Learning to Scuba Dive: The Complete Guide

Learning to Scuba Dive: The Complete Guide

If you’ve ever dreamed of experiencing this alien environment, of exploring submerged landscapes, and swimming with curious marine creatures, then let’s get you started on your scuba diving journey.

Step 1: Earn Your Diving Stripes – The Certification Process

“From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.”

Jacques Cousteau, the father of scuba diving, Source

Scuba diving is a serious sport with inherent risks. The right training and certification ensure that you can manage these risks and enjoy the sport safely.

The two most recognised certification bodies are PADI and SSI. The certification process for both begins with the Open Water Diver course, and includes:

  • Theoretical Learning: This is where your underwater adventure begins – on dry land. Through a combination of home study, online learning, or classroom sessions, you’ll learn the fundamentals. You’ll study equipment, physiology, underwater navigation, dive planning, and basic emergency procedures.
  • Confined Water Dives: Once you’ve aced the theory, it’s time to get wet. These dives are typically conducted in a pool or pool-like environment. You’ll learn essential skills, including gear assembly, mask clearing, buoyancy control, safety procedures, and underwater communication. This is your sandbox – a safe place where you can practice, make mistakes, and learn.
  • Open Water Dives: It’s what you have been waiting for, time to step into the ocean. Put into practice the skills you learned under the supervision of your instructor, with each dive taking you a little deeper than the last. Upon successful completion of these dives, congratulations are in order – you’re now a certified open water diver.
Scuba diving tips

Step 2: Know Your Gear

Avid diver and conservationist Sylvia Earle once said, “With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea.” Here is a overview of the equipment for diving:

  • Diving Mask: Your underwater window. Invest in a high-quality mask that fits well without being too tight. A good fit will prevent water leakage and provide a clear, comfortable view of the underwater world.

  • Regulator: It’s your underwater life support system. The regulator delivers air from your tank to you at ambient pressure, regardless of your depth. Pro-tip: always check your regulator for any signs of wear or leaks before each dive.

  • Buoyancy Compensator Device (BCD): Your BCD is your underwater control system. It allows you to adjust your buoyancy, helping you ascend, descend, or float in the water column.

  • Scuba Tank: Your portable air supply, filled with compressed air, not oxygen, contrary to popular belief. Tanks come in various sizes and materials; the choice depends on your consumption rate and dive depth.

  • Fins: Fins are your underwater propellers. Opt for a pair that fits well and suits your swimming style.

  • Dive Computer: Your underwater watchman. It monitors your depth, dive time, ascent rate, and necessary decompression stops, helping you avoid the potentially deadly decompression sickness. This is optional for beginners as you can rely on your dive instructor to track time and depth.

Step 3: Develop Your Diving Skills

As a scuba diver, your skills are your lifeline. The better your skills, the safer and more enjoyable your dives will be. Here are key skills to learn to scuba dive:

Buoyancy Control:

Achieving perfect buoyancy is like finding the Holy Grail of diving. It’s essential for your safety and for the protection of the underwater environment.

  • Beginners: the deeper you go, the less buoyancy you get from your wetsuit, and the emptier the tank the more buoyant it is so you need to adjust your BCD
  • Experienced Divers: Consider taking a peak performance buoyancy specialty course. Aim to navigate around small obstacles using only your breath and stay horizontal

Dive Planning:

Every dive is an adventure, but a well-planned adventure is a safe and satisfying one.

  • Beginners: Familiarize yourself with the dive site. Start with simple, guided dives and learn the importance of dive tables and dive computers. Ask lots of questions!
  • Experienced Divers: Learn to create a comprehensive dive plan, taking into account factors like multiple dives, varying depths, surface intervals, safety stops, and emergency plans.

Rescue Skills:

From self-rescue to buddy-assist, these skills can make the difference between life and death in emergencies.

  • Beginners: Practice simple self-rescue skills like cramp removal and mask clearing. Get comfortable with basic buddy checks and emergency protocols.
  • Experienced Divers: Consider a rescue diver course to equip yourself with advanced rescue skills and emergency management capabilities.

Underwater navigation can be challenging, but it’s crucial to ensure you don’t get lost during a dive.

  • Beginners: understand the dive plan beforehand and test yourself where is the entry and exit points relative to your position through the dive to build up awareness
  • Experienced Divers: Improve your navigation skills by practising different methods like timed, compass and natural navigation on various dives.

Remember, in the words of the diving sage Jacques Cousteau, “The sea tests all men.” Keep practising, remain curious, and continue learning. That’s the way to grow as a diver!

Step 4: Develop your confidence and ability to explore:

Every time I slip into the ocean, it’s like going home.

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle, Source

As you grow more comfortable and proficient, you’ll likely share the sentiment. Consider advanced courses or specialty courses like deep diving, wreck diving, cave diving, and more. Once you’ve acquired your Open Water Diver certification, the next stages are even more exciting:

  • Advanced Open Water Diver Course: Ready to go beyond the basics? This course takes you there. You’ll need to complete five different adventure dives to qualify. These include a mandatory deep dive and navigation dive, plus three more dives of your choosing (like night diving, wreck diving, or photography, for instance). Each dive brings a new skill and experience, shaping you into a more capable diver.

  • Rescue Diver Course: Are you prepared to handle a diving emergency? The Rescue Diver course will teach you how. First, you’ll need to complete a First Aid and CPR course (or already hold a valid certificate) before starting. Then the course then focuses on problem identification, prevention, and management, making you a safer diver and a trustworthy buddy.

  • Master Scuba Diver Rating: Want to reach the pinnacle of recreational diving? The Master Scuba Diver rating is your goal. To achieve this, you must be at least 12 years old, have a minimum of five PADI Speciality Diver Certifications, and have logged at least 50 dives. It’s a recognition of your extensive training and experience in diverse dive environments.

  • Dive Master/Instructor Course: If your love for diving spills over consider becoming a professional dive master or instructor. You must be 18 years old, have completed the Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver courses, and logged a certain number of dives. As a professional, you’ll guide others into the underwater world and enrich their lives with your knowledge and experience.

Where are the best places to learn in Europe?

Diving in the UK and Europe can be a revelation. Here are some remarkable destinations offering an array of unique underwater experiences:

1. Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands, Scotland

This famous dive site is a graveyard for the German High Seas Fleet, scuttled here in 1919. Exploring these historical wrecks is a surreal experience. To reach the Orkneys, you can catch a flight from most major UK cities to Kirkwall. From there, it’s a short drive to the dive centers in Stromness.

2. Lundy Island, England

Off the coast of Devon, Lundy Island is a hotspot for interacting with playful grey seals. Exeter is the closest city, and from there, you can drive to Ilfracombe and then take a ferry to the island. This site is suitable for beginners to advanced divers.

3. Silfra, Iceland

Silfra is the only place in the world where you can dive between two continental plates, in crystal clear water with over 100 metres visibility. Flights to Reykjavik are available from all major European cities. A road trip from Reykjavik to the Thingvellir National Park, where Silfra is located, takes about an hour.

4. Zenobia, Cyprus

Ranked as one of the top 10 wreck dives in the world, the Zenobia, a roll-on-roll-off ferry, lies on her side near Larnaca. Flights are available from major European cities to Larnaca, and dive centres are just a short drive from the airport.

5. The Blue Hole, Gozo, Malta

This natural rock formation offers a stunning underwater landscape, including caves, chimneys, and arches. Malta is well connected by flights from major European cities. From Malta, it’s a short ferry ride to Gozo.

6. Côte d’Azur, France

The French Riviera offers an array of diving, from wrecks and caves to coral reefs. It’s accessible from Nice or Marseille, both well-connected to other European cities by air and rail. Dive sites are dotted all along the coastline, catering to all skill levels.

Remember, each dive site has its quirks and charms, and part of the adventure is finding the one that resonates with you. So, pack your fins, mark your maps, and get ready for some unforgettable underwater adventures!

Who to learn with – PADI or SSI?

There are two certifying bodies that stand out above the rest – Scuba Schools International (SSI) and Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). These two have been at the forefront of diver training, churning out confident and competent divers for years. But what sets them apart? And which one should you choose for your diving education? Grab your snorkel, we’re about to dive in!


PADI is considered the world’s leading scuba diving training organization. Its curriculum is heavily favoured towards independent learning. After the initial theory, students watch a series of training videos before diving in for a hands-on experience with a certified instructor.

Pros of PADI:

  1. Worldwide Recognition: PADI is highly recognized across the globe. With PADI, you’re likely to be accepted to dive anywhere in the world.
  2. Independence: PADI’s self-study methods are excellent for those who enjoy learning at their own pace.

Cons of PADI:

  1. Cost: PADI courses tend to be more expensive than their SSI counterparts and increasingly charge unexpected add-ons after you finish your course!
  2. Less Personalized: With a larger emphasis on self-study, there’s less one-on-one instruction compared to SSI.


SSI is known for its personalised training, with its instructors offering direct support throughout the learning process. The training is flexible, with the curriculum designed to fit the pace of the learner.

Pros of SSI:

  1. Flexibility: SSI courses can be tailored to fit your schedule and learning speed, which is perfect for those who prefer a more laid-back approach.
  2. Affordability: SSI courses are often less expensive than PADI courses.

Cons of SSI:

  1. Limited Recognition: While SSI is globally recognized, it may not be as universally accepted as PADI. Some dive centres may prefer PADI certification.
  2. Less Independent Learning: If you prefer learning by yourself, the SSI approach may feel a little too hands-on.

So, PADI or SSI? Both provide high-quality diver education, and you can’t go wrong with either. The choice really comes down to personal preference. Consider your learning style, budget, and the recognition you desire, and choose the one that best fits your needs. After all, the ocean awaits! Quality of school, dive sites and people you learn with are tend to be more instrumental to a good experience than SSI vs. PADI.


Scuba diving is more than an adventure sport. It’s a journey into an unknown world filled with wonder, beauty, and serenity. Appreciate the marine world, contribute to its conservation and love scuba.

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” So, strap on that scuba gear, take the plunge, and let the underwater world mesmerise you!

Jacques Cousteau, Source

Check out our Scuba courses here:

Chertsey, South West LondonPADI Open Water Course PART A
PADI Open Water Course PART B
PADI Open Water Course PART B Upgrade
PADI Discover Scuba Diving
PADI Advanced Open Water Course
Emergency First Response Instructor Course
PADI Delayed Surface Marker Buoy (DSMB) Speciality Course
PADI Divemaster Course
PADI Dry Suit Speciality Course
PADI Emergency Oxygen Provider Course
PADI Enriched Air/Nitrox Speciality Course
PADI Instructor Development Course
PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy Course
PADI Rescue Diver Course
PADI Search and Recovery Course
PADI Underwater Navigator Speciality Course
Scuba Pool Sessions
SCUBA Review (+ PADI ReActivate)
North LondonDiscover Snorkelling in North London (Age 6+)
PADI Discover Scuba Diving in North London
PADI Open Water Referral in North London
PADI Seal Team Course Part One (8-12 years-old)
PADI Seal Team Part Two (8-12 years-old)
Scuba Party (8+) in North London
Oakley, BasingstokeDiscover Scuba Diving in Basingstoke – PADI
Intro to Rebreather Diving
PADI Bubblemaker Course (8+) in Basingstoke
PADI Confined Open Water Course
PADI Refresher
AberdeenDiscover Scuba Diving in Aberdeen
PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Course in Aberdeen
PADI Deep Diver Specialty Course in Aberdeen
PADI Divemaster Course in Aberdeen
PADI Drysuit Specialty Course in Aberdeen
PADI Emergency First Response Course in Aberdeen
PADI Open Water Diver Course in Aberdeen
PADI Rescue Diver Course in Aberdeen
Scuba Review (PADI ReActivate) in Aberdeen
Newquay, Cornwall, UKSnorkelling Tour in Newquay

Images by Fonthip Ward & FIRST online

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Co-founder and Chief Adventurer

I am Max, the co-founder and CEO of adventuro. We are on a mission to help you get into the sports you have always wanted to try, or develop in the sports you love, exploring new skills and locations. We do this by partnering with the best instructors, guides, and activity centres to get a great spread from beginner all the way to instructor training.

For too long, it has been way to confusing to find your next steps, or even to know where to start when getting into adventure sports. I am an experienced and/or qualified paraglider, skydiver, scuba diver, freediver, power boat driver, snowboarder, kitesurfer, kayaker, mountain biker, surfer, dirt biker, wakeboarder, and sailor.

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