I had the amazing experience getting scuba certified with a little “hidden gem” dive shop in Austin Texas called Dive World Austin.
I have been a strong swimmer my whole life, but always had a fear of going to deep. I’ve hated the feeling of pressure on my ears! As much as I love the water and have a passion for mermaids, I knew this was holding me back.
How can I be a mermaid when I don’t like to go deep under water?
I wanted to explore the ocean in a new way and learn how to equalize my ears. If I ever do an aquarium performance or some deep underwater modeling shoot I need to have these skills.
I decided to take a Scuba course, and it was a riot! I seriously had so much fun and recommend it to anyone. It is safe (as long as you follow the rules) and exciting. A whole new world of opportunities opens up.
Dive world Austin has the friendliest staff around. You instantly feel at home and welcomed into their scuba community. The instructors not only teach but love and have a passion for diving. While I was there the instructors were always coming and going and talking about recent dives. I don’t think I saw the same instructor twice! All of them had a fun helpful personality and showed a strong connection with each other.
Our dive instructor is named Brittany. She was not only extremely informative but super funny. It didn’t take long before we were all cracking jokes. You can see from her bio below, and that we share a similar interest.
Brittany is the full time shop girl at Dive World Austin. Married to Active Duty Military, with two adorable dogs, and a mermaid. Brittany is a PADI child, and grew up diving the PADI flowchart as well as working with and for the Boy Scouts of America at Florida Sea Base. She also assists Michelle, Karen, and Jeanne with the first Scuba Diving Girl Scout Troop in the world.
Getting certified does require work on your part. You DO have homework and it IS required to fill out the questions and the end of each chapter. Usual dive certification courses include 4, 8-hour classes. The first two are at the dive center with a half day of classroom work, and half day in the pool. The second half of classes are out in open water.
It is not recommended that you get certified on vacation or have less than 4 sessions with a professional dive instructor. As safe as scuba diving is, you don’t want to shortchange yourself on training.
gear you will need beforehand
Make sure everything fits for a comfortable dive!
Day 1: Dive World Austin
We started the day with doughnuts. My fiance ate 4 (gross). We went over the “end of chapter questions” for the first 3 chapters. Reading aloud and discussing each one of them. Our instructor Brittany was great at stressing certain points, (unknown to us) which would later show up on a quiz. After each chapter, we did a short quiz that really wasn’t too bad (if you did the homework). This is coming from a girl who hasn’t taken a test in a “few” years. A little scary at first but because the manual, video, and instructor were so informative, it wasn’t a problem at all.
After lunch, we went to their 12-foot deep pool and talked about scuba gear. We learned how to set up, properly fit, and check each other divers before entering.
These tanks are heavy!
let’s get in the water!
Taking that first breath underwater is a whole new experience. They definitely ease you into it, but there is nothing like leaving everything at the surface and feeling the peace only underwater can bring.
Eventually, we made our way into the deep end and practiced equalizing our ears.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad or painful as I thought it would be!
My problem before was submerging and ascending too quickly. Your ears don’t have time to adjust! Brittany would say:
“Slow and steady wins the race”
The trick is to equalize early and often. Doing so will make it a painless experience.
Eventually, I was sitting 12 feet deep with no problem, and no pain in my ears, quietly watching the bubbles rise above me to the surface. I worried about this process for a long time. Gratefully, it came naturally and easily with the proper training.
Day 2: Dive World Austin
With the same outline as the day before we started in the classroom. We finished up chapters 4 and 5 and did the “final test.” I felt prepared and confident. When taking these tests, pay special attention to the wording. If you don’t read the questions thoroughly, you will miss what they are actually asking.
I noticed in the pool, on the second day, I was a lot more comfortable and relaxed in the water. I really appreciate the safety that goes into this sport. The instructors really prepare you if something goes wrong. Safely is their main priority and it shows. They walk you through and practice scenarios like:
- What happens if your goggles fill up with water?
- What if your air tank comes loose in the water?
- What if your tank runs out of air?
- What does an emergency accent look like?
An aspect I didn’t think about before getting certified was how to communicate underwater! There is a “scuba sign language” of simple hand gestures that make perfect sense when submerged. Brittany is an excellent instructor above and below the water. She was clear and distinct with her underwater instructions. She even had an underwater “happy dance” when we did things right.
This is the crew! My fiance Ben, instructor Brittany and friend Anne. Good times!
Next step, open water!
Day 3: Lake Travis
Lake Travis is not the clearest lake for scuba, but it’s close and convenient for learning how to scuba. It’s April in Texas so the air is warming up but it will be a few months before the water catches up. It’s 62 degrees in that water, THAT IS COLD!
In this picture, you can see a scuba suit, fins, booties, hood, regulator, BCD, gloves, hood, mask, snorkel, and air tanks. That is a lot of equipment but I am SO grateful I had the extra layers for warmth. I almost felt like an astronaut putting on all this gear!
All suited up and ready for the water!
The initial entree took my breath away but I soon warmed up with the 5mm wetsuit. After a surface group review, we submerged into the water. Visibility wasn’t great, but the Sunfish were friendly! They swam right up and stared you in the face!
Underneath are underwater platforms where we practiced skills together, then explored the lake. I went down 34 feet! Almost triple from what I did in the pool.
So fun to actually be out in open water!
Day 4: Spring Lake
Did you know that there were performing underwater mermaids in San Marcos Texas? Yep! It was called Aquarena Springs. The same guy who started Weeki Wachee retired and created another underwater mermaid theatre right here in my own state of Texas. Now it is a local park with glass bottom boats. The water is crystal clear with lots of wildlife.
This area is not usually open to the public but we got special permission for scuba diving and taking some awesome mermaid shots!
The Spring was warmer than Lake Travis but still cold. It’s a constant 72 degrees all year round. We suited up, did a quick review, and found ourselves 15 feet under to practice more skills. Since the water is clear, you try not to touch the bottom and stir up dirt which clouds the water.
We simulated what a real dive would look like as a group, then explored the lake. By the 4th day, the process seemed natural as we checked each other’s gear, signaled to go down, and explored the beautiful springs.
Being a mermaid, I totally geeked out when we found a huge clamshell at the bottom!
At the very end, I was able to do some underwater modeling with my new Aqua Mermaid tail. The instructors made me feel very safe. Underwater modeling is not easy!
Totally worth it!
I am SO happy that I got scuba certified. I feel so much more confident under the water and I highly recommend it to any mermaid who is somewhat interested.
IF you are on the fence, let me be the gentle push that motivates you. It was really fun… It was new and scary but so worth it in the end. I am excited to explore the water in new ways and use these skills in my mermaid career.
A huge thanks to Brittany and Dive World Austin for her instruction and support. I highly recommend these guys if you are in the Austin area. A friendly and flexible staff that wants to help you “dive” into their exciting world of scuba diving.
Check them out online or give them a call!
Photography by Mark Rosseisen with Dive World Austin