Scuba is an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus — the key piece of equipment used by scuba divers to breathe underwater. Scuba divers carry breathing gas while underwater, which allows them to move around freely and stay underwater for long periods of time.
Scuba finds its roots in simple snorkeling, which people have being doing with the use of reeds and other long, hollow objects for as long as humans have been interested in seeing what’s underwater. This basic concept was first improved on around 1300 A.D., when Persian swimmers created the first diving goggles, which they made from thin slices of tortoise shells. Throughout the late 1700s and early 1800s, inventors of all kinds created countless re-breathing devices for remaining underwater. Some worked, kind of, while most failed spectacularly. Several of these inventors even lost their lives while experimenting with their devices. Some solutions that did work, though they did have their drawbacks, including a re-breather created by English inventor William James that allowed for seven minutes of dive time, and even a dive suit created by Harry Houdini.
The first truly effective scuba re-breathers were invented for use by the military, as they offered a lot of advantages in terms of stealth. Commercially, re-breathers made by English enginner Henry Fleuss were the first to be sold to the public when they hit the market in 1878. Fleuss’ product allowed divers three hours of breathing time while underwater. In 1910, Sir Robert Davis created the first widely successful oxygen re-breather — the Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus.
In terms of open-circuit scuba history, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan were responsible for the making of the Aqualung open-circuit breathing units, which were the first commercially successful scuba gear of its kind when it hit stores in 1942.
Drift Diving – This type of diving is organized so divers can use the natural currents around them to drift through a dive sight quickly and without using much energy. Some divers relate the sensation of drift diving to flying, and it is typically recommended only for scuba divers with higher experience levels.
Night Diving – Going for a dive at night only adds to the already mysterious nature of underwater worlds, which makes it an absolute blast. A bright underwater flash light will allow for safe navigation. Some night diving trips, if they are guided professionally, will have lights built right into the dive site. Guided night dives usually showcase certain types of marine life that only appear in dark waters or are attracted to light sources.
Deep Diving – Any dive deeper than 18 meters is officially considered a deep dive, though most deep dive trips will take place 30 meters or more below the surface. Deep dives are usually done specifically for the purpose of exploring special environments (such as shipwrecks or other interesting stuff on the ocean bottom) or for seeing marine life that only lives at great depths. This type of diving involves quite a lot of planning, as the deeper a dive is, the more dangerous it can become if errors are made.
Cave Diving – This is a favorite of many scuba divers, and for good reason. Exploring water passageways through submerged caves is about as fun as it gets for a diver. There are a ton of cave diving destinations all over the world.
Wreck Diving – Let’s face it, everyone has wanted to explore a shipwreck at one time or another. This dream can come true quite easily if you learn to scuba dive, as countless wrecks exist in virtually every body of water you could imagine. This is a type of diving that is highly addictive.
A great thing about scuba diving recreationally is that it is mostly self regulated, meaning that there is no official regulatory organization for the activity. Getting started is as simple as learning a few basic concepts and gaining some experience. With that being said, many organizations that have to do with training and certifying dive instructors exist. These certifications are typically used by dive companies to ensure that their instructors are well educated and experienced.
As an entry level scuba diver, there are several things that you will need to learn how to do, including using a dive suit, exiting a boat and getting back on it, assembling scuba gear, controlling ascent, descent, and buoyancy, and more. You will also need to learn all the basic safety procedures associated with scuba.
Should you want to attend a formal certification program, you will need to understand some of the physics and physiology involved in being underwater for extended periods of time. These things — the effects on the human body under water, pressure, buoyancy, the risks of losing too much body heat, etc. — will be taught to you at the course you choose.
Below are some of the most common types of gear and technology you will encounter as you get involved in the world of scuba diving.
Breathing Apparatus – This is the foundation of all diving. This apparatus, and there are many types, will allow divers to breathe underwater while also adjusting various pressures in accordance with a diver’s depth. Most equipment of this type will be a half mask with a mouthpiece connected to a re-breather. Check out this Aeris regulator.
Breathing Gas – Compressed gas, which most commonly consists of roughly 32 to 36 percent oxygen and the rest nitrogen, is held in cylinders that divers carry on their backs as they dive.
Fins – While there are other types of propulsion used mostly by professional divers, fins are the standard with scuba. These are worn on a diver’s feet and allow them to have greater control and power while moving through the water. Some good starter fins are these ones made by U.S. Divers.
Buoyancy Control – This is a critical part of any scuba setup. Buoyancy has to do with the speed with which a diver ascends and descends while underwater. Doing so too quickly or too slowly can result in a myriad of issues, making buoyancy control a critical thing for every diver to master. Specialized suits, weighting systems, and buoyancy compensators are the main types of equipment used for this purpose. See this Mares Spirit buoyancy compensator.
Masks – Half masks are most common in scuba diving. They protect a diver’s eyes while allowing them to see the environment around them clearly. Diving masks will typically aid with the visual differences that occur while underwater, correcting a diver’s vision so they can see underwater not much differently than they would above it. This Cressi diving mask is a good place to start.
Wetsuits – A wetsuit will provide a diver with insulation from cold waters, protection from abrasions, and assist with buoyancy control. Most wetsuits are made from foamed neoprene. Wetsuits can conver anything from just a diver’s torso to their entire body, including the use of hoods, gloves, and boots. Check out these Neosport wetsuits.
Drysuits – These types of diving suits will protect a diver’s entire body, except for the head, and are made for use in harsher, colder underwater environments, as well as for longer dives in moderate temperatures. These suits will allow no water whatsoever to touch the skin of the diver. This drysuit by ScubaPro is really nice.
Miscellaneous Gear – There are countless gadgets and pieces of gear that a scuba diver has access to today. These may include tools for monitoring compression, safety equipment, lights, cameras, GPS systems, knives, buoys, and more.