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SCUBA acronyms: What you need to know

By: Claire Hughes, Broadreach Caribbean Director High School Adventures, Middle School, Pro Dive, Scuba

In scuba diving (and sailing!), you’ll find a lot of acronyms – so we want to help you out! Here’s a guide to the most common ones you’ll come across in your scuba diving career.

SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus): Did you know ‘scuba’ itself is an acronym? Although it’s become the word we use to describe diving itself, the full meaning of ‘scuba’ is Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus – a term coined back in 1952 by U.S. Major Christian J. Lambertsen. As an acronym, it describes pretty well what it is!

PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors): PADI is the organization we learn to dive with – you’ll see the name on your books, your Instructors slates and eventually on your certification card. The Professional Association of Dive Instructors is the biggest dive agency in the world, and they’ve certified more than 27 million divers since 1966. As well as teaching divers, they also do a lot of work educating people about the environment through their Project AWARE* charity.

BCD (buoyancy control device): A BCD is, basically, the jacket you wear while scuba diving. While it might look like it’s just there to hold your air tank, its full name gives away the fact it has secret air bladders that you can fill to control your buoyancy. It’s vital at the surface of the water to keep you afloat, but you’ll also make small adjustments whilst swimming underwater so you can hover like a pro. It also comes with pockets and D-rings for storing accessories and tools.

SPG (Submersible Pressure Gauge): This is one you’ll want to keep your eye on while you’re underwater! Although the SPG is the device that indicates how much air is left in your tank, we use the term interchangeably to mean the whole console that contains your air gauge, depth gauge and sometimes a compass. While diving, you’ll be responsible for regularly checking your SPG and letting your instructor and buddy know how much air you have left.

PFD (Personal Flotation Device): On a Caribbean Broadreach trip, these will be your new best friend as we wear these whenever we’re on a boat that is in motion. They are ideal for the calm clear waters we sail in and are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. They can also be worn in the water for activities like wakeboarding or when dinghy diving! Tip: On longer sails, wear a shirt and plenty of sunscreen to avoid the dreaded PFD tan!

VHF (Very High Frequency… radio): A VHF radio is a vital safety feature on a boat, and refers to the frequency of the wavelengths used to broadcast on. On sailboats and bigger dive boats, there will be one in the cockpit and/or navigation station that can be used to communicate with other boats and those on land. On a smaller dinghy or on the dock, there are also handheld VHFs used to communicate. There’s a protocol for talking on VHF radios that you’ll learn about on your program – the phrase “standing by on 72” is very familiar to our liveaboard Broadreachers!

*another acronym – see if you can find out what it stands for!

Ready to use this lingo on your own Broadreach adventure? Learn more about all of our summer scuba programs here.