Learning to dive

Are you considering becoming a scuba diver? Are you unsure of the process or how long it will take to get scuba certified?  I am a woman diving in her 50’s.  I learnt to dive at 55 discovering a world of exciting adventures and exotic dive locations. In this post I share my journey as I learned to scuba dive.   I attained my scuba license through PADI. Anyone can learn to dive if they are over the age of 10, can swim 200 metres, float for 10 minutes and are medically fit – check with your doctor. There is no age limit for scuba diving, I learnt at 55, I have recently met someone who learnt at 65.  Learning to scuba to dive is performance based, generally a day of theory. The theory took me 12 hours via PADI e-learning. Following theory is two days of “confined water” where you learn the skills you need to be a scuba diver either in a pool or pool like conditions such as a sheltered beach. Once you have completed the confined water portion of your scuba certification you are off to the open water to complete four open water dives, demonstrating some of the skills you learnt in confined water training. You are now a certified open water diver which allows you to dive with a buddy in open water to a depth of 18metres unsupervised.

A woman learning scuba diving

Inhale slowly, exhale slowly, inhale, exhale, bubble. No! I can’t breathe! I can’t do this! What am I doing? I am going to kill Josh.  Why did I listen to him? Inhale, exhale, bubble. I am breathing, I can breathe! I can do this. Slowly inhale, slowly exhale, relax. Sigh!  I am in my fifties and I am learning to scuba dive. My adult son Joshua persuaded me to do my PADI open water course and now I am breathing underwater – against all of my better instincts. Did I mention I was going to kill him?

Turtle swimming in the ocean EMPTY NEST DIVER
Our underwater world

A woman scuba diving in her 50’s

A growing number of women are starting their scuba diving adventures later in life. I am part of that group. Maybe we are looking for something more than lunching with the ladies or we are seeking a challenge? Perhaps we want to get back to nature or have decided it is our time? Agencies like PADI are making the sport more inclusive, and therefore more appealing. Mature women are becoming women divers, flocking to the underwater world in unprecedented numbers. I am one of that number.

PADI open water certification

Choosing to get scuba certified

I am now in the ocean shallows of Great Keppel Island learning my open water skills. The sandy bottom of the sea more appealing than the hard tiles of a pool; I knew training at the island with Keppel Dives was the right choice for me.  I wish I was a natural diver and bubbled off into the ocean depths without a backward glance, but the reality is I’m not a strong swimmer and have a real fear of floating away. I am not physically robust, quite clumsy and definitely not sporty.  In fact, I am still slightly traumatized by athletic school carnivals. Being 5ft 2” and slightly built, I feel like I am being swallowed by my BCD, I get confused every time I have to set up my tank and my knees buckle as I carry it to the water’s edge. Diving presents a lot of challenges to me. I choose to overcome them.

Amazing Marine Life

Women scuba diving

As the days progress I begin to transition from a middle-aged woman into a diver.  Peace instead of fear floods my body as I deflate my BCD and enjoy the soft bubble of the exhale and the inhale.  I listen and I learn and I practice.  The two young backpackers also doing the course are strong, confident and fearless but I begin to realize that being underwater is a great equalizer. Nerves gnaw at my stomach as a new skill is demonstrated, replaced by a sense of confidence and accomplishment as I master it.

Surprising myself I learn some skills easily, my tank sliding off and on with ease, as I watch the boys entangle themselves. Other skills like taking my mask off underwater I find terrifying.  Behaving like a toddler I firmly tell my “young” instructor I am not doing it. She gives me a day’s grace and I spend a sleepless night worrying about removing and replacing my mask and not freaking out. Logically I know it will not affect my ability to breathe underwater. Illogically I am petrified as I sit submerged with my instructor, preparing to pull off my mask. Salty water blurs my vision, but I am ok, I am breathing, I am calm.  I signal I am ok, replace my mask, tilt my head backwards and begin to clear my mask.    

A confident woman scuba diving

The euphoria of accomplishment fills my body.  Voluntarily I repeat the skill, this time enjoying the cool saltiness of the water engulfing my eyes and nose. I cannot believe I wasted a night’s sleep worrying about removing my mask. I have lots of these moments in diving and as I overcome them, I become more self-assured; not only in my diving world but in my “real life world.”

Keppel Dives dive boat EMPTY NEST DIVER
Keppel Dives – Great Keppel Island

I am a certified woman diver

I pass my open water certification with confidence. I am passionate about diving though it continues to be a challenging relationship. The reward of overcoming the challenges – WOW!  Josh’s name is often taken in vain, but then I get to share my triumphs with him and he gets to log “had to rescue mum” – but that’s another day and another story.

I am embracing the diving community and my new life style. As a woman scuba diving I am looking forward to many adventures and visiting many amazing dive sites. I am thrilled to be able to share my diving journey as I continue to learn and explore.

It’s never too late – TAKE THE DIVE WITH TANYA

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Published by emptynestdiver

Learning to dive in my fifties has been a great adventure, I am a senior scuba diver but young at heart.

3 thoughts on “Learning to dive

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