Getting Scuba Certified
Garner has always loved scuba diving and wanted us to go together. A few years ago I promised him that if we ever got married, I would get my certification. Fast forward to when he proposed... I remember telling my sister-in-law the next day that I already knew what I was getting him for his wedding gift - my scuba license.
A few months before our wedding, I started researching scuba shops and how long it would take to get my certification. Different shops have different classes (some take months!) and different ways of training. Ultimately there are two main companies that offer well-respected licenses - PADI and SSI. I would highly recommend looking into shops that offer you one of those certifications as those are both recognized worldwide.
After looking into many shops, I decided on Bamboo Reef in San Francisco. It was highly rated, offered weekend classes that aligned well with my schedule and offered SSI certifications. They required three weekends to get your license:
Weekend one was orientation. It was so funny because Garner actually dropped me off there! I told him I had to run "wedding errands" and he didn't ask any more questions... probably because he was glad I wasn't dragging him with me.
Orientation was a few hours and really just explained everything you needed to accomplish and what to expect. We watched a few videos, set up SSI profiles and learned about next steps: homework, pool tests, equipment we'd need to purchase and our group trip to Monterey.
We then tried on gear and purchased what we'd need: I now have my own mask and snorkel, booties, gloves and fins. I don't always bring this with me (most shops in vacation locations will have gear you can rent) but I love having my own mask - I know it fits my face well and won't leak.
After orientation, I only had a few weeks to read six chapters in a textbook and complete the required homework and quizzes. The classroom portion also has a written test so I started studying (hint: there are practice tests on Quizlet!).
2) Classroom + Pool Training
The classroom/pool weekend was a full two days - 9 am to 7 pm. I was worried what I would tell Garner (I wanted to keep it a surprise!) but he ended up being away for a bachelor party (thanks, Brandon!).
Day one was a lot of videos, discussion and assignments. Most certification classes are months of classroom work - this one is a lot of homework and them trusting you to learn on your own time - so they wanted to make sure you actually read, understand the equipment and how it works, etc. before putting yourself at risk. We then had to pass a swim test of 20 laps (I was more nervous about this than the written test!) to make sure we were fit enough to swim in the ocean.
Day two was our dreaded written test (100 questions!) and then our pool work. We were suited up and learned, then were tested, on what to do if your tank runs out of air, if your "buddy" runs out of air and how to share your tank, how to clear your ears and how to make sure you are always breathing (#1 rule). I'm not going to lie - I had an actual panic attack in the pool. Sometimes being in so much gear (I was covered head to toe and with 30 pounds of extra weights!), you feel like you can't swim or breathe or get to the surface. Luckily the instructors are amazing and were able to calm me down and get me comfortable enough to "just keep swimming!"
3) Ocean Dives
The following weekend I told Garner I was going on a "girls trip" to Monterey (not a complete lie as I was going with girls that were strangers!). I booked a random hotel and headed down for the weekend. There was a group of 8-10 of us with two instructors. We had to complete four dives (two each day) and show all of our pool skills in the ocean.
I was so excited to pass and to get my license! You also get a dive book where you log all your dives, how deep you went and what marine life you saw.
At our rehearsal dinner, I presented Garner with my license, dive book and some goofy pictures my classmates took of me during training. He was SHOCKED and still says it's the best gift he's ever received. Since then, we've gone diving together in the Cook Islands for our honeymoon and in Maui. It's been such a blast and I enjoy it more and more each time we go. I'm proud to say I've now completed eight dives (four with Garner!) and can't wait to complete more dives and receive more high-level certifications.