Skip Navigation Website Accessibility
About  |  Contact  |  View Cart   

Frequently Asked Questions

What's involved in learning to Scuba dive?

What's involved in learning to scuba dive?
Learning to scuba dive with TEST THE WATERS and PADI is an incredible adventure! With PADI as your training organization, your path to breathing underwater is accomplished in three exciting phases:

1. Knowledge Development - Learn the lingo.

During the first phase of your Open Water Diver scuba certification, you develop an understanding of the basic principles of scuba diving. You learn things like how pressure affects your body, how to choose the best scuba gear, and what to consider when planning dives. You briefly review what you have studied in the online homework sections with your instructor and learn the practical skills to go with it.

At the end of the course, you'll take a longer quiz that makes sure you have all the key concepts and ideas down. You and your TEST THE WATERS Instructor will review anything that you don't quite get until it's clear.

2. Confined Water Dives - Scuba Skills Training.

This is what it's all about – diving. You develop basic scuba skills by scuba diving in a pool or body of water with pool-like conditions. Here you'll learn everything from setting up your scuba gear to how to easily get water out of your scuba mask without surfacing. You'll also practice some emergency skills, like sharing air or replacing your scuba mask. Plus, you may play some games, make new friends and have a great time. There are five confined water dives, with each building upon the previous. Over the course of these five dives, you attain the skills you need to dive in open water.

3. Open Water Dives - Locally or on Vacation.

After your confined water dives, you and the new friends you've made continue learning during four open water dives with your TEST THE WATERS Instructor at one of our local dive sites. This is where you fully experience the underwater adventure – at the beginner level, of course. You'll get to demonstrate the skills that you've learned in the pool to your instructor and prove that you are ready for your open water certification.

You may also make these dives in Hawaii or at a more exotic destination. Test the Waters offers a referral certification you can present to another dive shop where they can finish your open water certification.

How long does it take to get certified?
The Open Water Diver course is incredibly flexible and performance-based, which means that TEST THE WATERS can offer a wide variety of schedules, paced according to how fast you progress.

While it's possible to complete your confined and open water dives in as few as two days by completing the classroom portion with online SSI online learning, your instructor's interest is in your learning to scuba dive, not in how long you sit in a class. So, training is based upon demonstrating that you know what you need to know and can do what you need to do. This means that you progress at your own pace – faster or slower depending upon the time you need to become a confident scuba diver who dives regularly. You can start learning to scuba dive online right now with TEST THE WATERS and SSI eLearning by following the link in the footer.

Our standard class consists of 6 confined water sessions at Hamme pool. Here you will learn your scuba skills in a controlled environment with an instructor. Follow along with your online learning materials and you'll have all the resources to  Once you finish that we move on to open water training where you will demonstrate your new skills to an instructor in a real-world environment. Standards indicate we must perform a minimum of 4 training dives for certification and we are limited to 3 dives a day. This means we will be diving over the weekend at one of the local lakes in Fairbanks. In the wintertime, we won't have access to these lakes and will be driving down to the coast to complete our training.

How much does it cost to take scuba lessons?
Our standard Open Water Diver course starts at $700
This three-week course includes all gear rental, coursework, and training sessions. 
We break down the cost of our course into the following:
  • Online course work - $200
  • Confined water sessions - $200
  • Open water sessions  - $300

Test the Waters also offers Private lessons for $50 per session. We try to keep our classes small but if you feel you would benefit from one on one attention, we can schedule an instructor just for you.

There is also a $6 pool entrance fee that is paid directly to the pool. We do not pay this for you.

What scuba gear do I need to learn to scuba dive?
Choosing and using your scuba gear is part of the fun of diving. TEST THE WATERS will help you find the right gear. Each piece of scuba equipment performs a different function so that collectively, it adapts you to the underwater world.

When you start learning to scuba dive, as a minimum, you want your own
  • scuba mask
  • snorkel
  • boots
  • scuba fins
These have a personal fit, and TEST THE WATERS will help you choose ones that have the fit and features best suited to you. Included in the cost of your Open Water Diver course, TEST THE WATERS will provide a:
  • dive regulator
  • scuba BC
  • dive computer or console
  • scuba tank
  • weight system and weights
Check with TEST THE WATERS to confirm sizing available for your course package. It's recommended that you invest in your own scuba equipment when you start your course because:
  • you're more comfortable using scuba gear fitted for you
  • you're more comfortable learning to scuba dive using gear you've chosen
  • scuba divers who own their own scuba diving equipment find it more convenient to go diving
  • having your own scuba diving gear is part of the fun of diving
The kind of gear you will need depends on the conditions where you dive. You may want:
  • tropical scuba gear
  • temperate scuba equipment
  • cold water scuba diving equipment

How do I know what's the best scuba gear?
Easy. There is no best gear. But, there is the best gear for you. The professionals at TEST THE WATERS are trained to help you find scuba gear that best matches your preferences, fit and budget. These professionals can get you set with the right stuff, plus they provide service and support for years of enjoyable and dependable use.

You may also want to talk to other scuba divers in PADI's online scuba community to get recommendations on particular scuba equipment brands and models.

What's required to take scuba lessons?
If you have an appetite for excitement and adventure, odds are you can become an avid scuba diver. You'll also want to keep in mind these requirements:

Minimum Age:
  • 10 years old
  • Students younger than 15 years, who successfully complete the course qualify for the Junior Open Water Diver certification, which they may upgrade to an Open Water Diver certification upon reaching 15.
Physical: For safety, all students complete a brief scuba medical questionnaire that asks about medical conditions that could be a problem while diving. If none of these apply, you sign the form and you're ready to start. If any of these apply to you, as a safety precaution your physician must assess the condition as it relates to diving and sign a medical form that confirms that you're fit to dive. In some areas, local laws require all scuba students to consult with a physician before entering the course.

Waterskills: Before completing the Open Water Diver course, your instructor will have you demonstrate basic water skills comfort by having you:
  • swim 200 metres/yards (or 300 metres/yards in mask, fins and snorkel). There is no time limit for this, and you may use any swimming strokes you want.
  • float and tread water for 10 minutes, again using any methods that you want.
About Physical Challenges: Any individual who can meet the performance requirements of the course qualifies for certification. There are many adaptive techniques that allow individuals with physical challenges to meet these requirements. Individuals with paraplegia, amputations and other challenges commonly earn the Open Water Diver certification. Even individuals with more significant physical challenges participate in diving. Talk to Staff at Test the Waters for more information.

Learning Materials: You will need to complete your assigned homework before you can be awarded the certification. Your SSI profile will also need to be completed with your personal information and a profile picture. (Your cert card needs a picture of you.)

Where can I scuba dive?
You can dive practically anywhere there's water – from a swimming pool to the ocean and all points in between, including quarries, lakes, rivers and springs. Where you can scuba dive is determined by your:
  • experience level
  • site accessibility
  • conditions
  • interests
For example, if you've just finished your Open Water Diver course, you probably won't be diving under the Antarctic ice on your next dive. But, don't limit your thinking to the warm, clear water you see in travel magazines. Some of the best diving is closer than you think.

Your local dive site can be anything from a special pool built just for divers like one found in Brussels, Belgium, or more typically natural sites like Belize's Great Blue Hole, Australia's Great Barrier Reef or Japan's Yonaguni Monument. It may be a manmade reservoir or a fossil-filled river. It's not always about great visibility because what you see is more important than how far you see.

The only truly important thing about where you dive is that you have the scuba diving training and experience appropriate for diving there, and that you have a dive buddy to go with you. TEST THE WATERS can help you organize great local diving or a dive vacation. Visit today to get started.

My ears hurt when I dive. Will that keep me from becoming a scuba diver?
No, assuming you have no irregularities in your ears and sinuses. The discomfort is the normal effect of water pressure pressing in on your ears. Fortunately, our bodies are designed to adjust for pressure changes in our ears – you just need to learn how. If you have no difficulties adjusting to air pressure during flying, you'll probably experience no problem learning to adjust to water pressure while diving.

Does a history of ear troubles, diabetes, asthma, allergies or smoking preclude someone from diving?
Not necessarily. Any condition that affects the ears, sinuses, respiratory function or heart function or may alter consciousness is a concern, but only a physician can assess a person's individual risk. Physicians can consult with the Divers Alert Network (DAN) as necessary when assessing a scuba candidate.

DAN has information available online if you wish to do some research.

What are the most common injuries or sicknesses associated with diving?
Sun burn and seasickness, both of which are preventable with over the counter preventatives. The most common injuries caused by marine life are scrapes and stings, most of which can be avoided by wearing gloves and an exposure suit, staying off the bottom and watching where you put your hands and feet.

Contact TEST THE WATERS for information about exposure protection needed for any of your diving.

How deep do you go?
Your Open Water Certification will certify you to dive to 60ft. As you gain experience and knowledge with more certifications and more training you can push these limits to a deeper world of diving. The limit for recreational scuba diving is 130 feet. Any deeper than that and you'll need a special mix of breathing gas. Although these are the limits, some of the most popular diving is no deeper than 40 feet where the water's warmer and the colors are brighter.

What happens if I use up all my air?
That's not likely because you have a gauge that tells you how much air you have at all times. This way, you can return to the surface with a safety reserve remaining. But to answer the question, if you run out of air, your buddy has a spare mouthpiece that allows you to share a single air supply while swimming to the surface. There are also other options you'll learn in your Open Water course with TEST THE WATERS.

Can I dive in a Wetsuit in Alaska?
You can dive in a wetsuit in Alaska. And then you will find out why you should consider a drysuit. 

Conditions in Alaska can change rapidly and even if you can tough out the cold water, you can easily find yourself coming out of your dive into a cool, windy, and rainy day. Scuba diving is much more enjoyable if you can feel your fingers and toes. When you are comfortable underwater you'll do more diving.

Where do you guys dive in Alaska?
We dive anywhere we can get out heads underwater. There are lots of lakes in town to dive including our Dive park we've set up in a flooded gravel pit  complete with sunken planes to explore. There is also Summit lake down on the Richardson highway. We also venture down to the coast down in Whittier, Valdez, and Seward. Alaska is some of the worlds greatest coldwater diving and there's plenty to explore.

How do I find a Dive Buddy?
We never dive alone, not only does it make your diving safer, everything is more enjoyable with a friend. We recommend getting certified with a friend so that way you already have a buddy who is at your own skill level.

If you're looking for Dive Buddies you can always visit the Facebook groups Interior Alaska Diving and The Alaska "Just Go Diving" Club and see if you can contact a friend that way.

For those looking for a more experienced partner who knows the waters, Test The Waters can pair you up with a certified divemaster for a guided dive

What if I feel claustrophobic?
People find the “weightlessness” of scuba diving to be quite freeing. Modern scuba masks are available in translucent models, which you may prefer if a mask makes you feel closed in. During your scuba diving training with TEST THE WATERS, your instructor gives you plenty of time and coaching to become comfortable with each stage of learning. Your scuba instructor works with you at your own pace to ensure you master each skill necessary to become a capable scuba diver who dives regularly.

TEST THE WATERS keeps classes small so that we can give you more time to get comfortable with the amazing world of diving.


  • Phone: (907) 490 4444
  • 1511 Richardson Hwy
    North Pole, ALASKA
  • Hours: Tues-Fri 12p - 6p
  •            Sat 12p-4p

Follow us...