Dive centers, commonly referred to as dive shops, are a base location where recreational divers can either learn how to scuba dive and go on guided diving trips at new, interesting locations. You will find professional diving instructors at a dive shop. Centers will usually be located near a pool or open water, to conduct training in.
Diving shops also sell and rent out diving equipment. This is useful, especially to travelers looking to dive somewhere far from home where they may not have their own equipment with them.
So, you have decided you want to learn how to scuba dive. However, you might feel lost trying to learn what equipment you need. There is so much out there that new divers will feel lost. If this is you, the following are all essential pieces of scuba diving equipment.
A scuba mask is the most essential piece of scuba diving equipment. This is what gives you the ability to explore underwater with your eyes open. Ideally, you will have a mask that fits you well and gives you the best viewing possible. The nose should be enclosed, so that you can adjust pressure changes by exhaling. The glass lens should be tempered, to ensure ultimate safety.
When you are shopping for a mask, be careful when deciding on one. Place the mask up to your face, with the strap loop placed out of the way. Inhale through your nose. If the mask is able to stay there with no air leaking through and without you having to constantly inhale, it will create a seal for you. Place the strap around your head and make sure that the mask fits comfortably on your face.
Inside a Dive Shop. Photo Credit
Scuba tanks , aka high pressure cylinders, are small yet strong containers that hold large volumes of compressed gas. Scuba tanks can be filled with regular filtered air, enriched air nitrox, or trimix. No matter what kind of air is inside the scuba tank, it is one of the most important pieces of scuba equipment.
Most scuba tanks are made of either steel or aluminum. Steel tanks are more resistant to external damage, but can rust internally if not cared for. Aluminum tanks are more likely to become damage due to external damage, but can resist internal corrosion. A valve controls the flow of air from the tank, and connects to your regulator with a screw in or yoke system. Most tanks have an o-ring to seal your regulator to the tank valve. Most commonly, you will see single tank valves made of chrome-plated brass.
Depending on your region, tanks require regular pressure testing. Typically, there are 2-7 year intervals between each test. Unless you are smaller and unable to carry a heavier tank, you should buy the largest tank available. Make sure your tank has a visual inspection decal before purchasing.
When you are scuba diving, you are exposed to the water’s cooling, along with things that could cut, scrap, and sting you. Diving suits are here to protect you from that. There are three basic types of exposure protection, wetsuits, dry suits, and body suits.
Wetsuits are called wetsuits because you get wet when wearing one. Your body quickly heats up the little bit of water that gets in, which then allows you to be insulated from all the water that didn’t get into the suit. You should choose the thickness of your wetsuit based on where you plan to dive. Wetsuits are made from closed-cell neoprene with large bubble, providing good insulation qualities. The neoprene is often lined with fabric to add strength and make them easier to slide into. Bare neoprene minimizes water circulation, but is much more difficult to slide into.
A full body wetsuit shown in the picture. Photo by Brian
There are different styles of wetsuits available. These include shorties, full body suits, and two-piece wetsuits. Shorties generally expose most of your arms and your legs. Full body suits cover your arms and legs, and feature a long zipper. Two piece wetsuits allow you to wear two wetsuits at once, providing double the insulation. Some wetsuits have additional features, such as wrist and ankle seals, hoods, and pockets.
Dry suits keep you completely dry by creating a seal at your wrists and neck. Boots are usually attached to the suit, so you only need a hood and gloves. Dry suits are ideal for cooler temperatures. All dry suits have a watertight zipper. Wrist and neck seals should be tight enough to fit snugly, but not so tight you feel a loss of circulation.
Many dry suits feature a valve and exhaust valve to add and release air. Drysuits are made from the same material as dry suits, but they exclude all water. You must wear undergarments to keep you warm in the suit. The cooler water you are diving in, the thicker undergarments you should wear. Some dry suits feature the option of connecting a hood, along with pockets, knee pads, and elbow pads.
Body suits provide no insulation, and are ideal for very warm water diving. The suits fit skin tight and are able to stretch quite a bit. Some even have plush lining, for extra warmth. A good fitting body suit should be clingy, but never restrictive.
Scuba diving fins are designed to make it easier for you to move around underwater. Good scuba diving fins will have an ample blade size, made either of composite plastic or neoprene rubber. The foot pocket should be comfortable. There are three main fin styles, open fin heels, full-foot fins, and hand fins.
Open fin heels are best for colder water conditions. They have an adjustable strap, which allows you to snug your foot in the pocket. Full foot fins have a foot pocket that slides on in the same way a shoe does. These are ideal for warm water diving. Hand fins are basically webbed gloves for divers, which are ideal for divers who can’t use their legs.
When choosing scuba diving fins, consider where you will be diving the most. If you dive in both wetsuits and dry suits, you will likely need two different sets of scuba diving fins. Dry suits have large boots that require a large fin pocket. It is always a good idea to have a spare diving fin.
A scuba diving computer makes it easy for scuba divers to track all of their dives. A dive computer takes depth and time information, then applies it to a decompression model to track dissolved nitrogen in your body during a dive. The computer will continuously tell you how much time you have left to safely dive.
Ideally, a scuba diving computer will have an easy to read display, providing depth, time, ascent rate, emergency decompression, and previous dive information. It should warn you when the battery is low. It can also be air integrated, to inform you how much air you have left in your tank. It should interface with your computer so you can download all of your dive data. When purchasing a dive computer, you should consider what features you need. It is important that you can read the display, as it won’t really do you any good if you can’t.
Outside a Dive Shop. Photo Credit
Renting equipment is easy. It can be done by visiting the dive shop closest to where you plan to dive. If you dive frequently, it is likely more cost efficient to purchase your own diving equipment. However, diving equipment can be costly, so if you’re only planning to dive while on vacation, renting could be a better option for you.
To rent diving equipment, you must complete scuba training and receive a C-card, aka a certification card . All dive shops are required to see this certification before they can rent out any diving equipment. Scuba diving is mostly self-regulated, so instead of there being one place you can get your certification, there are multiple options. There are several large diving organizations that are recognized certification agencies of the sport. These agencies train their own instructors, and then allow those instructors to train individual divers.
The most commonly known associations include PADI and NAUI. PADI is the biggest and most recognized diving association in the world. Most dive destinations throughout the world will have a PADI center. NAUI is the oldest certification industry.
Dive shops are great for scuba training, along with guided scuba tours. If you don’t have your own equipment, you can also rent scuba equipment here. More than likely, your dive shop will recognize PADI or NAUI. Before you go diving, make sure you know all the equipment you need, along with how that equipment should work for you.
If you are planning to go scuba diving soon, visit our website . Here you will find articles about scuba diving, along with some of the best travel guides. If you have any questions about scuba diving or dive schools, you can contact me directly via my website. Enjoy scuba diving!