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Getting my scuba certification in Florida…

Have you ever wanted to do something so much that you wouldn’t let yourself quit, no matter how bad the situation got, you’d find a way to make it happen? That’s where I found myself recently…

I had two choices… To the right, off Highway 27, Devil’s Den. To the left, Blue Grotto.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to make the decision. I did both!

So, how did a city girl end up on an unassuming road in Central Florida? For her scuba certification of course!

I would find myself spending a few weeks here discovering a newfound hobby and then honing my skills in scuba diving.

However, just like a lot of the best things in life, it wasn’t all smooth sailing…

If you think I was certified on my first try, you’re wrong. In fact, there were so many obstacles in my way, (many of which were through no fault of my own) that I almost didn’t complete my training.

How I got to this point is a tale of choosing the correct dive shop and the research that went into it. And now, I’m so excited to share my experience with you!

In this blog…

  • I share what I went through to get my PADI Open Water Scuba Certification. Review the 2 dive shops I went to side by side, including the instructor that made all the difference. I share it all… the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • Give you a step by step guide to getting your Open Water Certification with PADI.
  • Share helpful tips for your scuba journey whether you’re just starting out or looking to get back into diving!
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What Inspired Me to Scuba Dive

Who’s the role model in your life?

My role model is my mom. Ever since I could remember, she’s always encouraged me to live life to the fullest, seizing every moment and opportunity presented.

She raised me to believe that I could do whatever I wanted as long as I committed and really went for it. When you think about it, nothing is ever really impossible… even if it’s intimidating. Including scuba diving.

My mom was the reason I decided to give it a try.

In her heyday, she was a Master Diver Instructor, the highest level you can reach in PADI’s certification program. It’s an understatement to say that I’m in awe of her.

When I was a teen, she would share the most incredible scuba adventures she had living in Hawaii for 10 years. Also, some scary stories too.

It felt like I was living vicariously through her, all the while wondering if I would ever get the chance to dive myself.

At the time, my Lupus had been newly diagnosed. There was a lot I couldn’t do back then but daydream.

I knew scuba diving would be far off into the future until my health improved and I learned how to manage my symptoms. But, I was hoping that one day, I could. Then one day, I finally did!  

Now having the health, money, and time to dedicate myself to anything I want to pursue, I decided it was time to stop daydreaming about diving and finally just do it.

However, my scuba dreams were almost put to an end before they even began, starting with a horrible experience at a dive shop.

What is PADI?

“Professional Association of Diving Instructors

PADI is one of a few internationally known recreational diving membership and diver training organizations. They offer different levels of training depending on the certification you want.

The Road to My Scuba Certification in Florida

On an unassuming rural highway driving through central Florida, I find myself at a crossroads. Literally….

Do I make a right and end up at an ominous-sounding Devils Den or, do I make a left and end up at a welcoming sounding Blue Grotto?

I chose to dive at both places. 😉

FULL DISCLOSURE: I received medical clearance from my team of doctors prior to my diving. If you have any preexisting health issues, you must do this.

As of this post, to receive your PADI Open Water Certification, you must complete:

  • 8 laps in a pool
  • 10 minutes treading water
  • followed by 4 confined (i.e. pool) dives with training exercises
  • and then 4 open water (ocean/river/spring/lake) dives with training exercises.

The total PADI program is done in 2 days, which can be split up between days depending on the dive shop.

But, I was almost derailed from finding this new fun exploration of the underwater world.

Not because of fear, or the inability to afford it, but by what I found to be a scurge on the industry, a “turn and burn” dive shop called XXXXX.

Actually, I’ve decided not to give them any air time at all. We will leave it at this…they were so horrible and put my life in danger that I have reported them to PADI and am taking further action against this shop. They are a company that specializes in Manatee Snorkel tours with a little PADI Dive Shop on the side.

Needless to say, the road here was a bit more challenging than it should have been. The proverbial road that is… not the unassuming Highway 27.

Read on for my reviews and experience!

What’s a PADI 5 Star Dive Center?

“PADI Five Star Dive Centers are progressive dive shops that provide a full range of PADI scuba diving education programs, equipment selection, and experience opportunities while encouraging aquatic environmental responsibility. These businesses excel in providing quality services to divers [and] present a professional image.”

Source: PADI

It All Starts with the Right Dive Shop

So, how did I go from almost quitting completely to finally getting my scuba certification? Now, it’s time to compare both dive shops side by side. I almost guarantee that you’ll instantly be able to spot the difference between the two. 😉

Heads up: I’m spending a bit more time on the negativity than I normally would in my blogs because it would be a shame if you wanted to learn something new and were exposed to bad treatment which turned you off from a great sport. It’s better that you know now that there are great dive shops out there. Do your research in advance to avoid making the same mistake I did!

Real Girl Reviews: Dive Shops in Florida

Dive Shop #1: The Shop that shall not be named.

0 Stars

It started with a trip to the shop which was a clean facility with a love of dive equipment. The salespeople were great at helping my sister and me try on different snorkel masks.

We ended up buying over $800 worth of gear before the class! After having spent an additional $875 on the class and $390 ($195/ea.) for the online PADI course work. That money alone would make most people forge on in a class.

Unfortunately, I chose this shop because they were a PADI 5 Star Center and had overall positive reviews on Trip Advisor for the most part and I put my faith in them. However, if you look closely, the positive reviews are for the snorkel tours and you’ll find negative reviews for the Dive Training portion.

I’ll fast forward from here…

Dive Training with Shop XXXX

There was a class of 5, (including myself and my sister). We were led by what the shop had indicated was a “new instructor”.

Our in-water training was supposed to be completed over 2 days back to back (this shop doesn’t offer breaks in-between days) and would consist of a few hours of closed swimming pool training followed by a dive in the local river that same afternoon.

The following day would be two additional dives before receiving our certification.

However, at this dive shop, nothing seemed to go as planned. It seemed like one problem after another.

My sister and I were suited with wetsuits that were far too small for us- kid-sized. Flippers didn’t fit me.

There was also a problem with one of the other students where the instructor spent much of the time on the surface with her while the rest of us remained underwater waiting for them to join us, shivering all the while.

The instructor did not spend a whole lot of time telling us what to do. The extent of our training was putting the equipment together and the “instructor” announcing, “When you descend, don’t let your knees hit the bottom if you go down too fast”.

We were supposed to be doing the closed water training in their heated indoor pool. IT WASN’T.

For 5 hours straight, we were in water that was 72F and NOT in the 80s as we were originally told it would be (which makes a huge difference when you’re underwater for a length of time).

I had already spoken to the manager prior to booking to let her know that with my Lupus being exposed, that being in water that was too cold for extended periods of time could have an adverse effect on my body.

We remained in the pool even after the instructor commented to both my sister and me, “You must be really cold, your lips are purple”. We later found out via contacting PADI that hypothermia sets in after 2.5 hours in water temperatures of 72F.

I remember shivering uncontrollably while kneeling at the bottom of the deep pool. As were the other students. That’s when I said, “enough is enough”. It was evident that we couldn’t rely on our instructor to take our health seriously, we had to take things into our own hands.

Once we got out of the pool, we let the shop know that we could no longer continue that day. Prior to speaking with PADI, we had offered to pay for a private session to finish the course so it would go faster yet, they refused.

They thought we were prepared all ready to go on an open water dive. Even though WE HAD ZERO TRAINING at that point.

They also refused a partial refund or even rescheduling.

Later, the owner would respond sarcastically that the other people in the class, cold or not.. finished their dives, got certified, and hopefully we would see them out in the ocean at some point.

And just like that, my diving dreams stopped dead in its tracks. If shops like this have careless instructors, a manager working off commissions, and an owner only concerned about the turn & burn of getting customers in and out in 2 days while upselling them things they did not need to begin with, then we are all screwed.

That’s why a dive shop and a good instructor make all the difference.

This brings me to the next dive shop. Thankfully, my horrible experience with that bad shop in Crystal River didn’t end there.

What happened next? Let’s just skip to the GOOD part……

Dive Shop #2: Birds Underwater Dive Shop, Crystal River, Florida – SUCCESS!

5 star element

Fortunately, we found a FABULOUS SHOP of PROFESSIONAL DIVERS with an OWNER that cares not only about his customers but…. surprise, surprise… also cares about the DIVE Industry.

Not to mention, a great price compared to other shops. They are more genuine and not just trying to sell you. It’s important to Bill, the owner, that you don’t buy their equipment until after you’re sure you like diving.

I’m happy to say that Jeff Sandmann, an Instructor at Birds Underwater Dive Shop (also in Crystal River), changed everything which made all the difference in us getting our certification in the end.

Since my sister and I were basically traumatized from the last experience and needed baby steps again, Jeff was the perfect instructor to get us back in the water again.

Their website doesn’t lie, “his classes will reflect the real-world experience that you can’t get from a book”. Jeff really goes above and beyond for his students.

You end up feeling like you’re getting more training than what you paid for. Pay attention because he has a lot of great info. Some of it is not even part of the course but good to know. He tells you for a reason… to be prepared in any situation.

Like… how to use your neon inflatable signal just in case you had to sleep while floating on the water until the morning without drowning. I mean it’s like serious stuff. He’s legit. Felt kinda like military training. 😁

But be prepared, Jeff is a talker! He also comes with stories too. We thought he was a funny guy and enjoyed him.

Birds Underwater offer SDI, TDI, AND PADI certifications.

While the dive shop also offers Manatee Snorkel tours, what I’ve seen and heard from others is that they are responsible tours. Can’t say the same for the tour at the 1st dive shop who, as you will see, hard sells photos of customers TOUCHING the manatees… a big no-no.

But, I digress… back to the SCUBA!

While PADI is much more marketed and well known, after researching it a bit more, I wish I had gone with the SDI training.

But alas, I’m a consumer guilty of following that shiny marketing. 😉

In any event, after we paid our fee… yes, that means I’ve double paid for our training because our lives were not worth risking diving with the other shop again… Jeff started our training following the PADI guidelines.

But, FIRST and foremost, he ensured that we were PROPERLY FITTED with wetsuits that were the CORRECT SIZE (unlike the last shop).

Because we had indicated our concern for the cold, he had us double up on two wetsuits, one of them being a size larger than the other, that totaled 6mm. Snug and cozy.

He then spent a significant amount of time explaining the use of the equipment and how to set it up correctly, even explaining how and why everything works the way it does so we understood the significance as it pertained to our health and safety.

Geeves, sister, and scuba instructor in scuba gear
Confused with Jeff’s scuba lingo

He was shocked that in 5 hours of training at the last dive shop, we had not learned any of this.

It was clear in those moments (and many others to follow), that he actually cared and took our wellbeing seriously which is what the last shop should have done.

He then fitted us with BCD’s (Buoyancy Control Device), went over the Octopus functions, correctly weighted us (for the weights we would put in our BCD’s), and made sure our mask & snorkels were in good condition and fit (we had previously purchased these at the other shop).

Before we continued, I told him of our bad experience getting in the water at the last place and asked if he would mind if we took a few moments to breathe out of the regulator above water before diving to get acclimated.

To which he replied, “Yes, of course. That’s what we usually do anyway. I’m surprised the last place didn’t”.

Snorkeling in North Lake Tahoe

Go sailing and snorkel in North Lake Tahoe and visit the Olympic Village in Squaw Valley. Plan a fun visit.

Getting Things Back on Track… Continuing Our Scuba Training in Devil’s Den

Diving at Devil’s Den

Geeves in scuba gear posing and standing under an ivy archway

First stop, Devil’s Den, an underground prehistoric spring inside a dry, inverted mushroom-shaped cave that has crystal clear water and is basically like a giant indoor swimming pool.

It has the feel of a cave but is more accessible, open, and safe for those not trained in Cave Diving. Also has a lot of really cool fossils and artifacts from 33 million years ago.

Diving at the Pool

3 scuba divers ready to plunge into a swimming pool for training

We arranged to meet Jeff at the site the following day. We would first use Devil Den’s heated pool. It’s a popular spot for instructors training students for the “confined dive” portion of training which we still had to do.

Unlike our first experience, once we arrived at the pool location the morning of the dive, Jeff spent an incredible amount of time answering our questions, explaining the equipment to us again, and instructing us on how to put our gear together, taking the time to check that we did it right. It is life or death after all.

Like a parent, his #1 priority seemed to be making sure we could go out into the diving world without him, safely relying on our training to get us out of any unwanted situation.

Geeves and scuba instructor in Devil's Den Swimming pool
Devil’s Den Pool Training

A few hours later and we were ready dive!

Diving at Devil’s Den Spring

metal stairs that lead down to cave-like Spring
Devil’s Den Spring

You walk down the stairs onto this platform hovering above the water. At first, you’re like, “Where are these stairs leading to??” What you don’t realize is that you’re going underground to enter the spring.

The dive was amazing. Different kinds of fish and historic artifacts to see and feel. The cave-like atmosphere had a spooky vibe to it which made it more interesting and fun. Definitely felt like an adventure!

Diving at Blue Grotto

The following dives a few days later, we met Jeff just across the highway at Blue Grotto. What can I say? This place is amazing.

First off, let me take a moment to give Blue Grotto some much-deserved credit.

They specifically set up wheelchair ramps and accommodations for the Wounded Warrior Project to give these incredible Veterans a chance to enjoy this beautiful natural wonder.

I’m all about nature in small doses. Some people have health issues, some have fears to overcome, and others just have time and money constraints.

Geeves in scuba gear and the blue grotto florida

Okay, back to the dive….

Crystal clear water with 100 ft. visibility. We joked that Jeff ruined all future dives for us because rarely are dive spots this amazing, not to mention this great of visibility underwater is rare! And he took us to 2 of the most amazing spots in just 1 week.

There’s also a more advanced dive here at Blue Grotto if you’re up for it. (The cave portion, down to 100’) I didn’t go.

Glad I didn’t go. I looked at GoPro footage later from a 94′ dive there and it was pitch black. Nah… I’m good.

I was perfectly fine seeing fish (& even a friendly turtle) from 30 feet below. Jeff says that most people who get certified only go down to this depth anyway. Between 20 & 50 ft. you start losing color. In my opinion, what’s the point of going any deeper if your whole goal is to see marine life?

How Training Made Me Feel

As part of our training, we had to assemble, carry, and learn a lot about equipment and gear. So heavy in fact was everything (65 lbs. +) that we were carrying on our bodies that we had to put it on while sitting at the edge of a chair or table ledge.

It’s easy to miss something so we had to do a “Buddy Check”. Buddies are important in diving. Everyone has one.

3 scuba divers in gear performing buddy checks
Buddy Check

We also had to learn and execute quite a lot of exercises (mostly underwater). Things like..

  • taking off our masks underwater while continuing to breathe from the regulator (doesn’t sound scary till you actually do it).
  • flooding our mask underwater then, blowing it out.
  • Removing our regulator from our mouths underwater and dropping it then, trying to find it and scoop it up to breathe again.
  • Signaling “out of air” and swapping our regulator for our buddies’ alternate air source.

I’ll admit, I struggled to feel in my element at first. Between the exhaustion from assembling, lifting, and carrying the heavy gear strapped to our bodies down flights of stairs in a tight wetsuit in the heat of the day and having to do uncomfortable dive exercises for our training, I was a hot mess.

It’s an overwhelming experience, to say the least… your “fight or flight” response kicks in sometimes. The feeling is completely unnatural. This was all new to us.

But Jeff did things that helped me feel more comfortable and I was impressed by his careful attention. After seeing how much I struggled on my first open water dive, he brought a tank the following dive that fit my petite body type better.

He also brought me a smaller mouthpiece for the regulator (water was getting in it, I have a small mouth). It was like night and day.

When you have an instructor who takes your comfort into consideration like that, it makes the world of difference. He didn’t want me to give up. I appreciated it more than he realized.

That’s what sets apart a good dive shop and instructor and a bad one. It’s easy to see the difference between the two.

If you’re in Florida looking to get your scuba certification, I cannot recommend Birds Underwater and specifically Jeff Sandmann enough. I felt like I could trust him with my life.

They spread out the days, giving our bodies and minds a much-needed break. Scuba training can be really overwhelming and exhausting especially if you’re not used to the regimen and most of us are not.

They also keep their classes to a smaller size so you can learn better. You’d be surprised to find that a lot of dive shops are not like this. We happened to get lucky with scheduling as we were Jeff’s only students during our training. It felt like a private lesson!

He even accommodated our schedule as he knew we were on vacation and booked us for 10 AM. This was really nice since usually, dive training starts early typically.. 6:30-7:00 AM.

Certification Complete, I’m Officially Scuba Certified!

It’s hard to think that after all we went through, the certification is official! Just got my Dive Card and I’m ready to dive! I’ll always remember our training with Jeff Sandmann! Cannot thank him enough!

Scuba certified ID

And, I can’t believe I’m saying this but, as scary and stressful as dive training oftentimes was, I actually would do it again to experience the final moments when I finished my final dive and realized I had just earned my certification.

Was so proud of myself because it was one of the most anxiety-inducing things I’ve ever pushed myself to do and I didn’t give up. I really pushed my limits and tested myself.

No exaggeration, the same cute turtle I’d been seeing for so many days (we basically became friends), gave me a kiss literally moments after I completed the final dive. It’s almost like she knew my struggle and was congratulating me! Or, so I’d like to think. 😉

Other than being in outer space, nothing gives you the weightless feeling like diving. It’s truly miraculous! Not to mention the animals you see that you’d never get the chance to without being underwater.


Although they are both internationally recognized, there is a significant difference between PADI and SDI’s scuba training programs.

My instructor, Jeff is certified in both SDI and PADI. The major difference between the two programs seems to be that SDI is far more technical and PADI seems to put more emphasis on the recreational aspects and less emphasis on the more practical elements of dive training to ensure that “anyone and everyone should have their certification”.. even if they aren’t necessarily ready.

Since I have more experience with PADI’s program, I can only advise you with what I’ve learned. So, do your own research prior to signing up. Both will get you the training that you need.

If you’re wanting to try PADI out, below I share some steps that you have to take to begin your certification process before even stepping foot in the water.

What Training is Required for the PADI Open Water Certification?

When you first start out as a beginner diver with PADI, you train for your Open Water Certification, which is a 3 part course.

Part 1: PADI’s online eLearning course.

Part 2: Practice your new skills in a pool.

Part 3: Complete four open water (ocean/lake) dives. At least 15 ft. and 20 minutes/ea.

The Open Water PADI Certification in-water training is typically completed in 2 days. Although, some dive shops allow you to spread it out.

If you have your choice of dive shops, I would highly recommend going with one that lets you break up your training over a few days or with a rest day in between. This helps to avoid burnout and injury.

You can read more about what the Open Water Certification training entails here.

Now you say, “I want to get my scuba certification, but where do I begin??” No worries! I’ve got you covered! 😉

Scuba Diving Tips for Beginners: Step by Step Guide to Getting Your PADI Open Water Certification

Before you drop money on any gear or scuba training with a dive shop, I highly recommend taking a look at the steps I’ve broken down for you below! This ensures that you’re not wasting your money or time and gives you a better idea of your scuba training journey and what’s to come!

Step 1: Ask yourself, “Is diving for me?”

Can you commit to dive training at this point in time?

As any diver will tell you, scuba diving is not only a time-intensive hobby but an expensive one as well! Evaluate yourself from a financial and mental standpoint.

Financial Standpoint

From buying or renting gear and equipment to certification training, scuba diving certainly doesn’t come cheap.

While there is always an option to rent scuba gear, I recommend buying your own equipment. In training, you learn the importance of checking your gear/equipment for malfunctions and defects before getting in the water.

If you have your own stuff, you know what it usually sounds or looks like so you can easily spot abnormalities. You can’t do this as well with rental gear.

Expect to initially put aside at least $500 and 1 week to complete your training (online & in-water).

Mental Standpoint

Do you hate the water? Don’t dive. I know it’s silly.. but, many people are forced into it by their partners or friends and end up being miserable but only realize this after dropping serious dough or ruining their vacation.

Do you have the time to commit to online and in-person training? There’s a lot to learn between the science portion, how to use the equipment, setting up your equipment, mastering buoyancy control, and how to not die.. (uh.. yeahh!), it’s a lot to process.

You don’t want to just do this on a whim. It’s a safe sport when done correctly. Find a time in your life when you can learn diving the right way, at your own pace.

Step 2: Find a dive shop

This is who you will be certified with. Try to find a shop in your area. I don’t recommend getting certified while on vacation. It’s highly stressful and exhausting.

If you don’t have a dive shop locally, I’d recommend completing the online course in advance of your trip, then arranging a few extra days to train and recover so you can relax for the rest of your vacation.

I’d recommend finding a dive shop that starts your training in a pool as opposed to a lake or ocean. My mom has trained and certified many people as a former Master Diver instructor and says that it’s more stressful for the beginner.

Once you’ve narrowed it down, do some research on the shops and look at their reviews!!! I cannot stress this enough. Had I done this, to begin with, I would have avoided my bad dive experience with the 1st dive shop.

Step 3: Schedule your training

Book it far enough in advance that you give yourself time to study, complete the online course (step 4), and visit the shop to ask questions or purchase any equipment/gear you might want to own.

Step 4: Sign up for the PADI eLearning scuba course

padi site eLearning for student
eLearning Padi course sections

Once you’ve booked your training with your dive shop, sign up for the online training with PADI here.

You will select your dive shop in your PADI profile. Then, follow the rest of the steps to complete the account setup. Then, it’s time to begin the online course!

There are 5 sections with quizzes in each one, followed by a final exam. You need 75% to pass in order to qualify for in-person training at the dive shop.

It’s very overwhelming if you try to do it all fast. I recommend giving yourself at least a week between studying, taking quizzes, and the exam. I completed everything in 5 days and still felt I didn’t give myself enough time. This is a life or death hobby, so don’t mess around.

Step 5: What scuba diving gear or equipment do I want to own?

As I mentioned previously in Step 1, diving is an expensive sport but there are huge benefits to having your own gear and equipment. Your dive shop will have all your equipment for you to rent during your certification training. However, there are a few things I recommend you own…

Working with a Limited Budget? Invest in Clothing

Doesn’t it suck when you try on clothes and it doesn’t fit your body type? Try going into dive training uncomfortable like that. I did, it sucked!! (i.e. Dive Shop #1)

If you only have a limited amount of money to invest in scuba or are not certain that you like it yet, I highly recommend you make a small and (in my opinion), worthwhile investment in what you’ll be wearing.

Think about it, you can always rent gear & equipment from a dive shop and it’ll work properly no matter the individual. But, clothes are a different story. Everyone’s body is sized differently and not every shop carries every size. Check out the items I’ve shared below!

Real Girl Review Tip

This is also the time to purchase any gear or essential items that you need like a logbook. PADI does not provide one for you, that’s extra. I made the mistake of being so excited that I bought everything in the shop for the most expensive price imaginable. I recommend you order your logbook and binder in advance for less at Amazon. That’s what I should have done.

  • Wetsuit
    3 benefits to having your own wetsuit:
    1. Won’t smell like pee (at least not someone else’s) 😉
    2. Wetsuit can be used again for other activities (surfing, snorkeling, etc.)
    3. No more hoping dive shops have your size

    *** Remember, in the water, the wetsuit (& other materials) will expand so don’t worry if it feels too tight initially. ***

    For warm water diving (starting at around 72ish F), I wear a 5.5 MM wetsuit that I pair with a 1.5 MM skin wetsuit long sleeve shirt and am very warm! Another great 2nd layer option instead of a skin shirt is a hooded vest so you don’t have to purchase a separate hood.

    I purchased a fantastic AKONA wetsuit and it fit great and was good quality. Shop Amazon here
  • Booties
    Keep your extremities warm! I have Lupus and Reynaud’s so my circulation in my feet is not the best which makes my feet so cold! Shop Amazon here
  • Flippers
    Being the petite woman I am, my feet are small.. At Dive Shop #1, I had flippers that were too big for me. Always good to have a snug fit. I recommend getting a distinct design or color. Especially useful to identify which flippers are yours on a dive boat or, so your buddy can tell you apart from others underwater. Shop Amazon here
  • Mask & Snorkel
    Mask sure to get mask w/ snorkel, you use both in scuba. I have a small face, so purchased my own mask so it fit snuggly. No point in crossing fingers, hoping it fits with a rental mask ever again. However, I wish I had ordered my TUSA mask off Amazon it was much cheaper for the same brand. Shop Amazon here

In between studying for your online course, do some research. Look up these items and check out price comparisons between different dive shops and even Amazon. I highly recommend also trying it on beforehand to ensure a proper fit. Do it well in advance of your training so you can make exchanges if necessary.

Real Girl Scuba Tip for Petite Women

If you’re petite like me, don’t be afraid to request a smaller sized tank or a kids-sized regulator mouthpiece. They can easily put it on at the shop or on the dive site, most instructors carry a dive tool kit.

Step 6: You passed! Get ready for class

What to do day before scuba diving
  • Go to your dive shop
    If you’re nervous or want to know what to expect your first time diving, go to your dive shop a day or so in advance. Ask any questions you need to feel at ease. I did this and felt a lot better about the process.

    Ask any questions you may have ahead of time to prepare you for what to bring (towels, snacks, etc.), how the class will be structured, etc. It’s also nice to get a feel for the environment and what the staff will be like.
  • Take care of your body
    Diving takes a lot out of you. You will not work efficiently if you don’t take care of yourself in advance of diving.

    The day before, sleep well, eat a good dinner, hydrate, and have a light breakfast the morning of.

    It’s not recommended that you drink alcohol or smoke the day before training. You’ll learn more about this in your eLearning course.

Step 7: Time to Get in the Water

Show up to the dive shop ready to learn! Fill out forms, get fitted for gear and equipment.

Be ready for class! Once you give proof of completion of the PADI eLearning course, you’re ready to get in the water! But first, you’re going to take a refresher quiz in a class setting before getting in the water for training.

Confined water

This is the 1st part of your in-water training. It basically means pool or shallow water. When I did my PADI training, we had to:

  • tread water for 10 minutes straight followed by 8 laps in the pool. (check with your shop for updated info)
  • 4 dives with exercises
Open water

This is the 2nd and final part of scuba training.

  • 4 dives with exercises

Check with PADI or your dive shop for updated information.


Do your research, avoid turn and burn shops, and find a place that truly believes in what they are doing/selling. It’s crazy to think that had I given up after my first negative encounter, I would have missed an incredible opportunity to experience all that the amazing underwater world of SCUBA has to offer. I am happy I was able to get my scuba certification in Florida.

When you’re in the water, remember to just breathe. Literally! If you can master your breath control, you’ll master your buoyancy. This means you can float neutrally without much effort, allowing you to relax and allow enjoy the moment.

Scuba not only exposes you to an underwater world you’d usually not have access to, it makes you feel more confident in yourself and your abilities (being able to assemble & carry your gear & equipment + learning new skills).

You will see so many things and meet so many people. It’s the kind of experience that gives you memories to talk about for years to come!


Don’t let the initial challenges or money setbacks scare you away. If it’s really something you want to do. Make a plan to do it. Even if it takes you a little while to be able to commit to it. It’s the most incredible feeling once you do.

Also, don’t let anxiety, impatience, exhaustion, etc. get you down. Every diver goes through a variation of that at some point (myself included). You’re normal! It makes you stronger in every possible way. You WILL overcome the obstacles you face and soon after, you’ll feel badass. Promise!

Now that I have my certification, I’m super excited to rent tanks and get back out there again! Now, with my diver card. 😉

illustration of geeves traveling with pink suitcase and blue outfit

Hopefully, you’ve got some useful info and enjoyed reading about the journey and experience of getting my scuba certification in Florida! If you enjoyed this blog, I’d love it if you left a comment below. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram!😊 

Are you scuba certified? Are you thinking about getting your scuba certification? Let me know in the comments below.

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