SCUBA from Fort Collins

According to the US is home to 10 million certified SCUBA divers.

Two local businesses, High Plains SCUBA Center, 115 W. Harvard St., and Alpine SCUBA, 1110 W. Prospect Rd., provide certifications for SCUBA under the Professional Association of Dive Instructors, or PADI.

Bethany Murr, 19, certified on Advanced Open Water through Alpine during the spring 2010 semester. “I liked the smaller class,” Murr said. “It allowed for more questions and structuring the class to exactly what the students wanted to learn about.” (see sidebar)

While certification is typically not mandatory for equipment purchases, organized dives through SCUBA businesses require certification through one of the several international dive organizations, of which PADI is the most prevalent.

For those with a desire to try SCUBA in a controlled environment to get an idea of whether they enjoy it or not, both High Plains and Alpine offer introduction courses. High Plains charges $20 for their Try SCUBA and Alpine’s course Discover SCUBA Diving costs $25.

In both cases, the course offers a basic equipment familiarization and the opportunity to experience SCUBA in a swimming pool.

The first level of official certification offered by PADI is Open Water Diver. Both Alpine and High Plains offer the Open Water certification at around $500.00 total cost without including equipment purchases.

Alpine requires a dive mask, snorkel and fins as the minimum equipment any diver must have to certify through their operation.

Masks cost between $59.95 and $110, snorkels run between $24.95 and $65 and fins can cost anywhere from $60 for entry-level fins to $200 for fins that also require a separate boot which runs an additional $40. These prices do not include taxes, but expect to pay between $145 for a basic package and $375 for top-of-the-line equipment.

Sara Mitchell, 22, is a salesperson for Alpine SCUBA, “For the class and pool Open Water certification is $149.95 that’s one weekend when everyone comes in and then they also have to buy the book and the DVD that’s $84.95,” Mitchell said. “The certification dives cost $249.95 to certify at Homestead Crater in Utah and that doesn’t include the cost of transportation or lodging, so all together around $500.”

Colorado State University provides students the opportunity to take the class and pool portions of Open Water for a single-credit physical education course, HES 106, but students are still financially responsible if they choose to certify through either of the contracted course instructors, Alpine or High Plains.

The CSU course offers a more in-depth class and pool session than non-students receive and students receive a slight discount on the class and pool session, $115.

Alpine also offers CSU students currently enrolled in HES 106 a small discount on masks, fins and snorkels.

Once certified for Open Water, divers become eligible for any Open Water-rated dive in the world.

“Dives are relatively cheap if they’re not real great,” Sara Mitchell said. “Homestead Crater is $20 for a single dive it goes up from there. It can be anywhere from $20 a dive in Thailand or Mexico and $90 in Australia. It varies it just depends on where you are.”

Alpine and High Plains both offer rental equipment but don’t expect brand new equipment, “We don’t rent out new equipment and it is pretty much bottom of the line,” Mitchell said.

Derrick Searle, 34, is a PADI-certified Open Water instructor and experienced diver. He cautions anyone who may contemplate SCUBA, “SCUBA isn’t a cheap sport at first,” Searle said. “But once you have your own equipment and certifications the only cost is your dives and air.”

Plan up to $3108.95 or beyond on a full diver’s set up if you plan to only buy top-of-the-line and fresh-off-the-line equipment.

For the budget minded, $1203.79 is approximately what to expect to pay for bottom-of-the-line or used equipment. This type of set-up can still provide a completely functional set-up without sacrificing safety.

Most dive shops will rent equipment to certified divers. For those holding certifications Alpine’s daily rates are as follows for basic necessary equipment.

Weight belt – counters buoyancy device to give diver control over depth $3
Mask and snorkel $6
Fins $6
One tank of air $6
Wetsuits $9
Mask, snorkel and fins $10
Regulator – device that allows diver to breathe from the air tank $10
Buoyancy Control Device or BCD – gives a diver control over flotation $10
Dive computer – gives diver vital dive information $20
BCD, regulator, tanks, weight belt and wetsuit $30

According to their website, PADI certified over 900,000 people annually each year from 2003-2008. With the population of certified divers growing worldwide, cheap used equipment may present the cheapest viable option.

Kent Rychel, 47, has purchased used equipment in the past, but suggests having an experienced diver check out any potential purchases for defects or wear before handing over your money. “I got a great deal on a used drysuit,” Rychel said. “But I found some worn areas I knew I could repair myself; if it had been ripped I would have passed.”

SCUBA provides an opportunity for outdoor recreation unlike most other sports, true immersion in a natural environment is not only feasible, but is the true goal.

With proper training and equipment provided from a certified official, anyone who can get through the basic certification may add an exciting new dimension to their vacation or regular recreation lives.

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