What life skills scuba diving has to teach.
I was certified to scuba dive in 7th grade. You take a class and have to do a checkout dive, but after that your free to do it without a guide. I have had some of the greatest experiences of my life underwater and I highly recommend it to anyone who has a few days to spare.
But just as with any other situation or activity, scuba diving has more to offer than being just a fun hobby.
Working under pressure (literally)
One of the first things you are taught in a scuba course is all the things that could go wrong. You run out of air, the tank starts to leak, your mask fills up, decompression sickness (the bends), you go too deep etc. These mishaps will happen and you have to know the procedure because they are potentially life threatening. But knowing what to do is only half the battle, you have to act in a calm, efficient manner.
There was a dive 70 miles of the North Carolina coast that required a nitrox certification (a different mixture of air and nitrogen that allows you to go deeper for longer) that really tested my efficiency skills. You go about 105 - 110 feet down and that depth, even with the nitrox, you have about 6 minutes of air to find megalodon teeth. I remember really focusing on keeping my breath short and in rhythm, as apposed to big inhales that waste air.
This is a skill that I have noticeably progressed. My first couple dives had the most potential for danger by far. Whether it was accidently touching the wildlife, going to deep, or ascending too fast (which causes the bends) I made almost every mistake you can and I'm better for it.
You are not supposed to touch anything in an underwater habitat; we are a foreign substance and the smallest thing like the oil on our hands can harm organisms like coral. My first checkout dive was in beautiful Curacao and as soon as I hit the water I sank 20 feet onto the bottom because I didn't put any air in my B.C. (the vest that controls your buoyancy). I landed on a bed of millepora (fire coral) and it created a painful rash, sort of like a bee sting mixed with poison ivy that makes, on the back of my legs a few minutes later. I have since never touched anything that is not supposed to be touched or forgotten my mental checklist before getting in.
That same trip I was on a dive with a group and having a good time. Looking at the reef and swimming around occupied me to the point of negligence. I was admiring the wildlife when I felt a tug on my arm. It was a friends dad, who was also on the dive, that was pulling me up; at first I thought "what the hell is the guy doing?", but soon after I realized my depth and because of it my air was so compressed, I had minutes left to breathe. Near the end of the dives you also have to allocate time/air to ascending slowly and steadily, I learned to do this well too.
These memories are always going to be in the back of my head. If you can't handle stress in life, it is hard to amount to anything. Whenever I am about to make a decision, I go back to the mental checklist before jumping in (the actual list may be a little different depending on the situation). Scuba diving has not only taught me to safely observe an amazing environment, but serves as an example that any situation, especially the unpleasant ones, are beneficial if you choose to learn from them.