I've finally gone and done it. I signed up for a PADI certification course. I was told that it takes longer to get certified in California. I don't know if that's true but basically here you have to do a classroom work (with quizzes and a final exam), a day of pool training, and 2 days of ocean dives (4 ocean dives total).
After going through the textbook and learning how to read dive table, we were ready for our pool training. I'm doing my course with Beach Cities Scuba, and the training takes place at their pool facility in Cypress.
So, pool training. It was hard. It was a long and grueling day (but hey, keep your eyes on the prize: your certification!)
The first thing you do is to set up and break down your gear 3 times as practice.
You put together the oxygen tank and BCD and regulator. They also give you a weight belt so you can sink despite the buoyancy in water.
We actually found a different deal which was more expensive but included boat dives. If only we had known earlier! Just keep that in mind when you sign up for a course ...
After setting up the gear, most of your day will be spent wearing it inside the pool. They have a swimming test, floating test, and go through many hypothetical emergency situations. Better to get used to it in a pool than in the ocean!
First is of course just getting used to controlling your buoyancy and breathing under water. Then you will practice taking your gears on and off inside the water, maskless breathing (where I pretty much panicked), how to switch to your buddy's alternate air source, and things like that. Some are things that you hopefully will never have to do but are good to know. I hated the maskless breathing but like I said, better here than in the ocean.
The day will go faster depending on how the class does, of course, but for us it took about 8 hours. But everyone got it done and so can you!
Next is the ocean dives, where we'll be under water for less time and get to see pretty fishies (hopefully). While it's hard, I think it's better to be thorough and know everything rather than doing those "express" courses. I can't wait to just do fun dives, as well, but safety is always first. Remember though.. do boat dives!