Academics

SCUBA Training

Explore the Depths.

We are happy to announce that Southern Preparatory Academy along with our training partners and the Instructional Staff of Southern Skin Divers Supply of Birmingham will offer SCUBA training, advanced dive training, recreational dive trips, and an opportunity to join the Diving Rangers Dive Team.  The following information is provided to acquaint cadets and families with opportunities in SCUBA training at Southern Preparatory Academy beginning August 2020.

Training process

Southern Preparatory Academy will offer 4 opportunities to become open water SCUBA certified during the 2020 – 2021 school year. This allows for 1 session every 9 weeks of the school year.  A limited number of 12 cadets per session. A training session will include four days of specialized training (classroom and water skills) at the Southern Skin Divers Supply facilities. Certification check off weekend includes 2 days of dives at Morrison Springs or Vortex Springs (both FL panhandle) and either shore dives at St. Andrews Jetties, FL or a boat dive off the Florida coast. 

Once Open-Water certified, divers can participate in a myriad of dive trips in the Fall and following Spring. These dives typically include drift diving and snorkel with the Manatee in the Rainbow River and Crystal River, FL, inshore wreck diving trips out of Panama City or offshore wreck dives out of Orange Beach, AL. Over the course of the year the Diving Rangers are also involved in search, rescue and recovery training. Clean up Lake Martin and various opportunities to dive throughout the school year. 

The Diving Rangers will make their final dives of the school year in the Spring in late April off the shores of Orange Beach, AL on a sunken Navy Tug. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Not necessarily, but you do need to be comfortable in the water and have moderate to good swim skills. You will be asked to swim 200 meters without aid or stopping in our 25 meter-Olympic pool using any stroke and separately stay afloat (tread water) without aid for a 10-minute period to demonstrate basic swim skills.

Safety always comes first in SCUBA. Southern Preparatory Academy and Southern Skin Divers Supply will always put safety first, and safe SCUBA is all about the equipment. Having the right equipment and knowing how to use it is the key to being successful at SCUBA. For that reason, it is our policy to not allow rented equipment on Southern Preparatory Academy dives as most accidents that occur can be tied to the diver’s unfamiliarity with his equipment.

SSDS has trained more divers than any dive school in Alabama. SSDS’s scuba instructors are also the family owners of the business and have over 50 years combined experience as Master Dive Instructors.

Training begins with classroom and pool instruction followed by your open water check dives. Classroom, pool training and exercises are done at Southern Preparatory Academy or SSDS under the guidance and supervision of SSDS instructors. After all class and pool training and testing is completed, 5 check dives in Florida’s natural springs and Gulf waters are made with the training staff of SSDS. When all are successfully completed the cadet becomes a certified open water diver.

Initially, the snorkeling equipment (mask, fins, snorkel, booties and wetsuit) needs to be fitted, selected and then purchased. This equipment will be used for all water training and subsequent diving. While training, different models of life support (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, SCUBA) equipment will be used so that the student can assess personal preferences in equipment features.

Like many water sports, SCUBA diving is equipment intensive on the front end. Once the equipment is purchased most of your immediate equipment expenses are behind you and you have only annual maintenance of the equipment to ensure proper function. Almost every diver that becomes active in SCUBA ends up owning all their equipment except for possibly tanks. This equipment includes a dive computer, buoyancy compensator (BC), air regulator, octopus (secondary/back-up air breather), dive light, and weights.

SSDS offers a 10% discount on all equipment purchased through them if the total debt is paid in-full within 30 days of the first class starting. The snorkeling gear (mask, fins, snorkel, wetsuit, hood and booties) will cost $500-$800. The rest will be selected by the diver after he has practiced with different models and should cost about $2,250.00 – $2,400.00. So, if you purchase all your equipment through SSDS the anticipated range for total expenses is in the range of $2,750.00 – $3,200.00 or more if you desire some of the higher performance equipment. There are significant financial and service incentives to purchase your equipment through SSDS. Don’t settle for substandard life-saving equipment and never purchase used equipment or old equipment that has not been in service for an extended period. As your safety is paramount, we strongly recommend that you do not purchase your equipment on the internet.

The lessons are $375 for open-water certification. If you purchase your equipment from another vendor other than SSDS the training costs will be $900.

If all equipment is purchased from SSDS the only fees will be hotel lodging and food for the two-day check dive trip. If the Life Support (SCUBA) Equipment is not purchased through SSDS, the Certification dives will cost $500 for entrance fees, equipment rental, Instructor supervision and processing fees.

The instructors of SSDS all have over 5,000 instructor dives each and continue to train hundreds of divers each year. SCUBA is something you can learn and continue for your lifetime hobby or career. The underwater world is constantly changing, and you can dive the same site virtually hundreds of times and still see something new each time. As Southern Preparatory Academy we will likely have enough cadets in training and certification course each year to allows us to charter group trips that are specific to our group’s interests.

You should not be afraid, but you should respect everything in the water. Jellyfish, barnacles, corals, stingrays etc., can injure you if you make contact with them while in the water. Observing without harassing in this environment is safest practice for everything and everyone in the water.

All Training will begin only after the school semester has started and is scheduled for the weekends  (0800 – 1600) with classroom instruction in the mornings and pool skills training in the afternoon hours. You will then take your check dive in Morrison Springs or Vortex Springs (both FL panhandle) and either shore dives at St. Andrews Jetties, FL or a boat dive off the Florida coast near Panama City, FL. After your check dive you will be certified by SDI (Scuba Diving International) as an Open-Water diver and can join the Diving Rangers Dive Team and participate in up to 4 scheduled dive trips over the course of the academic year. 

A non-certified diver in training total is $8,000.00. This includes all training, dive equipment, dive trips, gas, food, hotel rooms and any fees. This allows for the following:
$3500.00 for personal equipment, $375.00 open-water training certification, $500.00 Certification trip hotel, food and transportation, (2) Dive trips at $700.00 each, total of $1,400.00 includes food, hotel, transportation and dive. Pool and dive fees $1000.00. Equipment, gas, maintenance, insurance and salaries $1,000.00. Diving Rangers Club Fee $225.00.

A Certified Open Water Diver without equipment total is $7,000.00. This includes all dive equipment, dive trips, gas, food, hotel rooms and any fees. Equipment must be purchased through SSDS for this price. A diving proficiency test will be given to all divers to determine each cadet’s skill level. Diving Proficiency test will cost $125.00.

A Certified Open Water Diver with Dive Equipment total is $3,750.00. Equipment must be less than 2 years old and in good operating condition and must consist of: mask, fins, snorkel, gloves, boots, long sleeve/ long pant wet suit, hood, a dive light, a dive computer, buoyancy compensator (BC), air regulator, octopus (secondary/back-up air breather), and weights. A diving proficiency test will be given to all divers to determine each cadet’s skill level. Diving proficiency test will cost $125.00.

 A deposit of $2000 is required to secure a place on the class roster. This payment is divided between a $1000 payment to Southern Preparatory Academy and a $1000 payment to Southern Skin Divers Supply. This will be applied toward your lessons when scuba classes begin. The remainder of training fees are due before the first day of training.
SCUBA students will have the opportunity to try various gear configurations (buoyancy compensators, regulators, dive computers, etc.) in the pool/water-based instruction. The SCUBA Equipment is finalized once it is selected, as lessons progress or just prior to certification dives.

If you are interested in signing up provide a deposit in the amount of $2000 (1st check made payable to Southern Preparatory Academy and 2nd check payable to Southern Skin Divers). Once your checks are received you are enrolled in the class. Seats are open on a first-come-first-serve basis and class size will be limited to 12 cadets per 9 weeks of school. We anticipate these classes will fill up early, so if you are interested in the total SCUBA experience send in your deposit at your earliest opportunity during the summer before you arrive on campus for Fall semester. When your deposit is received you will be notified that your reservation in the class is confirmed. A current school sports physical is required before the first day of training or diving.

No. Once training is completed and the written exam is passed, the certification dive trip (5 check dives over one weekend) must be completed to earn the SDI Open-Water Certification.D

The last dive of the year is usually out of Orange Beach, AL where divers typically get to dive on the Navy Tug, the newly sunk Lulu and depending on weather the USS Oriskany, a decommissioned U.S. Navy aircraft carrier that was purposefully sunk in the Gulf waters off the coasts of Alabama and Florida OR the Navy Yard Dive Tender, YDT-14 which is arguably one of the best wreck dives in the Gulf. Additionally, SSDS offers group travel almost every weekend year-round. Underwater Photography as well as the Gulf Coast wreck diving is very popular among our divers. For those of you that like to fish and hunt, spearfishing is very rewarding. The history lovers might like to participate in our artifact and fossil dives. SSDS also take many tropical dive trips to the Caribbean and Pacific.

You can’t go wrong taking a refresher course. Not only will things come back to you quicker, but you will get to see the latest in sport diving equipment. SCUBA technology has progressed at an amazing pace over the past decade due to advances in micro processing/computing technology and material science. Divers now use a dive computer which gives the diver more bottom time as the computer gives the diver accurate real-time readings for bottom time, current depth, your greatest depth encountered during that dive and time remaining for completing a no-decompression dive.

Absolutely. SSDS offers Continuing Education training usually 2 to 3 times each month. See www.ssdsupply.com for updated course scheduling. Specialty classes typically include SDI certifications in Stress Rescue, NITROX and Underwater Photography. SSDS also holds an annual spear fishing clinic for those interested in learning more about the sport of spear fishing.

Many Southern Preparatory Academy cadets are also student athletes, all of whom spend far more time than 3-5 hours/week engaged in their respective sport. If anything, SCUBA training will actually help keep the cadets focused on their academics because the training and recreational dives are withheld if/when discipline issues occur or when cadet’s grades fall below 70%. A cadet can reengage only when grades are above 70% and disciplinary issued are resolved. Once the cadets have arrived and gotten into a routine many of them tend to find plenty of time to take off during weekends to popular dive sites, and SCUBA training will tend to keep students focused on their grades and focused on something that they really want to do, learn to SCUBA dive and go on dive trips with the Diving Rangers.

Meet Sgt. Al Grace, Certified Scuba Diver

Contact Our Dive Liaison

Sgt. Alfred Grace is an advanced open water diver with more than 500 dives. Sgt. Grace has many years of experience as a Lifeguard, Ocean Lifeguard, Search and Rescue Swimmer, Swim Instructor, Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Combat Medical Specialist, Dive Search and Rescue Supervisor, Rescue and Recovery Diver, Evidence Collection Diver, Dive Medic, CPR/AED and First-Aid Instructor, and Practical Nurse (LPN).

Sgt. Grace can be reached at (256-790-9218) or by email, alfred.grace@southernprepacademy.org, or by contacting the military department (office hours 0800-1600, M-F).

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