(ran PINELLAS / HILLSBOROUGH edition)
So you want to learn how to scuba dive?
An open-water scuba certification card (C-card) is what you need to get a tank filled with air. Most reputable charter boats also will ask to see a C-card, and sometimes a log book, before they will take you diving.
The certification requirements vary from agency to agency, but all ask students to demonstrate various emergency procedures, such as sharing air underwater, before they will issue a C-card.
Students must be at least 15 and demonstrate minimal water skills, i.e., a continuous 200-yard surface distance swim and a 10-minute survival swim/float without the use of mask, fins, snorkel or other swimming aids.
A typical class involves several classroom sessions where students learn the physics of diving on compressed air, several pool sessions and a series of open-water dives.
Classes last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Students usually are required to bring their own mask, fins and snorkel. Prices vary from $100 to $250, but don't look for the cheapest deal. Instead, search for an instructor who makes you feel safe and comfortable. Think about it . . . your life is in their hands.
_ TERRY TOMALIN