I do not know anything about long island scuba diving but I am a certified open water diver. It is physically, and mentally exhausting getting certified, but it is worth it. If you are a strong swimmer, and are good with holding your breath, you will be fine. I bring up the swimming because of the test they make you do before they even let you begin to get certified (you hafto swim the length of 10 Olympic swimming pools without stopping and under a certain time frame) and the breath thing because of the test's they make you do in the water that involves swimming to the surface from 30ft deep, exhaling without your BCD and swapping BCD's with your diving partner.
My first open water dive a few years ago, 10 miles off the North myrtle beach coast out of Cherry Grove, I rolled off the side of the boat in 8ft swells (everyone on board was puking besides me) and the second I turn around and start descending to the bottom, there was a 15ft tiger shark 20ft away from me.
I also had a 5ft barracuda face to face with me for a solid 5 minutes and he wouldn't leave me alone. That was more unsettling then the Tiger shark. He stalked us from a distance and then from the blink of a eye, was in my face, staring....I have never been so intimidated in my life. I had to kick him away with my fin and literally watch under me as I ascended to the boat.
15 foot tiger shark!!! I would have soiled my wet suit!!!
I never had to do the 10 Laps or ascend out of 30 feet in my certification, I thought it was pretty simple, albeit time consuming. The class time was long and you have to take a test that requires some study time. I was certified about 10 years ago so some things may have changed.
Check your local YMCA... I got my cert through them over a summer way back... still got booties and weight belt around here somewhere... Also check yellow pages... may be a dive shop closer to you than you think.
Good Stuff.. I'm a licenced Commercial Driver, Dove for a living for a short while.... there is nothing like it. Most rec divers stay above the 30 foot mark( above Thermo Cline)... all sorts of things too see. Fish (fresh water) are just like under water cats... they have too get close to check you out. If and when you get certified, check out some dive vactions. I recommend The St. Lawrence River, when I started to dive the visibilty was about 3 to 4 feet.... now its 60 to 70 feet... or as far as you can see. There are wrecks to dive on for the novice right up to the most experanced drivers. Scuba diving is also a great way to scope out your local lake for fishing spots and under water humps brakes, structure that may not be on your Navonics chip. I remember one of my first dives in a local river that was choked with weeds and matts except for the main channel... once sumerged you relieze that under that weed and matt is like a super HWY for the fish ... good luck ... remember there are no stupid Questions... so when taking the course don`t be afraid to ask questions... those answers may help you out of a tight spot one day!!
Maybe the requirements have changed since I became certified through PADI in the early 90's, but they weren't anywhere near as strenuous as what SSkeeter is describing. If you are a decent swimmer and aren't a complete couch potato, you should be fine.