Sharks top the list of things that I’m afraid of, so I never thought that I’d one day receive my certification in Open Water Scuba Diving. Life is short, so it was time I face my fears as I begin my scuba certification in NJ. As a travel writer, I’m always finding unique perspectives, and there’s something so exhilarating yet scary about being 60 feet below the surface. It’s like going to the aquarium, but there aren’t any glass containers, the animals aren’t captured and you’re visiting their homes (so you better be respectful).
At first, the process to get certified seemed very overwhelming to me—I didn’t even know where to begin. What’s great is that once you have your certification, your adventures can literally take you anywhere. I completed my certification in Bonaire, a Dutch Caribbean island that is known for its surreal shore diving. Here’s what you should know about the process to get your own certification.
What is PADI?
PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) is “the world’s largest ocean exploration and diver organization, operating in 186 countries and territories, with a global network of more than 6,600 dive centers and resorts and over 128,000 professional members worldwide.”
I am one of one million certifications that they will give out this year, with a mission to allow people to seek adventure. There are also many scuba volunteer dives to save the reefs, remove invasive species and more to help preserve the beautiful world below the surface.
How to Get Your Scuba Diving Certification in NJ
Step 1: The online coursework
Before you can get in the water, you need to complete the PADI online course. I did the Open Water certification which allows me to go 60 feet below the surface. If I wanted to go further down, I’d have to get my Advanced Open Water certification. The courses are at your own pace and can take between eight to10 hours which include instructional videos and a test. Don’t worry though, you can retake the tests in each section until you pass!
Step 2: Get in the water at a local pool
Once you have completed the online class, you’re ready to get in the pool. There are 25 locations in New Jersey where you can take your in-water class that is PADI certified. The two classes with an instructor (five hours each) will teach you everything from getting the equipment ready, breathing underwater, clearing your goggles while submerged and more. After the class, you should feel confident and excited to get into the great big sea. I recommend doing your in-pool class locally and not at your vacation spot. When you’re somewhere with beautiful waters, you won’t want to be spending two days of your trip in a pool.
You can find a PADI certified location near you here.
Step 3: Open water dives
Now it’s time for the most exciting part. I went to Bonaire, a Caribbean Dutch island that is known for its shore diving to get my certification. Shore diving means that their reefs are accessible without going on a boat, which gives divers freedom to be on their own time. With direct flights from Newark, this island is a hidden gem, with a population of 20,000 people. There are actually more flamingos living on the island!
At Buddy Diving Resort in Bonaire, I had to complete four open water dives with an instructor before receiving my certification. In these dives, we went over activities that I did in the pool and reached a depth of 60 feet. Getting certified is serious–doing the dives doesn’t guarantee that you’ll pass. You may need to do additional dives if needed.
Once you do achieve your certification, I recommend planning a few dives to explore with your dive buddy before you head back home. Traveling won’t be the same again. I’m already searching for destinations that have great diving conditions to see the world from my new perspective.
Did you get your scuba certification in NJ? Share your experience in the comments!
About the Author/s
James Barrett is a freelance journalist covering everything from travel, interviews, personal essays and entertainment. He's a Syracuse University alum and New Jersey native. You can subscribe to his free weekly newsletter at jimmyrox.com.