I am a firm believer that I need to embrace what a location is famous for… Guam is known for its diving. While a little off the grid, it has some of the best and cheapest diving in the world. How could I live here and not try it?? But it felt like so much work. I needed lessons. There is a lot of gear. There is a lot of stuff to remember. And really, diving was never something I had thought much about. I didn’t have a lot of interest. And so I put it off for a year and just explored the island on foot.
I wouldn’t say I was scared. But I was cautious.
And I figured I could take my time. There was really no rush. If I did it once and didn’t love it – ok. Or I could then take the next step.
A lot of cruises and island resorts offer an open water certification class that you can complete in one long day. This allows you to dive without a guide down to 60 feet. Or you can take it one step at a time like I did.
- I started by finding a school with a patient teacher. Also talk to your teacher if PADI or SSI is the best option for you. PADI is the most recognized certification and probably the best bet if you plan to continue to get multiple advanced certifications. I chose SSI because they are more flexible and allow you to complete the skills in the order that works best for you. When you get stressed or a lesson isn’t clicking, you can skip it and move on and then come back to it when you are ready.
- Do an exploratory / familiarization dive. This entails about an hour of the basic skills required and then another hour with an instructor scuba diving. This gives you a taste for the sport but is very low stress. This is not a certification but counts towards your certification if you decide to pursue it later.
- Scuba Certification. Following my familiarization dive, I took this very slowly. I met with my instructor 3 more times for about 2-3 hours each lesson. We did a mix of pool work and open water. I was technically awarded my Scuba cert after the 3rd lesson (4th if you count my familiarization dive) but I did one more hour of pool work the following week when everything just clicked. I then went out on a boat dive to see turtles and put my skills in action. Scuba certification means I can now dive to 40 feet if I am with a certified instructor.
- Open Water Certification. Most people jump right to step 4 and this can be done in one long weekend or in two big chunks over two weekends. In combination with the other steps I did this over 7 weeks (no more than 3-4 hours at a time). I highly recommend this method if you have the time. When I “graduated” I was comfortable. I had time to process and apply what I learned.
- Advanced PADI. I surprised myself by taking it one step further. With open water you are only certified to 60 ft. And frankly it would annoy me to no end if I were to travel somewhere and be limited in what I saw because it was too deep. So I decided to pursue one more class that would allow me to safely dive to 100 feet. I chose PADI because I didn’t have to take as many extra courses and log as many dives. I also chose PADI because I already had SSI and if I found myself in a situation where one was recognized over the other, I now had both. Advanced Open Water with PADI is 5 lessons and 5 dives. Again, this could be one long weekend, but I did it over 3 weekends.
Note. Everyone I know who is certified (and trust me, I know a lot) skip steps 2 and 3 and go right for step 4. You can do this in one long day or in a weekend.
If in Guam, I highly recommend Axe Murderer and Megan. Megan was unbelievably patient and worked hard for me to learn the skills (not just pass) and to really love it.