The Dive Otter

Getting Started in Scuba

Whoo hoo!! A potential dive buddy!!

A couple high level topics and questions you might have before you begin...
I don't have any questions...I'm ready to go! How do I begin?

Do I need a license to scuba dive?

Short answer: No, you don’t need a license to scuba dive. You are free to enter the water without one.

Longer answer: While there are no local, state, or federal laws requiring a license to scuba dive, there are internationally recognized training agencies like PADI, SSI, SDI/TDI, and NAUI that follow a set of standards. These agencies certify divers and ensure a certain level of training and safety. The certification card you receive from one of these agencies acts as proof of your training and is often required to rent equipment or join diving activities. So, while it’s not a legal license, it functions similarly.

Some people might say, "I have my PADI", which refers to the brand of their certification. However, what they actually have is an "Open Water Certification" provided by a PADI-authorized instructor.


Do I need to know how to swim?

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: While you won’t be swimming in the traditional sense underwater, basic swimming skills are essential for scuba diving. Being able to swim demonstrates a level of comfort in the water, a fundamental understanding of buoyancy, and the ability to respond to emergencies. If you don’t know how to swim, most scuba shops also offer basic swimming lessons.


Can I try it without spending a bunch of money?

Absolutely! Many scuba shops offer "try dive" programs where, with minimal training, you can experience scuba diving in a pool. These programs typically cost around $50 and last a couple of hours, giving you a taste of diving without a significant investment.


Do I need to own my own gear?

Short answer: Partially.

Most instructors and shops require you to buy at least a mask, snorkel, and fins for the Open Water Certification class. If you plan to dive more than 20 days over the next five years, it might be more cost-effective to invest in your own gear. I have recommendations on what gear to buy and in what order.


How much will it cost to get Open Water certified?

Short answer: Plan for around $1,000.

Longer answer: Expect to spend roughly $350 on essential gear and about $600 for the Open Water class. While this might seem steep, it’s comparable to the costs of many other hobbies.


How long does it take?

You’ll typically start with online self-study, which takes as long as you need to learn the basics and pass the tests. After that, you’ll spend two days in classroom sessions and pool dives. Once you’ve completed these, you’ll do a minimum of four open water dives over two days. In total, expect about four days plus your self-study time.


Can I dive around Chicago or is it too cold?

Absolutely! There are many local dive spots in and around Chicago, including various locations in Lake Michigan. With the some basic exposure protection, you can dive from May to October, making the most of the diving season.
Just shut up already...I'm ready to go! How do I begin?