If you think you're fit enough, then give it a go!
Learning to scuba dive is an amazing experience.
I never thought I would have the opportunity to scuba dive, but when I did, it not only lived up to my expectations, it exceeded them.
It is an amazing experience.
Learning to Scuba Dive at 56
When I tell people that I learned to scuba dive at 56, the most common response is, "Well obviously you're never too old to learn." And that's true. But there are definitely some things to consider if you're thinking about learning to scuba dive at an older age.
Once I got into the water, I was amazed at how relaxing it is. It's an experience you won't forget. But as an older lady, I know that there are a few extra things to think about if you're over 50 or so and considering scuba diving for the first time. And yes, it is possible to start this late in life.
I was a little apprehensive at first, but my instructor was incredibly patient and took the time to explain everything clearly. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Things you need to know
You don't need to be as fit as an athlete, but you do need to have that little bit of confidence to experience something new. As long as you don't have medical conditions that would prevent you from riding a bike or climbing a flight of stairs, then you have what it takes to be a Scuba diver.
It's mostly about attitude. If Scuba Diving is something you have thought about doing at some point, then do it. There are dive sites to suit all diving styles.
Open Water Certification - Online and Practical Training
You'll obviously need to take some diving classes. These are done online these days. I did the PADI course, and it was all fairly straight forward but there was a lot more to learn than I realized at first. You finish the online modules of the course, and then you book and pay for the practical training at a location that suits you.
Why not just book the practical class when you do the online course?
Well, I suspect doing it this way keeps it flexible for you. You may find that you need a little longer to complete the online PADI course, or you may change the location where you wish to complete the diving part of your training.
Booking both parts was easy, however. I completed the online section of the certification, then picked a location near where I live. This was easier for me because it was cheaper than traveling somewhere else. The location I chose was in Darwin in the Tropical part of Australia, because that's where I live.
Many people do the online training at home, then pick a holiday destination and book the practical training to do there. It is much nicer to learn in warm water. You may want to complete the online training at home, and the practical training with a group of friends while on holiday.
The day before the dive, I was a little nervous. What if I couldn't do it? What if I was too old and the age barrier would be too much? These were thoughts that ran through my head, but I tried to keep calm and positive.
You start the training in a swimming pool. In my course, there were two students and one instructor so I was very lucky. The other student who I did my training with was in the Army and was in his early to mid-thirties, I would say. It did make me aware of my age. I needn't have worried though. It meant I had a dive buddy who was very switched on and responsive. It kept me on my toes, but it was enjoyable.
Learning to Scuba Dive: The Practical Part of the Course
The practical training for scuba diving consists of five parts. You complete the first two in a swimming pool on Day 1 and then move to open water on Day 2 for parts three, four, and five.
My instructor was very patient and gave me guidance when I needed it. He helped me through the exercises and made sure I completed each task before moving on to the next.
Both days had their different challenges but it was exhilarating nonetheless.
Day One - The Pool Session
In the swimming pool, we learned how to put on and use all the gear safely. It's one thing reading about it, but it's quite another when it comes to the real thing.
Buoyancy Vest, Regulator, Spare air hose, air tank, fins, and mask, We also had to learn how to take it all off and put it back on underwater. A lot of the Open Water Course is about learning the safety side of everything. It can feel a bit overwhelming, and I've been told this is actually the hardest part.
On Day 2 - Open Water (Lagoon for us)
The first thing we did was to put all of the skills we learned in the pool into practice in the open water. The open water dives are all about putting together what you've learned on day one, and not only diving deeper but also becoming more confident in your own skills.
What surprised me was how calm I was. Sure, there were moments of anxiety, but for the most part, I felt comfortable and able to complete the training.
Diving Health Pre-requisites for Over 50s
According to PADI (The World Association of Dive Professionals), anyone over 40 is considered an older diver and should be aware of health issues that may preclude them from diving. This may include heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and glaucoma and those with a history of seizures should not dive without medical advice.
For the over 50s, if you are in reasonable health, there isn't really anything that should prevent you from enjoying the wonders of Scuba Diving.
It also depends on where you are doing your practical training on what medical requirements are to be met. If I had completed my dive training in another state, I would have had to see a specialist Dr (known as a Dive Doctor), to sign me off as healthy. As it was, I checked with my Diving Instructor and he okayed me for the class. I'm reasonably fit for my age and don't have any respiratory issues, which is the main thing.
Why Learn Scuba Diving at 56?
As for why I wanted to learn now, well that’s a good question. I think after Covid locked everyone up for a while, many of us came out the other side of that deciding that we're not going to put things off anymore. This is something I'd always wistfully thought I'd like to do. I found out there are 2 types of divers; those that do it for the adrenaline, and those that do it for relaxation. I found it to be incredibly relaxing and exhilarating.
I'm looking forward to doing my Advanced Scuba course in a few weeks. I'll let you know how that goes.
Discover A Whole New World
When you dive you literally enter a completely new world. The corals and marine life will amaze you and you may need to prepare for a sensory overload of color and life. The excitement of discovering something you have never seen before is an amazing and unforgettable first-time experience!
Healthy low-impact exercise
Whether you are avoiding exercise or not, diving will help to keep the weight off. As an exercise, it is as lightweight as walking. Those of us suffering from stiff bones will feel some relief from the weightlessness that we experience when we dive.
The best thing for anyone to do is to stay fit, regardless of their age. Scuba diving is a way of doing that which is enjoyable and opens up so many new experiences.
It can be a really great thing to check off your bucket list while you're still able to and, as we get a little older, it may just get harder to do.
Also, it can be a great form of adventure tourism and can enhance your life in many ways. Not only does it open up another world underwater, but it can increase your fitness and self-confidence. And if you're lucky enough to meet like-minded people along the way, there’s an added bonus.
Learning to Scuba Dive: The PADI Open Water Course
The PADI (The Professional Association of Dive Instructors) is a great organization that teaches people to enjoy the world below the surface of the water. They have courses from being a snorkeler all the way through to the professional level.
The PADI Open Water course is the most popular and involves learning the theory and practicing both in a swimming pool and in open water. This is the minimum qualification required to dive anywhere in the world. As such, it’s a great starting point. The average cost is around $440-$550.