Learning to SCUBA dive is almost like learning to fly. There are good and bad schools with different equipment, various instruction institutions and all kinds of instructors and gear to choose from. Also, there are students who rapidly master the skills required to be certified as a SCUBA diver and those who struggle a bit to learn those same skills. But, all in all, beginner divers won’t leave their classes ready to tackle a deep wreck dive on NITROX with strong current.
Anyone between 12 to 80 years old can learn to dive.
All you need is a little bit of self-determination and good health with a minimum fitness level. All schools are required to obtain a clean bill of health by the students from their doctors in order to be allowed to enroll in a SCUBA class. It is a preventive measure to detect any signs of trouble that might be dangerous or even deadly below water. From the beginning, understand that you can not learn to SCUBA with that friend that "has been scuba diving for years." Even though accidents with SCUBA divers are rare, it is an activity that can be potentially dangerous and deadly for yourself and to those around you. Knowing how to dive is very different from knowing how to teach someone to dive plus knowing how to react during an emergency.
Ah, the Open Water Class - the first step and first contact of most people to SCUBA diving. Usually after a few class sessions and a few pool sessions, you are ready for your open water skill test with your instructors. In the Open Water Class, you will learn the basics of SCUBA diving from setting up your dive equipment to how to react and solve basic emergencies under water. You will also learn basic SCUBA terms such as decompression, narc and safety stop. At the end of the class, you will be rewarded and certified to dive in open water up to 60ft.
The hardest part isn't taking the course. It’s choosing the right school for you. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of places that offer the Open Water course. In Los Angeles alone, there are over 50 businesses that offer it, without counting instructors who teach classes outside of their regular jobs. Also, there are different certifications: NAUI, PADI, PDIC, etc. What do they all mean? They all belong to the Recreational Scuba Training Council (RSTC), the association responsible for setting the minimum requirement for diving safety in the United States. So, choosing a business or instructor that is an affiliate of any of these organizations is definitely a must. Where is a good place to learn SCUBA? Well, keep in mind these few factors: size of classes, training equipment, type of pool and location of the open water skill test. Take all these factors into consideration when choosing the right place for you to learn SCUBA. After all, money is not the main factor when you encounter an emergency under water, knowledge is.
Most of the places will require that you have the minimum set of equipment, such as a mask, snorkel, fins, and knife. When buying these items, keep in mind that they do tend to last for a while so purchase something that you see yourself using in regular bases and not something that is cheap. Not that you can not buy good equipment at low prices, but most people tend to think that they can just use any old equipment during the class and purchase something they really like afterwards. My feeling about this is not to do that. One of the purposes of the Open Water Class is to familiarize yourself with your own equipment so you know how to react or solve any problems with them while on a dive. You can�t accomplish that by discarding the equipment you have used in the class right away. This is your basic equipment, so comfort is fairly important.
You don't want to use a fin that is one size smaller than your feet, or you will risk cramps. A mask that doesn't fit you can leak. And so on. The rest of the equipment you can buy later. Those require a substantially greater amount of investment and you might want to try different equipment and choose the right one for yourself.