My first scuba diving experience was on The Great Barrier Reef, so for me it was a fantastic first experience!
Doing anything for the first time for most people heralds a certain amount of trepidation. The unknown of what scuba diving is like for the first time can spark fear into many. But if you break the first steps of scuba diving down to manageable steps, there’s actually nothing to be afraid of at all.
The best way to describe what is it like scuba diving for the first time is to say it’s exciting. Breathing underwater on your first scuba diving experience is something you’ll probably always remember, as I do nearly 30 years later after my first dive. And for me that’s not just because my first diving experience was on The Great Barrier Reef.
What is it like scuba diving for the first time?
Even though my first scuba diving experience was nearly 30 years ago, I still remember it very well.
I remember it because for me it was so exciting. I’d been a snorkeler for many years prior to trying out scuba for my first time.
It just so happened that I was living in Perth, Western Australia at the time. Whilst I was living in Perth, I decided to plan a trip to Cairns, which was to include a trip to see The Great Barrier Reef.
I’d never scuba dived before. When I arrived in Cairns I arranged an introductory dive. My recollection is there were three of us doing this first-time scuba dive on this trip out to The Great Barrier Reef.
After our initial safety briefing of how the aqualung and breathing apparatus (mouthpiece or regulator) worked, we probably only submerged to around 10 metres (33 feet) or so.
It was such a memorable and uplifting experience for me, that I remember it all these years later. But more importantly, when I returned to the UK a few months later, I signed up to a scuba diving club near me and got my scuba diving certification.
In my case I trained with BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club).
Back to my first scuba diving experience
I can’t remember how the others were feeling about their first diving experience, but all I can tell you is how great it felt for me.
I was amazed at my ability to be able to breathe underwater.
At first it seems kind of strange. Your mind is telling you one thing, i.e. you’re underwater and you should be able to breathe. But then you take a breath and you feel great.
If anything I didn’t want this first-time scuba experience to end. We were only down for around 30 minutes max. But this seemed like just 10 minutes.
With snorkeling my time underwater was limited to the length of time I could hold my breath. Whereas on for my first scuba diving experience, my time limit was extended to how long the air in my aqualung lasted instead.
Your first scuba diving experience
If you are at the stage where you’re wondering what your first scuba diving experience might be like, here are a few pointers to consider.
Most first dives are done in very shallow water. In fact your very first scuba dive is likely to be in a shallow swimming pool. But before your scuba diver training, you will have an opportunity to do a try-dive.
A try-dive is normally done in a swimming pool. This is your opportunity to try out scuba diving. You can test out what it’s like to breathe underwater. You’ll soon decide whether it’s for you, or not as the case my be.
If after tour try-dive you decide it’s not for you, you don’t have to take things any further. But if you love it, as I did for my first dive, you can sign up to the training to become a certified scuba diver.
If you have any fears or questions about what it’s like to scuba dive, you will have plenty of opportunity to ask your instructor. You must feel comfortable and you must feel safe.
The pace of instruction will be at your pace
Trusting your instructor is key. Most people who choose to become scuba diver instructors are normally calm and nurturing by nature. They are normally happy to take everything at your pace.
Your pace may be one of absolute confidence and wanting to literally jump in at the deep end. But equally it might be to take everything slowly.
Either way the instructor will go at the pace that’s comfortable for you. This is even if there are others in your class.
If you take a bit longer over your mask clearing for example, then so be it. I found that this was one of the biggest challenges for many of the first time divers., when I was a scuba instructor.
But in the end everyone mastered this skill, even if at the beginning they were a bit nervous or not very good at it to begin with.
So if you are feeling worried or scared about any part of the training, this is normal, but you have no need to worry.
What to expect when you scuba dive for the first time
There are a few things to expect when you scuba dive for the very first time. Apart from what I’ve already mentioned about the strange feeling of being able to breathe underwater, the next sensation is that of weightlessness.
One of the properties water has over air is that it is nearly 800 times heavier, at just below the surface.
The affect of the increased density that water has is the support it provides to you. This ‘support’ or should I say ‘body-support’, translates into weightlessness. The only way to describe the weightlessness you feel when scuba diving, is that it’s as if you have entered a gravity-less environment.
On the surface your scuba gear is quite heavy and cumbersome. However, the minute you submerge, you almost forget you have a heavy aqualung on your back.
Answers for questions asked by first-time scuba divers
1. Is it hard to breathe while diving?
The simple answer is no it’s not hard to breath while diving. In fact it’s quite the opposite and very easy to breathe.
Having said that, and as mentioned earlier in this article, when you submerge for the first time with your mouthpiece (regulator) in your mouth, it does feel strange.
Feeling strange doesn’t make it hard to breathe. It’s just psychological. It normally only takes a few moments to overcome this ‘strange’ feeling.
After you’ve dived a number of times, breathing underwater becomes as natural as the breathing you are doing whilst you’re reading this article.
2. How deep do beginner scuba divers go?
Beginner, beginner scuba divers, i.e. those novice divers who are in-training, will dive to only very shallow depths. The first few lessons will normally take place in a swimming pool.
Once the pool training side of things has been completed, the next stage is to go slightly deeper. I wouldn’t take my trainees any deeper that about 10 metres (33 feet) on their first dive.
Once this first dive has been achieved, the next few beginner dives will build-up to a maximum beginner diver depth of 18-20 metres (60-67 feet), depending on the diving organisation you choose.
Click this article link for more information on the common depths for beginner scuba divers.
3. Can you eat before scuba diving?
There isn’t a problem with eating before you scuba dive, but everything in moderation.
One thing you will learn as part of your scuba diver training is about the affects of the pressure of water as you go deeper. This change in pressure can affect the air pockets in your stomach.
If you’ve just eaten a large breakfast or lunch, just before you dive, this may cause a bit of discomfort, this is particularly true if what you’ve just eaten produces more gases than normal.
I therefore suggest you leave a small gap between eating and diving of at least half and hour. But better still don’t dive until at least one hour after eating.
But another thing you’ll learn is to eat high-carb foods between dives. This would include bananas, cookies or biscuits. But could also include sports drinks.
4. Is scuba diving difficult?
There are a few things you must learn as a newbie scuba diver, which is no different to learning any other new skill or sport. There are a few skills to master, like buoyancy control or mask clearing, but these techniques are not difficult to learn.
With a bit of practice, these techniques or skills can be mastered very quickly and mostly within a few dives.
5. Is scuba diving scary?
I would say no scuba diving isn’t scary. But it can be. For example, I experienced a scary situation when I was overcome with nitrogen narcosis at a depth of around 47-48 metres (154-157 feet) down.
Nitrogen narcosis or the narks tends to affect scuba divers at depths of 30+ metres (100 +feet). Diving to this depth is classed as deep diving.
Diving to 47-48 metres down is classed as very deep diving, and should only be done when you have plenty of diving experience and you have obtained the correct certification to do so.
Firstly, in the beginning you will not be going anywhere near this depth. Secondly, you can choose to never go deeper than say 30 metres, which is what I’ve now chosen to do.
That way the problem of nitrogen narcosis is very unlikely to ever present itself to you in the way it did with me causing a panic attack.
6. Is scuba diving dangerous?
The quick and reassuring answer to this question is no scuba diving isn’t dangerous.
But let’s be honest with you, scuba diving is classified as a dangerous sport. In fact when I wrote about whether scuba diving is more dangerous than sky diving, I was surprised to learn that the stats say it is.
However, driving on the road is dangerous, but it’s made more dangerous if you drive recklessly, at excessive speeds and in a vehicle that’s not properly maintained.
The same is true of scuba diving. If you scuba dive recklessly, if you ignore the rules that apply to diving underwater and if you scuba dive with poorly maintained diving equipment, then it’s simple; you increase your risk of being involved in an accident and scuba diving does become dangerous.
Abide by the rules and follow safe diving practices and you’ll be safe and enjoy scuba diving just like I do and thousands of others do around the world.
7. Is it illegal to scuba dive without certification?
The short answer to this is no, it’s not illegal to dive without certification. But it is dangerous to dive without certification. Also, you’ll not be able to dive with any reputable dive centre or dive club without first getting certified to scuba dive.
8. How old do you have to be to get scuba certified?
The age to begin scuba diving is partly down to the scuba diving organisation and partly down to the individual.
For PADI the minimum age to begin scuba diving is 10 years old (in most areas). Student divers who are younger than 15 earn the PADI Junior Open Water Diver certification.
These young divers are able to upgrade to PADI Open Water Diver certification upon reaching age 15. Children under the age of 13 require parent or guardian permission to register for PADI eLearning.
For the BSAC Ocean Diver course, this is open to anyone from the age of 12 and above. But in a similar way to PADI, under age of 18 requires parental approval.
But as with anyone looking to become a scuba diver with BSAC, you’ll need to demonstrate that you can comfortably swim 200 metres (656 feet) in a pool.
9. Is there a weight limit for scuba diving?
Scuba diving doesn’t have a maximum weight limit. but, it is a sport and as with most sports, scuba diving requires a certain level of fitness to participate.
10. Can you scuba dive without knowing how do you swim?
To join the PADI Open Water Diver Course, in a similar way to BSAC, you are required to be able to swim 200 metres (656 feet) to begin their training course.
You can choose the stroke, be it breast stroke or front crawl. Being able to swim not only shows confidence in the water, but it’s also an essential part of scuba diving too.
There are times you will have to swim when scuba diving, not least when you’re underwater diving. Although this is made easy by wearing fins. But you may have to swim back to the dive boat on the surface.
Is scuba diving expensive?
Scuba diving isn’t a cheap sport. The cost of the training also depends on where in the world you live vs where you choose to do your training. So if you are lucky to live near to the coast and there’s a dive centre nearby, you won’t have the cost of travel and hotel accommodation to add-in.
I hope you enjoyed this article about what is it like scuba diving for the first time
I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of diving and snorkeling, in the comments below. Please also share your photos. Either from your underwater cameras or videos from your waterproof Gopro’s!
If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkeling or types of scuba diving (or specifically about what is it like scuba diving for the first time), please comment below with your questions.
There will also be many more articles about scuba diving (and snorkeling) for you to read and learn about these fabulous sports.
Have fun and be safe!