I am taking my OW class the 25th of this month. I have always wanted to this and cant wait. I am glad I found this board becuase there is a lot of good info to be found. I am kind of suprised by all the back and forth over buying from a LDS vs online shop however. I have never even looked at scuba gear before I signed up for the course. I was told I needed to purchase a mask, fins and snorkel. I would much rather buy from the lds. i dont like having to wait for stuff i purchase to arrive in the mail. I dont mind paying a little more to avoid online purchasing either. I knew the items would be more at the shop. I was thinking 10-20 dollars more maybe, so no big deal. Oh my was I off. The markup was between 50-70%. The fins I got would have cost me 109.00 at my dive shop. I got them for 52.00 at Leisure Pro. My dive shop didnt carry a snorkel that cost less than 40.00. Picked one up at LP for 14.00. I would love to buy my stuff at a local shop but with prices that much higher, I cant justify it at all. I guess I bring all this up just to give a newbie perspective. I didnt know how the industry operated until reading this board. Based on everything i have read I imagine i will rent my gear for some time. I know that I am not educated enough on the products to go online and buy my gear. At the same time, im not about to go into my dive shop and pay upwards of 3 times what I could purchase it for online. Again, I appreciate all the good info that is posted here. Wish me luck on my upcoming training.