remember, NAUI concentrates on safety first and foremost.

We further believe that educational quality must never be sacrificed for economic reasons.  Also, that divers should not be totally dependent upon their equipment for their safety.  This means that all NAUI divers must pass a series of minimum swim tests before certification is granted.  NAUI members emphasize the skills of diving, and anyone certified as a diver should be able to perform the basics of a rescue of a buddy diver.  Elementary rescues and several options for out-of-air contingencies are practiced in the pool and in the open water.
What is NAUI's position on drinking alcohol before and/or after Scuba Diving? top
NAUI does not condone drinking alcohol prior to diving.  We recommend that you do not drink alcohol before or directly following your dives and that you stay well hydrated at all times.  You can find some information about these concerns in NAUI's Advanced Diving Technologies and Techniques textbook.

Among other things, alcohol "impairs alertness, coordination and judgement, and is associated with an increased risk for accidents."  Consumption of alcohol is also associated with increased risk of DCS, nitrogen narcosis, hypothermia/hyperthermia (depending upon the environment) and dehydration.  The effects of nitrogen narcosis and hypothermia can also be magnified by the effects of alcohol.  Because of these risks, drinking before diving is obviously unwise.  Furthermore, drinking alcohol after diving further increases the risk of dehydration following the dive and may mask the signs & symptoms of Decompression Illness.  Hangovers are also associated with increased susceptibility of nitrogen narcosis and may be a predisposing factor of DCS.  It is the individual diver's responsibility to practice moderation when consuming alcohol.

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