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Training and Certification

Before taking a dive, enthusiasts must gain certification by passing a course offered by a certified scuba diving agency. All agencies require that participants be proficient swimmers, in reasonably good health, and at least 12 years old.

The course typically consists of classroom work, practice in a pool or other confined body of water, and dives in the open water, usually in a large lake or the ocean. In the course, students learn to use diving equipment, to equalize air pressure as they descend, to swim efficiently underwater, and to ascend safely. They also learn how to communicate underwater with hand signals.

Scuba diving should always be practiced with at least one other person, and partners should remain together throughout the dive. Certification courses teach divers the rules and advantages of the buddy system. Diving partners learn to double-check each other's equipment, share a single air supply, and assist one another should a problem occur. 

Controlling breathing rate is also important. During exercises in water, diving students practice breathing in a slow, continuous manner. Most hazards can be avoided if divers follow the safety procedures taught in certification courses and do not attempt dives beyond their ability and experience.

To become certified, diving students must pass a written exam and a swimming proficiency test, and successfully demonstrate newly mastered skills in four open-water dives. Proficient divers then receive a certification card that allows them to make unsupervised dives, refill air tanks, and buy diving equipment worldwide. Stores that sell diving equipment and businesses that operate diving tours require this proof of certification.



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