I'm interested in learning to scuba dive, but I'm not real sure where to start. How can I find a good place to learn? I don't want to learn from a "fly by night" school. I want to learn from experienced people where safety is the number one priority.

Also, I've heard so much about different certifications. I'm not sure how to evaluate these either. These are some of the certifications available where I live. Can somebody explain them to me, good or bad and why?

I'm from St. Paul, Minnesota if that helps.

Naui and Padi are the biggies in north america. They are all more or less the same in the quality of diver produced. If you want to give scuba a try and not lay out any cash, Padi has what's called Discover Scuba. It's free. Just sign up at a local Padi dive shop. You'll get some basic instruction and off you go in a pool, under an instructors supervision for 30 minutes or so. A great, cheap way to find out if you're going to like diving without a large cash outlay for a full course. This way, if you like it, shop around for a good dive shop and sign up for an open water course ( about 300 bucks, plus some basic equipment). If you don't like it, the only thing wasted was part of an afternoon.

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My mom thinks that I'm qualified to learn, but I can't convince my dad.

You see, he was taught probably in the late 70's/early 80's, so they didn't have nearly the fancy equipment they have now. He had to do all of the math in his head. I think he's worried I won't keep an eye on how deep I am, how quick I'm ascending, and other essentials of diving safety.

Thing is, I will, especially if the only thing keeping me alive is strapped to my back!

I'm a strong swimmer (he taught me how when I was about 2), I'm getting A's in an honors math class, (useful if something did blink out) and I know how to use fins from going snorkeling.

I want more freedom than about 10 feet down!

Oh, and I'm 15 years old, pretty much fully developed physically. (I know that's a big part of not letting kids dive!) Minimum age in Mississippi is 12, I believe.

You don't need to be a math genius to be a certified diver. Talk to your dad about it and ask him if you guys can just go check out a dive shop, see what gear and classes they have to offer. This way, your dad will be updated on all the latest things. Also, find out if he'd let you learn if he can sit in on your class; you can also suggest that he quiz you at home and that once you're done, you two can dive together.

If this has to do with your body changing size/shape and equipment, you can agree not buy anything till you're over 18. That way you'll spend less money purchasing different size wet suits.

It would also help if you ask your dad to be specific as to why he doesn't want you diving yet. Is it the math, your age, the price, the workload, etc?

P.S. using fins while snorkeling is not the same as using fins while diving. when diving, you want to make sure you're extra careful that you don't damage reefs or other fragile substrate.

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