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What is the difference between Discover Scuba and the Open Water Diver class? 

Discover Scuba is an introductory dive experience. The Open Water Diver class prepares a diver to dive independently.

Discover Scuba Diving is an opportunity to try scuba diving in a swimming pool. Participants are guided by licensed instructors, learn the basics of diving safety and will have an opportunity to scuba dive wearing a wet suit, mask, fins, tank, buoyancy compensating vest and regulator. During your dive you'll learn how to keep your ears comfortable while descending to the bottom of a 12 foot deep pool and will experience the weightless exhilaration of diving. Your Albany Scuba staff will be filming your adventure and will produce a high definition video of your experience. Completing the Discover Scuba Diving experience does not prepare participants to dive independently. Watch a Discover Scuba program click HERE .

On the other hand, your Open Water Diver class is a class committment that once completed, certifies you as an Open Water Diver- a lifetime certification to explore the underwater world without the assistance of a dive professional. This is the bucket-list class that so many people say "I've always wanted to do this!" When 70% of the planet is underwater, this is the certification that seems to open up a whole new world.

What's Involved in Open Water Diver Training? 

The PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Open Water Diver class taught by Albany Scuba is the most widely recognized scuba certification class in the world. By completing the Open Water diver class, participants learn to independently plan and execute dives in conditions similar to those in which one's dives take place. As a certified diver, you will be welcome to dive at resorts and dive shops around the world.

Learning to dive isn’t difficult, but like any activity worth doing, it requires some time and effort. While taking the PADI Open Water Diver course, you’ll enjoy three phases: Knowledge Development, Confined Water Dives and Open Water Dives

The PADI Open Water Diver course is incredibly flexible and performance based, which means that your PADI Dive Center or Resort can offer the program on a wide variety of schedules, and paced according to how fast you progress. It’s possible to complete your confined and open water dives in as few as four days (provided you take care to read the manual and watch the DVD ahead of time).

1However, many people prefer a more leisurely schedule. Contact Albany Scuba to find schedule options or ask about a private or semiprivate course.

1. Knowledge Development: This develops your familiarity with basic principles and procedures. You learn things like how pressure affects your body, how to choose the best gear and what to consider when planning dives.

You complete Knowledge Development on your own, reading each of five sections of the PADI Open Water Diver Manual and watching the corresponding section of the PADI Open Water Diver DVD (which also previews skills you’ll learn). If you like learning with a personal computer, you can also get the Open Water Diver Manual and Video together as a CD-ROM. You briefly review what you studied in each section with your instructor and take a short quiz to be sure you’re getting it. At the end of the course, you take an exam that makes sure you’ve got all the key concepts and ideas down.

2. Confined Water Dives: This is what it’s all about. You develop basic scuba skills in a pool or in a body of water with pool-like conditions. Here you’ll learn everything from setting up your gear to how to easily get water out of your mask without surfacing. You’ll also practice some emergency skills, like sharing air just in case. Plus, you may play some games, make new friends and have a great time.

There are five confined water dives, with each building upon the previous. Over the course of these five dives, you develop the skills you need to dive in open water. Your Albany Scuba staff will be filming your adventure and will produce a personalized high definition video of your experience.

3. Open Water Dives:  After your confined water dives, you and the new friends you’ve made continue learning during four open water dives with your PADI Instructor at a dive site. This is where you have fun putting it all together and fully experience the underwater adventure at the beginner level, of course. You may make these dives near where you live or at a more  exotic destination on holiday.

Albany Scuba conducts our Open Water Dives at the Yellow House in Hoodsport, Washington.2 The Yellow House is a private home custom outfitted for scuba diving. Owned by a diving instructor, the house sleeps 9 guests in the basement in comfortable beds and up to six additional guests in private bedrooms on the main and upper floors.

The house is equipped with a fully stocked kitchen, living and dining rooms, four and a half bathrooms, hot tub, barbeque, heated drying room, indoor dressing room for setting up scuba equipment and a private beach for training dives. The local air fill station is 1/8 mile up the road. Most of our guests consider The Yellow House to be a comfortable, well-appointed Bed and Breakfast. We host a pot-luck dinner on Saturday night, one of the traditional highlights of every open water training weekend.

How long is the Open Water Diver class? What are the schedule options? 

Albany Scuba Open Water Diver classes run each month on tuesday nights, beginning at Albany Scuba and ending at the Albany Community Pool. After your four class/pool nights, You'll have your open water weekend in Hoodsport Washington. Divers arrive at 1PM Friday, and are certified by saturday afternoon- allowing for saturday and sunday diving on your own terms but with staff on hand to dive with if you would like that extra level of security. Saturday night we do apotluck dinner with all the divers, as well as a night dive for anyone adventurous enough to try. The extra diving after your 4 checkout dives is truly something that sets Albany Scuba divers apart. Our goal isnt just to get you certified, but to allow you the underwater time to become comfortable, as well as truly enjoying your newfound abilities.

We also conduct classes on a custom or private basis. Private and custom classes have additional fees.

Are there sharks where we train? 

Truth be told, sharks or some relative of sharks, live in nearly every ocean of the world. The better question is: Are we likely to be threatened or injured by a shark while scuba diving? No. Reality vs. Hollywood.

In the Hood Canal, an arm of Puget Sound, two species of shark are seen. The more common species is a spiny dogfish. This animal is a relative of the sharks we see in movies. Spiny dogfish can reach up to three feet in length, have big eyes, and have a typical shark silhouette. They are rarely seen during the day and are very timid. The second species of shark rarely seen in the Hood Canal is the six gill shark. This species commonly lives in very deep water, 3,000 feet or more, is very timid, and can grow to 12 to 14 feet. Six gill sharks have a classic shark tail but no dominant dorsal fin. There are NO recorded incidents of any injury to divers from either of these species.

The number of shark attacks on humans world wide is exceptionally small. Attacks on divers is even smaller. One is dramatically more likely to be struck by lightening, twice, than to be injured by a shark. Sharks deserve our respect and caution. Most divers who observe sharks underwater hold up a camera and take photos.

Where do classes and pool dives take place? 

Classes will meet at Albany Scuba, 4255 Columbus St SE, Albany OR. Our classroom comfortably accommodates 10-12 students (class size is typically 8). We dive in the Albany Community Pool, just moments away from the shop.

How safe is scuba diving? 

As mentioned above, one is far more likely to struck by lightening twice, than be injured by a shark. Other statistics sited by the diving industry are that one is more likely to be injured while bowling or driving, or crossing the street at a crosswalk than while diving. While diving is very safe, there are risks. One needs to be in good health and comfortable in the water. One does not need to be a powerful swimmer to dive effectively, however, one should be comfortable in the water. During pool training participants are asked to swim 200 yards with no swim aids (and no time limit) or 300 yards wearing mask, snorkel and fins and participants are asked to spend 10 minutes in water too deep to stand treading, bobbing, floating, etc.

How much does it cost to learn to dive? 

Your Groupon package price, $150, covers your books, instruction, pool rental and most rental dive equipment.

Your lodging during our training weekend, beech fees and air fills are not covered by your Groupon package. Albany Scuba invites you to join us at the Yellow House. We will be training at the beach across the street from the Yellow House. The house is a very comfortable property custom-converted for divers. We can refer you to alternate lodging accommodations nearby if you prefer private quarters. Lodging for a training weekend at the Yellow House is $130 per person and includes air fills for your four checkout dives (with additional dives after that beign available at the nearby shop) and full use of the private beach owned by the house. Students choosing to find alternate lodging pay a $70 per person fee which covers the property owner's cost of operations (property taxes, maintenance, compressor operation and utilities). Students staying at the Yellow House do not pay the $70 fee. 

You will also need to purchase from Albany Scuba a scuba quality mask, snorkel, fins, and gloves. See the next question for more on these items.

You are also responsible for bringing a smile, towel and swim suit.

What equipment will I need? 

You will need to supply your own SCUBA-quality mask, snorkel, fins, gloves and rubber ducky. These are items which, for hygiene and fit reasons, are very personal to a diver. Albany Scuba sells a wide range of these items and guarantees each divers satisfaction with their purchase.

Traveling divers usually bring their personal snorkeling gear with them (this all fits easily in a carry on bag) when traveling to Hawaii, the Caribbean, Mexico or other dive destination. Renting buoyancy vests, regulators, tanks and weights at a resort is very easy.

How large will my class be? 

PADI standards allow one instructor to teach 10 students at a time in the pool and 8 at a time in the ocean. Albany Scuba believes this is too many students for one instructor to supervise alone.

Albany Scuba maintains a student to staff ratio of 4:1 in the pool and 2:1 in the ocean. Our class is limited to no more than 8 students per instructor. If our class numbers grow, we'll bring in additional instructors, assistant instructors and dive masters to keep our student to staff ratio small. This enables us to work closely with each student insuring comfort, confidence and preparation for every step of the training process. Learning to dive is both fun and serious. Expect to ask questions of our staff during class. Expect to learn to laugh underwater as well.

I don't have a dive buddy. How do I find someone to dive with? 

You'll be surprised at how many divers you know. Once you start talking about taking a scuba class, buddies will come out of the woodwork. Additionally, you'll meet dive buddies in your class, at the yellow House, while visiting Albany Scuba and attending club meetings. Our staff dives actively and we're happy to have you join us.

Albany Scuba also has an active dive club- more than just getting together to look at pictures or talk, we are out and in the water many times a month. Posted through our facebook page, as well as our site, there are many opportunities to meet new divers and dive with a professional by being a part of the Albany Scuba Dive Club. There are no fee's involved, no membership to claim, just join with us, and you're a part of the club!

What will I see during my dives? Isn't it dark and lifeless in the Hood Canal? 

Prepare to be amazed at the amount, diversity and color of the marine life you'll see in the Pacific Northwest. While the underwater visibility ranges from 10 to 60 feet, the density and variety of marine life rivals the beauty you'll see in tropical waters. The nutrient-rich waters of the Northwest support a wide range of fish, invertebrates and aquatic plants. During your training dives in Hoodsport you're likely to see three species of perch, two species of rock fish, sculpin, ling cod, gunnels and gobys. You'll see giant plumose anemones, kelp, sea cucumbers, multiple species of crab, squat lobster, spot prawn, geoduck and green sea urchins. I could go on and on. You can find pictures taken in the Hood Canal on the Albany Scuba facebook page.

Am I healthy enough to scuba dive? 

Good question! One does not need to be an Olympic swimmer or professional athlete to scuba dive, but one should be in good overall health.

Over the years I've taught people with diabetes, high blood pressure, claustrophobia, motion sickness and a history of open heart surgery to scuba dive. What all these folks had in common was a desire for adventure and their physician's signature on a medical release. Download the UHMS Medical History form by clicking HERE. Print the file and write the full word YES or NO as you answer each question on page one. If you answer YES to any question, you'll need to obtain your physician's signature on page two of the form before any pool dives take place. 

I have claustrophobia. I can't dive, can I? 

Claustrophobia is a fear of confined spaces. As a scuba diver, we can see very clearly through our mask, we take air with us when going underwater, and we have the freedom to move in all directions. As a mammal, humans instinctively "know" that we cannot breath with our face underwater. What will astound you by participating in a Discover Scuba Dive experience is that by following the guidance of a complete stranger, me or one of my staff, you'll be able to do something that you know you absolutely cannot do.

I call this a paradigm shift, a reality change, a belief changing experience. After practicing breathing air delivered by a scuba regulator with you head above the surface of the water, I'll ask you to slowly lower your chin, nose and eyes an inch or two below the surface of the pool. Your first few breaths will be tentative and cautious. You'll discover that you can, in fact, breath with your face underwater using special equipment. Gills come later.

While some people will be uncomfortable diving, the vast majority find the experience of diving in a pool to be exhilarating and liberating. Allow yourself to change reality. Be adventurous. Be amazed. Be a diver.

My ears hurt diving to the bottom of a pool. How can I dive deeper? 

The pressure we feel in our ears and sinuses as we swim to the bottom of a pool can easily be eliminated by using a few simple techniques. If you can "pop" your ears as you take off and land in an airplane, you can "pop" or equalize the pressure in your ears and sinuses while descending through the water.

As you'll learn in chapter one of the Open Water Diver manual, pressure change is felt in the air spaces of our body, most commonly the middle ears and sinuses. To equalize the pressure as we descend, we use one of several techniques; we blow gently against our pinched nostrilswe pinch our nostrils and swallow or we wiggle our jaw from side to side, just like we do when landing in an airplane. During ascent, the expanding air in our middle ears and sinuses escapes on it's own passing through the Eustachian tubes in out throat into our mouth. All that to say, the discomfort in your ears when swimming to the bottom of a pool is more than you should EVER have when diving. As Divemaster X says- "Diving shoudl never be painful. If it hurts you're doing something wrong!"

Discover Scuba Diving Dates. Please register two weeks in advance. 
Check the Calendar for Discover Scuba dates.

Open Water Class Dates. Please register at least one week in advance of Orientation date. 

Classes begin monthly throughout 2012. Check the Calendar for class dates. Classes are numbered on the calendar.

Classroom and pool dive sessions meet on Tuesdays from 6 to 10 PM.

Following the classroom and pool training we spend a weekend in Hoodsport, Washington completing four open water training dives.

More questions? 
Please contact Steve Camden directly at (800) 960-5720 during business hours or drop me an email at

The adventure of a lifetime begins at Albany Scuba today.