The Mermaid Diaries: Diving into Happiness

By: Krystle Olsen

There's something exhilarating about being able to breathe underwater. The feeling of weightlessness while floating over colorful coral reef systems, and the thrilling adrenaline rush of encountering wild animals in their underwater habitat are two of the many reasons why divers are hooked (hook-line-and-sinker). For many divers, myself included, the best kind of days are the ones spent underwater. 

I have been obsessed with the water for as long as I can remember, and when I received my Open Water Certification three years ago, I was ecstatic. If you've been looking for a new hobby, or perhaps you've been wanting to channel your inner mermaid for a while now, an Open Water Certification is your key to uncovering the exotic treasures hidden beneath the sea. 

The first step in becoming a certified Diver is deciding which certification you want to obtain: PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) or SSI (Scuba Schools International). Both agencies are regulated by the World Recreational Scuba Training Council, so students essentially receive the same basic instruction. The differences between the schools are in their training philosophy and the learning/certification path (if you decide to acquire advanced-level certifications). At the end of the day, my choice came down to which scuba school I wanted to attend: they taught SSI, so I'm SSI certified. 

It is important to note that the certification is not exclusive. Once certified, divers can dive with shops all around the world; PADI certified divers do not have to stick to PADI dive shops, and vice versa.  

After deciding on PADI or SSI, it's time to dive in and learn about scuba diving concepts. Critical topics include: dive theory, dive gear, decompression limits, hand signals, and safety procedures; and after the coursework is complete, students have the opportunity to practice their skills in the water. The Open Water Certification course can be completed in as little as two weekends or take up to six weeks depending on your class schedule. Students also have the option to study scuba theory online and then complete the skills portion once they arrive at their vacation destination. Class schedules and pricing vary by dive schools and locations around the world. Contact your preferred dive school for more information. Students will have to pass both a written exam and a skills test to achieve their certification, however, once certified, divers are certified for life. After successfully passing the course, new divers should be confident in their skills, including: setting up equipment, emergency ascent procedures, mask clearing, safety strategies, and buoyancy, just to name a few. 

Once certified, the only thing left to do is to plan a dive trip -- Mexico, Hawaii, Florida -- the world is your oyster. There are incredible dive locations around the world just waiting to be explored. So tell me, are you ready to take the plunge and begin your mermaid adventure?