Got our open water PADI SCUBA certification while diving some of SoCal’s coolest dive spots. We were able to get the certification done over 3 days and it made it so much more enjoyable and logistically possible. My two sons and I can now dive anywhere in the world, The process was really fun and has a 9.0 overall FACE Score™
Summary: SCUBA certification course with classroom, swimming pool and six open water dives on a dive boat.
Where Was It: We took the tests and pool work at Fred’s house in LA and the dive boat took us to Catalina Island.
Who Made It Happen: Our instructor Fred Brown was all the magic. The dive boat and Aquanautics make the trip an adventure
Here’s how it went down:
Part of the problem with SCUBA diving is the training. It’s long and requires a lot of effort, or so I thought. I had done the ‘resort dive’ in Mexico and other spots many times. That’s the one where you do 15 minutes in the pool and then off you go with the instructor and you dive in 30’ or less. So I really wanted to get my SCUBA certification but didn’t want to spend 4 weekends doing it.
I searched and finally found Fred Brown, an old Boy Scout leader, Army veteran, and SCUBA instructor that would make the 3 day version possible. The key was that Fred gave us the study materials ahead of time and the boys and I prepped the night before. We arrived at Fred’s place and took the test at 8am. By noon we had passed the classwork. After lunch we spent 5 hours in the pool doing all the skills. Now if you haven’t done any diving before you wouldn’t be able to do this schedule. You’d need a full day in class and a full day in pool. But we all knew the basics so it was mostly showing Fred we were comfortable and could do it.
The next morning at 7am we arrived at the dock and all our gear was on board the Pacific Star. A big beautiful dive boat set up perfectly for a day of diving. After our safety briefing we headed out to Catalina Island. What was great about the Pacific Star is that it’s all about diving. It’s got all the tanks and the air and everyone there is going to do the exact same thing. There is a comfy bunk room down stairs so my boys napped as we headed out.
Once at Catalina the boat crew double checks everything and everybody and off you go for the first of 3 dives that day. They position the boat on specific dive spots so you don’t need to swim endlessly looking for interesting stuff.
We did all our exercises and tests with Fred and explored like crazy. After each diver the boat crew refills your air and serves snacks and drinks. It’s a great service and the lunch was delicious. They have a fully kitchen (I know it’s called a galley btw) and they really cook up a storm for you all day.
So it takes 4 dives to get you SCUBA certification, so we did 3 the first day and then came back the next morning to go again. What was great was the boat went to different spots each trip and after the first dive that next morning, we were certified!. So the next two dives were just fun recreational dives. So we went exploring.
On our last dive of the trip and pair of sea lions came to visit. It was remarkable. I mean one of the wildest most awe-inspiring moments I can remember. The sea lions literally danced with us and played all around us. We stayed with them till we ran out of air and had to head back. Got the whole thing on my GoPro.. Great moment with the boys.
We headed home with our PADI cards and now we can dive anywhere in the world.
Best Moments: The sea lions obviously. But getting the card and now being certified was epic.
What We Loved: The dive boat was amazing. You just show up and they do everything.
What We’d Change: Not much. The system is pretty tight.
Who Is This For: If you’ve thought about diving or have done the resort dives, this is definitely for you. Important to try to push for accelerated version. The full length version is long and painful if you have some skills and smarts.
FUN: 9.1 – Being underwater is fun. Period. The dive boat and the process of that day is also really fun.
ADVENTURE: 9.2 – Again, you’re underwater so it’s an adventure and the dive boat trip make it feel even more like an adventure.
COST: 2.0 – It’s crazy how cheap it is to go through the certification, rent all the gear and go on the boat both days,
EFFORT: - 7.0 – it was a lot of work. Just because there is classroom stuff and tests and then the pool. The exercises in the ocean on the first few dives are some work too. But so worth the effort.
Overall FACE Score™ 9,0
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