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Where to Learn to Blow Bubbles

Four ways to get yourself certified

Most countries require that you be certified before you strap on your tanks and dive in, and for good reason--mishandled equipment or an error in judgment in the lower depths can lead to a life-threatening case of the bends. Here are three ways to get certified, and a fourth way to dip your toe into diving without making a three-week commitment.

Certification classes: They are usually offered at the local dive shop or YMCA. The three- to six-week programs combine classroom instruction, pool-time, and open-water dives in an ocean or other body of water with currents and waves. Look for programs certified by one of the two largest American diving associations, the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), or the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). Both set clear standards for everything from equipment to instructor credentials. Also, try to meet your instructor before committing to the class. Diving is a high-risk activity; a novice needs to feel comfortable with the instructor. Tuition, equipment, and textbook should run about $250.

Resorts: Most resorts that offer diving also offer on-premise certification classes. They usually last three to four days and cost $350 to $450. You should make sure that the program is certified by NAUI or PADI before signing on.

At-home instruction with on-site dive: A combination program for those who live in cold-weather climates. You do all your instruction at home in an indoor pool, and then do your open-water test at a resort with a referral program. Costs vary widely.

Passport program: For people who want to try diving but don't want to commit the time or money to getting certified, these half- or one-day programs review the basics and conclude with an open-water or shore-dive accompanied by the instructor. The cost is usually about $50.

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Updated on October 8, 1995