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Getting Started

Learn about the UC San Diego SCUBA program.

For additional information please email us at contact@ucsdscuba.com or call the Rec Class Program Assistants at (858) 534-3772.

SCUBA Courses

We certify all participants through the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).

Current Schedule

Not all courses are offered each quarter. Check Recreation website for current schedule.

Private Classes

Private Scuba lessons are available for all dive courses.

  • Want a flexible schedule?
  • Need to learn at your own pace?
  • Prefer being 1 on 1 with instructor and not with class?
  • Need to overcome worries about the ocean?

Private and semi-private classes can be arranged for individuals, couples, or families.
Knowledge development can be done online (most courses), as self study or in classroom setting

Contact Us to get started

Pygmy seahorse - Papua New Guinea Pygmy Seahorse - Papua New Guinea

Learn to SCUBA dive!

PADI SCUBA Certification General Course Information.

Scuba diver

UC San Diego is proud to have 5 instructors whose combined expertise spans 145 years diving and 100 years teaching. Join our classes and have fun as we share our experience from over 8300 logged dives.

We offer Basic certification, Advanced Open Water Diver, and leadership level courses leading to PADI certification. Classroom and pool meetings are on UCSD. Ocean dives are in the San Diego-La Jolla Shores Underwater Park. Get certified to dive locally or for your next tropical vacation.

The following requirements apply to all courses:

  • Be in good health as defined by PADI Medical Form and verified by your doctor.
  • Be able to swim 200 yards continuously and float/tread water for 10-minutes. (Article on Dive Fitness from DAN)
  • Fitness level requires carrying 55 lbs down beach and swim 200 yards for each ocean session.
  • Have clear understanding of written and spoken English to demonstrate adequate knowledge of course material.
  • Attend all classroom, pool (including swim test for OW course) and ocean meetings. Complete all course materials.
  • Students need to be punctual to all classes and respectful of buddy procedures & compliant with all safety guidelines.
  • Students must demonstrate appropriate decision-making and preparedness for underwater activity.
  • Students are responsible for their own transportation to and from the dive store to pick up rental gear each week and to meet at off campus locations for orientation and ocean sessions.
  • Class dives may be rescheduled due to inclement weather or poor water quality.
  • Individual make-ups are $65/hour for pool session or ocean dive. Make-up may be limited by Instructor and Pool availability.
  • Note: Private classes are also available for students needing extra support or more flexible schedule.

    tropical reef

    SCUBA Course Descriptions

    Open Water, Advanced OpenWater and ReActivate are offered each quater. Check Recreation website for current schedule.

    • Open Water
    • Advanced Open Water
    • ReActivate™
    • Specialties
    • Private
    • Divemaster

    Basic Open Water Diver Course is an entry-level training course designed to give you the necessary skills to safely enjoy the sport of scuba diving. The primary focus taught in the course are breathing underwater, equipment assembly/disassembly, buoyancy control through proper-weighting,basic self-help skills, environmental awareness, marine conservation, buddy procedures, and proper dive planning. The course covers the basic knowledge about scuba equipment, physics and physiology of diving, and the marine environment.

    The PADI Open Water Diver course consists of three main phases:

    • Knowledge Development classroom, online* or independent study to understand basic principles of scuba diving
    • Confined Water Dives in a pool to learn basic scuba skills
    • Open Water Dives at the ocean to use your skills and explore!

    Almost anyone can take scuba. Students need to be in reasonably good health as described above and be comfortable in the water.
    Recommended age for our program is 15.

    Participants need to provide their own personal gear (details below).

    Scuba gear (Tanks, BCD, Regulator w/computer, weights and wetsuit) are provided with the renal package.

    *Online learning: PADI eLearning® vs PADI Touch
    PADI eLearning® is for those who prefer learning at their desktop, laptop, or who don't have access to a tablet.
    PADI Touch is tablet-based. While you still need to be online for initial download, to take and submit quizzes or Knowledge Reviews. You can access reading portions while traveling or during periods without an internet connection. Touch demo video.

    Watch Video

    For divers that are already have an Basic Open Water Certification, rather from PADI or another organization, the next step is the Advanced Open Water Class.

    You don’t have to be “advanced” to take it – it’s designed to advance your diving, so you can start right after earning your PADI Open Water Diver certification. The course helps build confidence and expand your scuba skills. Starting with a pool refresher to brush up on your skills and then through 5 different Adventure Dives. You try out different specialties while gaining experience under the supervision of your PADI Instructor. You log dives and develop capabilities as you find new ways to have fun scuba diving.

    This course includes a pool refresher and 5 Adventure dives.

    • Underwater Navigator: Learn to use a compass and natural navigation techniques.
    • Night Diver: Explore the amazing underwater world after sunset!
    • Deep Diver: This dive will typically explore the depths of Scripps Canyon at 90-100'.
    • Boat Diver/Wreck Diver: 2 dives to explore Wreck Alley off Mission Beach aboard one of the local commercial dive boats.

    Watch Video

    Haven’t been diving lately and want a quick scuba refresher? The ReActivate™ program is the perfect way to update your dive skills and knowledge from the PADI Open Water Diver Course before jumping back into the water. Whether you want a few reminders or need to go over the basics, ReActivate is personalized for you: You conveniently review scuba concepts on your tablet, mobile device or computer, then go diving with a PADI Professional. It’s quick and easy, and a good way to prepare for your next PADI course or get ready for a diving vacation. The best part is, divers who complete both the knowledge and in-water skill refresher receive a replacement certification card with a ReActivated date on it.

    Using ReActivate Touch (for tablets or mobile devices) or ReActivate Online (for your personal computer), you’ll immerse yourself in dive scenarios and make decisions that test your understanding of important dive safety concepts, dive planning essentials and problem management. Move through ReActivate at your own pace and delve deeper into topics when you need or want to.

    In the water, your PADI Professional will help you regain comfort and confidence in scuba diving. You’ll practice a few safety-related skills and then go over anything you specifically want to review.

    • Deep Diver
    • Night Diver
    • Underwater Navigator
    • Peak Performance Buoyancy
    • Digital Underwater Photography
    • Project Aware
    • And so much more

    The lure of the deep. There's something exciting and mysterious about exploring deeper dive sites while scuba diving. Sometimes it's a wreck that attracts you below 18 meters/60 feet, and on wall dives it may be a giant fan or sponge. Whatever it is, to scuba dive with confidence at depths down to 40 meters/130 feet, you should take the PADI Deep Diver Specialty course.

    Your training starts by reviewing reasons for deep diving and how important it is to know your personal limits. During four deep dives with your instructor, you’ll go over:

    • Specialized deep diving equipment.
    • Deep dive planning, buddy contact procedures and buoyancy control.
    • Managing your gas supply, dealing with gas narcosis and safety considerations.

    Prerequisites

    • Certified as a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver or PADI Adventure Diver or equivalent for other organization
    • Proof of 20 or more logged dives
    • Minimum age is 15

    Watch Video

    The thought of dipping below the surface at night seems mysterious, yet so alluring. Although you've been scuba diving at a site many times before, at night you drop into a whole new world and watch it come to life under the glow of your dive light. The scene changes as day creatures retire and nocturnal organisms emerge. If you've wondered what happens underwater after the sun goes down, sign up for the PADI Night Diver Specialty course.

    Scuba diving at night teaches you to focus on what you can see in your light’s beam, on controlling your buoyancy by feel, on staying with your buddy and on paying attention to details you may overlook during the day. During three night dives, you’ll practice:

    • Light handling and communication techniques.
    • Entering, exiting and navigating in the dark.
    • Identifying how plants and animals differ or change behavior at night.

    Prerequisites

    • PADI (Junior) Open Water Divers or higher
    • who are at least 12 years old

    Watch Video

    Be the scuba diver everyone wants to follow because you know where you are and where you’re going. The PADI Underwater Navigator course fine-tunes your observation skills and teaches you to more accurately use your compass underwater. If you like challenges with big rewards, take this course and have fun finding your way.

    You’ll learn the tools of the trade, including navigation using natural clues and by following compass headings. During three scuba dives, you’ll practice:

    • Methods to estimate distance underwater.
    • Compass navigation while making at least five turns.
    • Marking or relocating a submerged object or position from the surface.
    • Underwater map making.

    Prerequisites

    • PADI (Junior) Open Water Divers or higher
    • At least 10 years old

    Watch Video

    Excellent buoyancy control is what defines skilled scuba divers. You’ve seen them underwater. They glide effortlessly, use less air and ascend, descend or hover almost as if by thought. They more easily observe aquatic life without disturbing their surroundings. You can achieve this, too. The PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialty course improves the buoyancy skills you learned as a new diver and elevates them to the next level.

    During two scuba dives, you’ll learn how to:

    • Determine the exact weight you need, so you’re not too light or too heavy.
    • Trim your weight system and scuba gear so you’re perfectly balanced in the water.
    • Streamline to save energy, use air more efficiently and move more smoothly through the water.
    • Hover effortlessly in any position – vertical or horizontal.

    Prerequisites

    • PADI (Junior) Open Water Divers or higher
    • At least 10 years old

    Watch Video

    Underwater photography is one of the most popular diving specialties, and with so many underwater cameras to choose from, it has become easier and more fun than ever to capture images of your underwater scuba adventures. The PADI Digital Underwater Photographer course gets you going quickly, whether you use a point-and-shoot camera or a sophisticated dSLR like the pros.

    Through hands-on training during two scuba dives and guidance from your PADI Professional, you’ll discover:

    • How to choose the right underwater camera system for you.
    • The PADI SEA (Shoot, Examine, Adjust) method for getting great shots quickly.
    • Principles for good composition of underwater images.
    • Practical techniques to take great photos with your digital camera.

    Prerequisites

    • PADI (Junior) Open Water Divers or higher
    • At least 10 years old

    Watch Video

    Project AWARE’s philosophy is to mobilize a global force of scuba divers and water enthusiasts who care about protecting the world’s water resources and choose to make a difference – one dive at a time. By earning the Project AWARE Specialist certification, you’ll be aware of the most pressing problems facing vulnerable aquatic environments and know what everyday actions you can take to help protect them.

    Anyone who has an interest in the aquatic world should take this course. There are no prerequisites, age restrictions or water sessions required for this non-diving specialty.

    Through classroom discussions, you learn:

    • How Project AWARE unites scuba divers and water enthusiasts to make a difference.
    • About environmental issues in the ocean commons and coastal zones.
    • About fisheries challenges and sustainability problems.
    • What’s happening to coral reefs and reef inhabitants.
    • Your role in protecting aquatic environments.

    Watch Video

    Scuba diving is a way to explore the underwater world in new and different ways. PADI Specialty Diver courses teach you new techniques and give you the tools to enhance your exploration. You can take courses close to home through UC San Diego Recreation. In addition to the courses listed about, PADI offers a wide range of other options. See what’s available from this list of great courses: 

    Altitude Diver

    AWARE - Coral Reef Conservation

    AWARE - Fish Identification

    Boat Diver

    Cavern Diver

    Diver Propulsion Vehicle

    Drift Diver

    Dry Suit Diver

    Emergency Oxygen Provider 

    Enriched Air Diver

    Equipment Specialist

    Ice Diver

    Multilevel Diver

    Public Safety Diver

    Search and Recovery Diver

    Sidemount Diver

    Underwater Naturalist

    Underwater Videographer

    Wreck Diver

    Contact us for more information or if your interested in a specific course.

    Private Scuba lessons are available for all dive courses.

    • Flexible schedule
    • Learn at your own pace
    • Prefer being 1 on 1 with instructor and not with class
    • Need to overcome worries abut the ocean
    • Knowledge review can be done online, as self study or in classroom setting.

    Private and semi-private classes can be arranged for individuals, couples, or families.

    Contact us for more information or to schedule your class.

    Love scuba diving? Want to share it with others on a whole new level? Take the PADI Divemaster course and do what you love to do as a career. Scuba divers look up to Divemasters because they are leaders who mentor and motivate others. As a divemaster, you not only get to dive a lot, but also experience the joy of seeing others have as much fun diving as you do.

    The PADI Divemaster course is your first level of professional training. Working closely with a PADI Instructor, you’ll fine-tune your dive skills, like perfecting the effortless hover, and refine your rescue skills so you anticipate and easily solve common problems. You’ll gain dive knowledge, management and supervision abilities so you become a role model to divers everywhere. 

    As a PADI Divemaster, you’ll lead others as you supervise scuba diving activities and assist with diver training. Whether you want to work at a faraway dive destination or close to home at a local dive shop, the adventure of a lifetime awaits you. PADI Divemasters are respected dive professionals who are aligned with the largest and most respected dive organization in the world – PADI.

    Prerequisites

    • PADI PADI Rescue Divers
    • At least 18 years old
    • At least 40 logged dives to begin the course and 60 dives to earn certification.
    • A medical statement signed by a physician within the last 12 months.

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    Selected tab:

    Scuba Equipment

    Scuba diving is an equipment intensive sport. As such, the gear can constitute a substantial investment. Keep in mind that fit, comfort and suitability are the three most important considerations when choosing gear.

    For occasional divers, renting can be a reasonable alternative. But for those that are active, having your own gear will be more cost effective.
    Owning your own gear will likely increase your diving activity as it will reduce the extra steps of picking up and dropping off gear.

    Personal Gear

    For all course the following personal gear is required:
  • Mask and Snorkel
  • Fins
  • Booties
  • Gloves - optional by highly recommended for our colder water
  • Also recommended is a mesh or other style goodie bag to hold and transport you gear.

    SCUBA Gear

    Basic requirements for Open Water Diver
  • Scuba Tank
  • Regulator with alternate air source & Gauges (Submersible Pressure Gauge, Depth Gauge, Computer)
  • BCD with lower pressure inflator
  • Weight System (integrated in BCD or weight belt)
  • Wetsuit
  • Additional Equipment for Advanced Class or Specialties.
  • Bottom Timing device (Computer or watch)
  • Watch with second hand/stop watch
  • Compass (may be provided by instructor depending on course)
  • Dive Knife or tool
  • Audible surface signaling device (whistle or other noise maker)
  • Visual surface signaling device (tube or mirror)
  • Underwater signal Device
  • Underwater lights (primary and secondary) - required for night dive