Beginner Necessities

Before you begin your introductory dive class, it is required that each student own the following pieces of gear:

  1. Dive mask 
    • mask-thumbMasks come in all shapes and sizes, however the most important aspect of a dive mask is the ability for it to adequately form a seal on your face. To test this, hold a mask to your face and take a deep breath through your nose. The mask should suction to your face and not fall off. If you feel air entering the mask, it is not sealing correctly (sometimes facial hair can obstruct a perfect seal and can either be trimmed or lubricated with petroleum jelly to aid in sealing).
    • You should also not be able to feel any pressure points on the bridge of your nose or cheek bones from the hard rim of the mask (at depth, this will otherwise be painful).
    • Masks with black silicon rubber around the skirt do a better job of enhancing contrast underwater as well as visual focus. On the other hand, some people may feel claustrophobic, or may experience tunnel vision with dark skirted masks. Clear silicon rubber skirts offer less claustrophobia, but with added distractions of moving shapes and shadows in the periphery while diving. Try both in-store before purchasing.

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      Clear skirt vs. black skirt masks

    • Make sure you have your mask treated by a dive professional to help reduce fogging underwater. Masks are treated with a silicon coating so that the lenses don’t crack during the manufacturing process. This coating fills the pores of glass and will not allow defog to adhere. Luckily the coating can be effectively removed by burning (have a professional perform this), or through repeated rubbing with gritty toothpaste (this takes much longer). We recommend using both techniques to better facilitate the use of defog.
  2. Snorkel
    • scubapro-nexus-semi-dry-flex-snorkel-1-big-2Let’s be honest, a snorkel is a snorkel. Some have wave diverters or valves that seal off the tube when submerged, but for the purpose of scuba classes, the added bells and whistles are not required. Make sure the snorkel can securely attach to your mask strap.
  3. Fins
    • Dive fins are specific to the sport as they provide substantial thrust through rigidity. Often students will use flimsy fins meant for snorkeling, which do not accommodate for propulsion of all that extra gear through the water (think tanks, weights, etc.). Therefore a good dive fin will have an open heel to allow for a boot (more on this later) and is typically much more rigid than the full-foot snorkel or freediving counterparts.

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      Open heel vs. full foot fins

    • Dive fins usually come in two varieties: blade or split fins. Blade fins are paddle-like powerhouses; they require a bit more leg-work, but output a great deal of thrust. They are also the most economical. Split fins are the fancy, energy-saving version; the vortex created by these fins allow thrust to occur on both up and down kick strokes, allowing half the energy per kick compared to blade fins (less leg wear, less fatigue, more dive time!). With split fins, it’s like cutting through butter. Divers who plan on diving in strong currents regularly should avoid split fins as they are less efficient in cross currents.

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      Split vs. blade fins

    • Certain fins either come outfitted, or can be outfitted with spring straps. Stainless steel spring straps are more expensive, but are less likely to fail throughout the life of your fins; the last thing you want is to be miles from shore when a rubber strap snaps. Spring straps also do not require adjusting when donning and doffing. Just set and forget!
  4. Booties
    • Booties are a multipurpose piece of gear that allows the divers foot to comfortably fit the fin. They should fit like a comfortable pair of tennis shoes (too tight and you may get leg cramps, too loose and there may be unwanted rubbing). Booties also protect the diver from sharp objects on shore and provide traction on slippery boat decks. Open-heel dive fins require booties.
    • Booties come in various thicknesses, ranging from 3mm-7mm. The thicker the boot, the warmer they will be.

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      High ankle vs. low rise booties

    • High ankle or low ankle? High ankle styles cover any potential gap not covered by the bottom of the wetsuit, facilitating heat retention, especially when diving in colder waters. High ankle styles also better protect chaffing at the junction of the fin foot pocket, which is sometimes left exposed in low-rise boot models.
  5. Optional: Wetsuit
    • There are two types of scuba divers: those who pee in their wetsuits and those who lie about it! That being said, it’s often nice to know you have your own personal wetsuit, rather than a rental, to ‘claim’ as your own.
    • Since wetsuit sizing varies widely by manufacturer, take the time to try on as many different brands as possible. You want your wetsuit to be tight enough to eliminate baggy sections, but not too tight to restrict movement or blood circulation. Excess ‘dead spots’ of material baginess can lead to pockets of cold water entering and reducing thermal efficiency. Make sure neck, arm, and leg seals are also accordingly tight.
    • Thickness is a key factor when purchasing a wetsuit. Thicker wetsuits are warmer, but typically a lot more difficult to put on and move around in. Modern materials have gotten significantly stretchier than the stiff rubber neoprene of old. 3mm wetsuits are well-suited for tropical waters (82 F and above), depending on the person’s thermal tolerance. 5mm wetsuits are great for people who dive for extended periods of time, or over many back-to-back days. 7mm wetsuits or even two-piece wetsuits are best for cold water diving.

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      Full vs. shorty wetsuit

    • Wetsuits generally come in two styles. Full length wetsuits cover everything from the neck down to the ankles and wrists. Shorties are wetsuits that only cover the torso, down to the thigh and biceps. Regardless of water temperature, we recommend full length wetsuits as they protect divers from stings, cuts, and abrasions much better than shorties do.

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