Earning your ‘C’ card in Santa Rosa, NM

So you want to get scuba certified huh?

Well come along on a recent weekend road trip to Santa Rosa, NM where the famous Blue Hole has been the starting point for hundreds of diver certifications each year.

This trip was even more enjoyable as my good friend, Mark, was finishing his instructor certification by teaching his first open waters class with me as his evaluator. The four students were the real winners as they had two full instructors to take care of them.

To gain your scuba certification card, or C-card, a student needs to demonstrate the skills they learned in the classroom and pool sessions in an open water environment over the course of four dives. These dives must be done over two days.

The Blue Hole was tranquil when we arrived early on Saturday morning. The first task of the day is an orientation of the area for our students—where the bathroom is located, how to enter/exit the stairs, where to pick up tanks, etc. Mark (with the hat) and the students with coffee in hand quickly accomplished this task.


Scuba is a very gear intensive sport. Even more so when one is diving in cold water—temperatures under 70 degrees F—since we need to use a thicker wetsuit (7mm) in an attempt to stay somewhat warm while underwater.

The red and white floats mark the corners of the dive platforms that are at 20-25 feet. The instructor is in the center while the students line up along the outside length and the assistant is on the outside watching everyone. The picture below, from a previous trip, shows Mark and me (with yellow fins) during one of our dives at the platform.

We share the water and platforms with divers from all the surrounding states as the Blue Hole is the best, and sometimes, only option to be certified depending on the time of year. While you can get your certification on your vacation to somewhere tropical and warm you essentially give up two days of your time to get this accomplished which is usually not the purpose of most vacations.

The first three dives, with surface intervals to rest and warm up, normally take four to six hours.

In the warmer months, June to October, I will take students to nearby Perch Lake, for their fourth and final dive. This dive is considered a tour dive as all skills should have been performed on the first three dives. This is a confidence dive that allows the soon to be released to the world new divers the chance to put all the practice to use on a full dive while having an instructor with them. An added benefit, for the instructors, is that Perch Lake is only 55 feet deep verses 82 feet at the Blue Hole so without a shovel the students cannot go too deep.

The first task is some basic compass training and demonstration. Each buddy team attempts to pick a point and then navigate towards it only using the compass to guide them as they have a towel over their head. Their buddy keeps them from walking into anything dangerous.

As with all new divers’ air consumption is a skill yet to be acquired so the dives are rather quick at 15-25 minutes and soon we return to the shore. This time we returned with four newly certified students and the added benefit of a new instructor joining the shop’s staff.

Congrats to Christy, Ed, Peter, Emily and Mark!


The Youtube video (not mine) shows the underwater world of the Blue Hole.

Get out and explore the World!

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About Haliku

Mountain climber, ultrarunner, scuba instructor, world traveler, student of life
This entry was posted in Adventure Travel, North America, Scuba Diving and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Earning your ‘C’ card in Santa Rosa, NM

  1. Xenia says:

    So how deep can you go in Perch Lake with a shovel?

    I know, I know. I’ll go sit in the time-out corner now.

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