Learning to SCUBA Dive | SCUBA Utah

My story with SCUBA diving is almost identical to that of how I learned to sail. I literally took both lessons within a week of each other in July 2021. SCUBA is something I never thought I’d do because I I didn’t hang around anyone who SCUBA dove until I met my wife Courtney. So as a wedding present, to myself, I signed up for a Recreational Open Water SCUBA certification course with SCUBA Utah.

Like all SCUBA lessons, you spend more time in the classroom than in the water, but fortunately all that “in-class” portion is now online. Throughout the online PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) course, you learn the types of equipment you’ll use, the common terminology in diving, communication methods, and the proper methods to ascend and descend in the water. That all took, no lie, 10-15 hours to complete. But once that was all completed, it was time to hit the water.

My course was accelerated, in the sense that I was under a time crunch to get my certification within the course’s open spots before our trip to Hawaii at the end of July. My course was 4 hours on a Friday night in the classroom and pool, and then all day (8AM-5PM) in the pool on Saturday. After the pool sessions, the following weekend I’d have my 4 checkout dives (2 Saturday and 2 Sunday). The format, overall, is that you learn skills in the pool, that you then practice, and then are eventually tested on. Then during the checkout dives, at depths, you are tested on all those skills you learned in the pool. It was exhausing, and all totally worth it.

The experience of breathing underwater was incredible from the very first minute we were in the pool, but getting certified isn’t all about just breathing under the surface of the water. The certification process is more about preparing you for all the many situations that could go wrong, and how to recover from this situation. For example, communicating with your dive buddy using only hand signals, clearing your mask if it fills up with water, how to recover your regulator if you loose it from your mouth, removing and putting back on your BCD under water in the event you get stuck, and even a scenario where you could be out of air and need to use your dive buddy’s back-up regulator. Each of these skills are then tested by the instructor right in front of them in order to move onto the next skill set. 

Then came the checkout dives. For us, we performed our checkout dives, not at a muddy lake or cold quarry, but at The Crater in Midway, Utah, which is a natural hot spring that is 66 feet deep with a water temperature of around 96 degrees. We geared outside, and entered from a seated position from the floating docks. Once the group was assembled, we all had a controlled descent, with a visual reference, down to the platform at 15ft. At the platform, which was a floating PVC rig, is where we performed our skills in front of the instructor throughout the weekend. The highlights of the checkout dives, which were about 20 minutes each, were navigating with a compass under water to a designated heading, performing the Controlled Emergency Surface Ascent, practicing my buoyancy to achieve neutral buoyancy at the various depths, and of course, the opportunities to swim around with my dive buddy. 

The weightless-ness you feel when you descend to 20ft and everything just stops. The heavy weight of the BCD, Tank, and Reg all fade away, the only thing you hear is air passing through your reg, and the bubbles exiting on the exhale. And from there, you have the opportunity to move in 3D dimensional space effortlessly. This new skill I got certified to do after my four checkout dives, will be a new way to explore the world. A week after getting certified, I went on my trip to Hawaii where I got to go on my first boat dive in one of the most incredible places on earth, Maui. I can’t wait to keep diving everywhere we can, there is so much to see and explore. 

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