10 Questions New Scuba Divers Ask – Part 1

10 questions from new divers
Photo by Brent Hix

(Updated 2.6.2018)  Working at Dolphin Dive Center puts me in contact every day with people interested in scuba diving. They come to the shop excited, but also apprehensive.  And that apprehension prompts them all to ask the same kinds of questions.

In this two-part blog series, I have compiled the 10 most asked questions people new to scuba diving ask, and offer answers. Five questions, in no particular order, are below. Be sure to read Part Two with the second five by clicking here.

1. Will I have to buy a lot of expensive equipment?

10 questions new scuba divers ask
Photo by Brent Hix

The short answer to this question is no. Whether you dive at a resort or with a charter boat service, there will likely be a rental shop where you can rent gear by the day, weekend, or week. It may not fit you perfectly, but you will be able to dive in it. That said, when you own your own gear, it will fit you every time. You won’t have to fumble with straps, inflator hoses or purge valves because you will be so familiar with your personal set-up. Owning your own gear contributes to your comfort and peace of mind. A relaxed diver consumes less air and enjoys longer bottom times, allowing him or her to truly savor the experience. But there’s no rush to owning your own gear. Rent for as long as you like. When the time is right to buy, you will know it.

2. What if I wear contact lenses?

You can safely scuba dive while wearing your contact lenses. Soft lenses may be more comfortable than hard or gas permeable lenses, and disposable lenses are a great option. It’s recommended to use lubricating drops before and after dives, to keep your eyes moist and to rinse away any residual salt water that may irritate the eyes. For more great tips, read the article “Scuba Diving in Contact Lenses.”

3. Aren’t there, like, sharks down there…?

10 questions new divers ask
Photo by Brent Hix

We hear this one all the time. It’s usually the second question, right after “How much does scuba diving cost?” (The answer to that question is coming in Part 2.) It’s understandable to worry about sharks, considering the bad rap sharks get from Hollywood blockbusters and Shark Week. But expert Dr. Robert Hueter of the Mote Marine Laboratory – Centre for Shark Research in Florida sets the record straight. He says, “The idea that sharks are out there attacking humans, it doesn’t reflect the reality of what we have learnt over the past 40 years about shark behaviour and biology – sharks are not man-eaters, and in fact, many shark species are threatened by humans.” (Read more at “Encounters of the shark kind — but please, not an attack.”) Bottom line: Ask most experienced scuba divers, and they will tell you the highlight of any dive is a shark sighting. Unfortunately, sightings are quite rare.

4. Can I be a scuba diver if I’m out of shape?

Dolphin Dive Center Athens GA
Photo by Tim Bridgham

For the record, Tim and Ina (pictured here) are not out of shape! I just thought the photo illustrated the point: Scuba diving is a sport anyone can enjoy. Whether you are young or old, fit or out-of-shape, still wearing the jeans you wore in high school or in need of a good weight loss plan — anywhere on the spectrum — you can scuba dive. And here’s a fun fact: Many divers at Dolphin Dive Center become motivated to lose some weight, start exercising, and/or quit smoking after finishing their scuba certification. Why? Because they realize that getting fit means their respiratory systems will work more efficiently, which in turn means they’ll consume less air and extend their bottom times. Added benefits, all around!

5. What if I’m claustrophobic?

10 questions new divers ask
Photo by Brent Hix

Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder in which sufferers have an irrational fear of being trapped in confined spaces. If you are claustrophobic and considering scuba diving, you will most likely experience some of that anxiety the first time you gear up. But rest assured, the training you will receive during certification will desensitize you to the fear of confinement. As you master skills that allow you to cope with the underwater environment, your training will become a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It will be important to let your instructors know about your fears. They will spend extra time with you, if necessary, until you feel safe and comfortable underwater. Just like with anything, if you really want to dive, your fears won’t stand in your way.

Please read Part Two (click here). More questions from new scuba divers will be answered!

Do you have a question about scuba diving? Leave it in the comments and it’ll be answered! 


Lake Burton, Our Newest Local Dive Site?

Bridge across the Tallulah River, 1905. Today, this bridge is at the bottom of Lake Burton.

In the early 1900s, Georgia Power built a series of four dams along the Tallulah River in Rabun County, along with the Terrora Hydro Plant, bringing hydroelectric power to that part of the state. The subsequent reservoirs are still important to the plant and to the local economy today, but their existence came with sacrifice, including the now submerged Ghost Town  of Burton.

Dolphin Divers ~and history enthusiasts~ Ross McConnell and Jay Cavanaugh are planning to explore Lake Burton and learn all her secrets. (And could Lake Burton become our area’s newest local dive site?)  Jay explains:

“This post is a repository for the photos and items used in the search of the Ghost Town of Burton GA, submerged by the power company almost a century ago. The motivation for this search comes mainly from Ross McConnell and furthered by another friend Rob Divis.

This is our Walk-in site. Many thanks to the owners for allowing us to use their property!

Well, we have been given permission by the owners of lakefront property to enter the lake on Friday Dec the 13th to make our first dives on the Town. We are developing the dive plan now, which includes so far:

  • Gear/equipment selection and testing
  • Emergency procedures at the site, including recall procedures
  • A list of objectives and locations
  • Depths and times, etc.
Thinking this will be the focus area. Easy to see the advantages of a walk-in from this angle.

So far the team consist of two 2-person dive teams and one diver on the surface.

The tactical approach will be to enter heading due west 270 degrees, straight down following the contour until we hit the Tallulah which, according to our resident dive team geologist, should be obvious. Then, we’ll follow the river southward to the Bridge. Once the bridge is located the teams can split up if they chose and head for separate targets.

The Church (http://www.rabunhistory.org/photo-gallery/lakes-and-dams/lake-burton/)

Some of the targets include:

  • The Tallulah
  • The Bridge
  • The Church
  • The Post Office.
A folk art rendition of the town of Burton Ga. (Looking Northerly)

* NOTE: The Church is in the opposite direction of the others. It was located on the West side of the River and up the hill next to the Burton Cemetery. The general location of both can be seen off the Eastern tip of the sandy areas that can be seen from Google Earth on the opposite side of the lake from our walk-in site…huh? ;<)” ~ Jay Cavanaugh

Erv found this one; which unfortunately, lends credence to the rumor some building material did wash down to the dam during the flooding process. http://www.rabunhistory.org/come-visit-us/


Citizens of Burton (http://www.rabunhistory.org/photo-gallery/lakes-and-dams/lake-burton/)

In the following weeks, look for subsequent posts that follow Jay and Ross on their expedition to the bottom of Lake Burton!

Interested in joining them? Contact Dolphin Dive Center at 706-548-3483 to learn how to get involved!

Read more about the history of Lake Burton HERE.

10 Questions New Scuba Divers Ask – Part 2

10 questions new scuba divers ask
DDC divers rock!

(Updated 2.6.2018)  Every diver remembers that exhilarating time when he or she first tried scuba diving. A few will pound their chests and declare they never hesitated a minute. They just strapped that 50 lbs of gear on their backs and back-rolled into the abyss. Hoo-rah!

Most of us remember it differently. We were excited, for sure. But we had concerns. We needed answers before willingly subjecting ourselves to hostile alien environments where human beings were not designed to survive.

This two-part blog series was conceived to answer ten of the most common questions asked by people new to scuba diving. Part 1 dealt with the sharks, diving in contact lenses, investment in scuba gear, claustrophobia, and fitness levels. You can read Part 1 by clicking here.

In Part 2, we answer more of your burning questions. Let’s get started!

6. What if I’m prone to seasickness?

This was one of my personal concerns, when I was introduced to scuba diving. I’m happy to report that I don’t get sick all the time. But occasionally, it happens. And if the seas get rough enough, it might happen to everyone on the boat. I learned there are lots of strategies to prevent seasickness, and remedies to combat it when it happens. For example, take a preventative dose of motion sickness medication (such as Bonine or Dramamine) the night before a dive and again the morning of. Should you start to feel ill, move to the center of the boat and fix your gaze on the horizon. Have a “sea sick kit” in your dive bag, with items like Sea Bands, ginger flavored hard candy, Saltines, and peppermint gum. When I’m prepared with medication and my kit, I feel in control and less afraid of being sick. That’s important. Seasickness is more related to the anxiety of becoming seasick than to the actual motion of the ocean. (Want more tips? Please read my post “Sick of the Sea — Dealing with Seasickness.”)

7.  What if water gets in my mask?

10 questions new scuba divers ask
Photo Source

Scuba masks are designed to keep a pocket of air around your eyes so that you can see clearly underwater. Masks have a soft silicone skirt that, when properly fitted, creates a watertight seal from mid-forehead to below your nose. Sometimes,  that seal is broken. This can happen if, for example, some of your hair is under the mask or by smiling. I smile underwater all the time. Each time, I feel little trickles of water breaching the mask skirt. It’s okay when this happens. One of the skills you will learn during your certification training is how to effectively clear your mask of water. (I remember this freaking me out when I first heard it. Why not just teach us how to avoid water getting in our masks??) Here’s the thing: scuba training prepares you for many underwater circumstances so that you won’t panic if something unexpected should happen. As you master a skill like mask-clearing, you become more comfortable and confident, and you learn that what you feared before, isn’t really scary at all.

8. Isn’t scuba gear heavy? What if I can’t walk with it on my back?

scuba gear
DDC Photo

Scuba gear typically weighs about 50 lbs and feels a bit heavy, on land. The good news is you don’t scuba dive on land. Once you’re in the water, you don’t feel the weight of the gear, at all. One of the extraordinary sensations during a dive is the feeling that you are weightless, floating through underwater space like the fish, in stark contradiction of the laws of gravity we thought we were unconditionally bound by. As far as getting geared up, you will find that divers are a generous bunch. We help each other into our gear. We hoist and hold, strap down and support, check and double-check. The staff of most dive boat charters moves your gear for you, changes out your tanks between dives, and even puts your fins on for you as you stand ready to enter the water. Bottom line: If you need assistance, the divers around you will jump up and help, usually without being asked. Divers are cool, that way.

9. What if I once ruptured my eardrum?

“A ruptured eardrum — or perforated tympanic membrane as it’s medically known — is a hole or tear in your eardrum, the thin, drum-like tissue that separates your ear canal from your middle ear.” (Source Mayo Clinic) It takes a few weeks for a ruptured eardrum to heal without treatment. (A rupture with infection or requiring surgical intervention could take longer.) It’s not advised to scuba dive with a perforated eardrum. Once it is again intact, however, there is no medical reason to avoid scuba diving. I actually ruptured my eardrum in December 2011 and then dove in Belize the following February. I visited my doctor a week before the trip, to verify that my eardrum was healed. (Always consult your physician before a dive, if you have medical concerns.)

10. How much does scuba certification cost?

Open Water Diver Athens GA
DDC Photo

Dolphin Dive Center has certified over 1,000 students in the past few years. The SSI curriculum is outstanding, but it’s our instructors that make your dive training fun. The course is a two-step process: Classroom and pool sessions; and open water check-out dives.

Total price of Open Water Certification is three payments of $395*. That price includes digital learning materials, instructor fees, mask, fins, snorkel, full wetsuit, gear bag, classroom sessions, pool sessions, computer rental, gear rental and open water checkout dives. *Transportation and Meals during checkout dive weekend NOT included*

Check-out dives are done in open water. DDC offers students check-out dives in Vortex Springs, FL (November-May) or Lake Jocassee, SC (June-October). 

You have 4 months from the time you complete the classroom instruction before you must complete your check-out dives. You have the option of going on one of DDC’s dive vacations and completing your certification there. (See our trip schedule here.) Also, if you already have a beach trip planned,  DDC can refer you to a dive shop at your vacation destination. Cost of a referral is $75, payable to DDC. You will then be responsible for paying the referred instructor for your check-out dives.

Are you a new diver with other questions? Or do you remember having different questions when you began diving? Leave them in the comments and we’ll answer them for you.

Thanks for reading!

Marking Your Dive Gear

Picture this scene:

Photo Source Destination Cayman
Photo Source Destination Cayman

The dive boat has just docked after a two tank dive. You’re getting bumped from every direction as you and the other fifteen divers gather up your gear and prepare to disembark. Your inside-out wetsuit drips from the same support bar where six others just like it hang. Your fins are shoved under the bench along with the guy’s next to you, who also owns blue Hotshots. You’re feeling around in your mesh gear bag where you’re pretty sure you tossed your mask, though the one the guy across from you is holding looks an awful lot like yours…

Sounds familiar, right?

Don’t get all the way to the hotel and realize you have one of your size medium blue Hotshots and one of that other guy’s extra large. Marking your dive gear is a simple way to quickly and easily identify your scuba equipment. Below are creative ways to mark your gear. You’ll find all product information at the bottom of this article.

How to Mark Your Dive Gear

mark your scuba gear
My Hotshots, bought at Dolphin Dive!

Write your initials, your name, or a special symbol on each piece of gear you own. Use Trident U-Mark It, a Sharpie or a permanent paint pen on fins, mask cases, the back of wrist computers, flashlights and camera equipment. Permanent silver markers work well on neoprene wetsuits,  booties, gloves and hoods.

Adhere personalized, waterproof labels to camera equipment, flashlights, fins, log books, and luggage. 3M makes sticker labels specifically for scuba divers and boat enthusiasts.

Attach personalized, waterproof zipper pulls to wetsuit and gear bags.

Wrap regulator hoses with brightly colored, plastic wraps.

Attach military or dogtag style tags to BCs and mesh gear bag zippers. Have them engraved with your name, mailing address and/or phone number so anything accidentally lost or taken can be returned to you. Consider using brightly colored zip ties to attach them to D-rings.

Tie fluorescent-colored nylon string to D-rings on your BC and straps on mask and accessories like flashlights, etc.

Cut narrow strips of lime green, hot pink or orange duct tape (or electricians tape) and thread one strip through each of the zipper pulls of your booties and wetsuit. Press the sticky sides together for a bright and visible marker that will make your stuff easy to find, even in a rinse bin full of black neoprene.

dolphin dive center
Reflective diver identification stickers for your tank, light canister, etc.

To mark your scuba tanks, safety sausages, rebreather, and other larger items, check out DiveSigns.com for reflective diver identification stickers. They are highly visible in the worse of underwater conditions.

DiveSigns.com also sells Stealth Diver Name Stickers. As explained on their website, these are great: “For the diver requiring a more understated name marking. When fitted to a black surface, Dive Signs black-on-black reflective Stealth identification stickers are all but invisible until they are ‘lit’ by torch or sun light. When the light hits the reflective backing the stickers become as clear to read as our regular black on white stickers.”

A Couple Points to Remember

  • Don’t forget to mark your weight pockets too. They are easy to lose in a big rinse tank! Use paint pen, Sharpie marker, or stitch a label onto the fabric.
  • Make re-marking your gear a yearly goal. When you get your gear serviced each year, re-check the marking system you use, go over any faded writing with Sharpie/paint pen, and replace worn out nylon ties, duct tape or zip ties.
  • As divers, the marine environment is important to us. There is interesting information and discussions on environmentally safe ways to mark your scuba gear at TheDivingBlog.com. (Click here to read the article.)

Dive Gear Marking Tools, Product Information

How do you mark your scuba diving gear? What’s worked for you, and what hasn’t?

Fun Friday Scuba Flicks — Whales

It’s Friday again, and time for another installment of Fun Friday Scuba Flicks. This week we’re focusing on scuba diver encounters with the giants of the sea: whales. Typically I’ll choose no more than 3 videos to highlight, but I loved each of these videos so much, I decided to put them all up. Enjoy!

Have a happy and safe weekend. Happy diving!

Sick of the Sea — Dealing with Seasickness

Seasick. That was me, last Monday. Not fun.

Taking advantage of the last day in Florida on Spring Break, my little family of four booked passage on a dive boat out of Palm Harbor. The plan was to do a two-tank dive with Tanked Up Dive Shop. We were the only people crazy brave enough to face 63 degree water temp, so it was just us and the crew.

We planned to dive The Sheridan, a 180-ft ocean tugboat sunk as an artificial reef. The site is about a 2-hr boat ride from the marina, but the air was mild and the seas were far from rough, so we considered the ride a fun part of the day. It would have been too, if it weren’t for the wind.

The wind was blowing in such a way that the fumes from the diesel engine engulfed us the entire way out to the wreck.

By the time we arrived, I was feeling sick. I think it was a combination of the increasing pitch and roll of the boat the farther from shore we got and the noxious fumes. Luckily, I was able to make the first dive. The Sheridan is an absolutely fantastic site, complete with resident Goliath groupers and schools of barracuda. But the minute I pulled myself back up on the boat for the surface interval, I was hanging over the edge, sick again. By then I was cold, surely dehydrated, and unable to make the second dive.

BonineWhat could I have done to prevent seasickness? Maybe nothing. But there are measures I could have taken to stack the deck in my favor. First, I could have taken motion sickness medication. The guys at Tanked Up suggest taking a dose of Bonine the night before the dive and a second dose at least 30 minutes prior to boarding the boat.

Available HERE

Preventing seasickness is best, but I could have also been better prepared in case it happened. I plan to put together a “seasick kit” every time we dive. The kit will contain items such as: Wrist bands for motion sickness such as Sea Band, ginger ale, crystalized ginger, ginger flavored lozenges/hard candies, Saltines or pretzels, and peppermint hard candies or peppermint flavored gum.

Those are the things I could have done to be better prepared, but here’s what I did to combat my seasickness:

1. I kept drinking water.  A person who is vomiting will dehydrate a quickly, especially when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. I took little sips often, until we were off the boat.

2. I sat on the boat in the middle of the deck. The motion of the waves is felt the least at the center of the boat.

3. I rested my head against the back of the bench and fixed my vision on a point on the horizon. Motion sickness happens when the brain becomes confused by conflicting messages from the eyes, inner ear and sensory nerves as they perceive motion. It can be caused by motion that is seen but not felt, motion that is felt but not seen, or motion that is seen and felt but the two don’t correspond. Making sure you don’t move your head abruptly and watching the horizon minimizes sensory confusion and eases seasickness.

4. I put on warm clothing. After the 30 minute dive in 63 degree water, I was very cold. The vomiting further lowered my core body temperature. Slowly, I got out of my wet bathing suit and put on yoga pants, a hooded sweatshirt and a blanket-lined boat coat. As I warmed up and the trembling subsided, so did the nausea.

Nothing spoils a fun day of diving like seasickness. I’ve talked to crew members who spend months at a time out at sea working on yachts, and everyone tells me the same thing: Everyone succumbs to seasickness at some time. The best way to ensure your dive day will be the best it can be is to monitor how you’re feeling, watch the horizon if necessary, and be prepared with motion sickness medication or a seasick kit.

What’s your favorite cure for motion sickness?

Here’s a look at The Sheridan Wreck!

Take Your Diving to the Next Level

Scuba Diving Athens GAWith the warmer weather we had over the weekend, a lot of us have diving on our minds. If you’re an Open Water Diver, why not broaden your diver skill set this year?  The Advanced Open Water Diver (AOW) certification course at Dolphin Dive Center (DDC) will take your diving experience to the next level. Taking specialty courses is a great way to hone your skills and learn new ones. Pursuing continued diver education allows you to dive in a wider range of underwater environments and prepares you for any diving situation that could occur. As a Scuba Schools International (SSI) partner, DDC adhere’s to SSI certification requirements:  “To earn the certification for Advanced Open Water Diver, you must complete 4 specialty courses and have done a total of 24 dives.” (Source)

Dolphin Dive Center Athens GA

DDC offers its AOW class every third weekend of the month. Like the Open Water certification class, this course is divided into two sessions, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Over the course of the weekend, students will participate in the following four specialty classes: Deep Water DivingNavigationNight and Limited Visibility Diving, and Wreck Diving.

One pool session is available to AOW students, should they wish to review their OW skills and work on navigation techniques in confined water. Although it’s not obligatory, we make sure students have a lot of fun during this session. We play underwater games designed to build confidence in low visibility environments and navigation, among others.

Upon completion of the AOW course and proof of 24 logged dives, DDC will issue the SSI Advanced Open Water Diver card. (Note: Should divers prefer to choose other SSI  specialty courses to take, one at a time, they will be eligible to receive their AOW Diver card once all four specialty classes are completed and 24 dives are logged.)

For more information about Dolphin Dive Center’s Advanced Open Water Diver certification courses, class schedules, and prices, call us at (706) 548-3483. Let’s go diving!

Fun Friday Scuba Flicks – 3/15/13!

Below are two videos of incredible encounters with scuba divers and wild sea life. In my opinion, the divers in both flicks took unnecessary risks — what do you think?

Wow, right? Wonder if that sea lion pup knew there was a hungry shark down below?? Am I the only one who thought that? 🙂

This second video literally makes my skin crawl! …enjoy. 🙂

Thanks for watching. Any thoughts or reactions? Leave us a comment ~ let us know you were here!

Drift Dive at The Hot Hole, SC

Seeking a unique dive location you can enjoy year round? Look no further than The Hot Hole in Lake Keowee, SC. Just an hour-and-a-half drive from Athens and nestled in a cove on the shores of Duke Power’s Oconee Nuclear Generating Station, this location  is perfect for winter diving because hot water used to cool the reactor rushes into the lake, raising the mid-winter water temperature to 80 degrees. And let me assure you right now; you won’t glow in the dark after this dive.

Dolphin Dive center GAI dove The Hot Hole last week with my husband and with our dive shop owner Tim. The dive was chartered by Bill Routh from the Lake Jocassee Dive Shop. I was a little nervous I’d be cold, since the air temperature that morning was a chilly 28ᵒF. Really didn’t know what to expect. Playing it safe, I packed a thermos of hot chocolate for the surface interval.

The boat ramp is conveniently located just a five minute cruise away from the dive site. Within minutes, Bill dropped the anchor. I took the photo below from the deck of the boat before gearing up.

Dolphin Dive Center GA

Looking over the site, it was hard to believe this is considered a drift dive, although we could see the eddy currents breaking the water’s surface. Bill explained during the dive briefing that the cement building (in the photo above) is the water outflow station. Most of the structure is emerged, extending 30 feet down to the bottom.  The structure houses four enormous  underwater pipes that conduct the warm water from the power plant, projecting it in high pressure streams into the lake. The current created by the water outflow make the drift dive possible.

I braced myself when I entered the water, but the temperature was a mild 72ᵒF. We descended and headed in the direction of the building. A wing wall extends out, along the lake bottom, from the front left corner of the structure, so once we located that we followed it in to the building.

We swam up and enter the structure through the left side window (pictured at the left edge of the photo above). Inside was dark and there was no current, as a cement floor divides the cubical where we were and the pipes underneath. We made our way along the floor to the third ‘window.’ We let out all the air in our BCs, per Bill’s instructions. Lying on our bellies, we could lower our hands down and into the current blasting out from beneath us. The force was the same as holding your hand out the car window on the highway. One at a time, we pushed off the floor and dropped down into the current.

Visibility was zero, and I was flying through the water. Did you ever see Finding Nemo? Remember the turtles hurtling through the East Australian Current? That was me. Righteous! 


Out of the gloom, the bottom came up at me. I put my hands down, pushing off from the bottom and gliding with the current 10 or 15 feet before I had to put my hands down again. I eventually caught sight of Tim’s fins and grabbed him before the current carried me past.

It was a rush!

During the two-tank dive, we rode the current three times, getting a different experience out of each go. In between ‘rides,’ we explored the boulder-strewn bottom and grassy areas bustling with large bass, crappies and catfish. And I wasn’t cold during the surface interval, thanks to Bill Routh’s plastic drapes enclosing the dive boat and on-board space heater. That and the thermos of hot chocolate!

Scuba Athens GA


We recommend diving The Hot Hole with Bill Routh and the Lake Jocassee Dive Shop/Off the Wall Dive Charters. It’s an adventure!

We did not shoot the following footage, but I found the video on YouTube and it will give you an idea of what this dive site is like. Enjoy!

Have you dove The Hot Hole? What’s your favorite drift dive been?