The first day of your open water course on your way to getting PADI scuba certified is going to be extremely overwhelming. Everything about diving goes against everything you’ve ever been taught before. You shouldn’t be underwater, you shouldn’t be able to breathe underwater, etc… it goes against everything about human nature. But that’s the whole point. The point of learning how to scuba dive is to break apart those preconceived notions so that you can actually enjoy yourself.
The entire first day, you are going to be spending it in one of two places. Either the pool, or the confined area in your local bay, or you’re going to spend it in the classroom. This is because, in order to become a scuba diver, you really need to have a solid foundation of skills and ways to get yourself out of any sort of potentially dangerous situation. These situations can be as minor as your mask is fogging up, to as major as, you’ve run out of air and don’t see your buddy around. Terrifying stuff!
The first thing you’ll do is get fitted for your gear. This can be a wetsuit/drysuit, depending on your area, and a BCD- buoyancy control device. You’ll learn how to check the tanks for damage, when the last time it was inspected and tested, and how to set your gear up. You’ll also learn proper techniques for setting up your weight belts before finally hopping into your confined areas to start handling your skills.
The skills that you learn in your PADI open water certification include clearing your mask, which is when your mask has fogged up or has leaked to the point where water is inside of it. Regulator recovery, which is when your regulator is out of your mouth for any number of reasons. And even skills like removing and replacing equipment. While a lot of this won’t make sense for you as a day 1 open water student, the more you progress through your diving, the more you’ll understand why you’re taught some of these things. They could, after all, end up saving your life someday.
When you’re not in the pool, you’re going to reinforce the learning that you’ve done by watching PADI’s open water training videos. This is a 3 hour period that goes over pretty much everything you learned in the pool, but with additional visuals. It helps drive home the knowledge for those who are visual learners vs those who learn via doing it.
The second day brings you out to the ocean, or back to the ocean if your school doesn’t have a pool, and this is where things get more intense- and exciting! While you’re learning in the pool, everything is in a much more controlled environment. As soon as you get into the ocean, you now have to contend with wildlife, current, deeper water, etc… All things that make performing tasks much more difficult.
That being said, you’re going to learn more in these first ocean dives than you will in both the pool and the videos combined. That’s because, you’re going to start to put all of that foundational knowledge into practice where you’ll see when you clear a mask, why you want to remain neutrally buoyant, and how small adjustments in your BCD makes for big adjustments in your depth. By the end of day 2, you should hopefully start to feel more familiar with the equipment and understand how each piece impacts your diving. You should also start to feel more comfortable underwater.
On day 3, you finally start to get to relax a little bit and enjoy diving. There are still a few minor skills that you have to perform, but all in all, for the instructor, it’s all about seeing how you perform in the water so that they feel confident that you have learned what you need to and are on your way to becoming fully competent divers. This may also be the first time you end up diving off a boat, and if you go to Cozumel, this is when you’ll get your first taste of what a current feels like. You’ll learn more about the different hand signals you will need to know, such as the signals for turtles, sharks, specific local fish, I have a problem, I am ok, etc…
If all goes well, when you surface from that last dive, or sometimes while you’re still underwater, your dive instructor will let you know that you are now officially PADI open water scuba certified!
Advanced Open Water
Alright, so you’ve gotten a taste of diving and while it’s fun and exciting, you yearn to learn more, or maybe you want to go deeper. This is where getting your PADI advanced open water certificate comes into play. Much like your PADI open water certification, you’ll spend some time learning skills, some time doing e-learning, and some time actually diving.
Some of the required components of your advanced cert are that you will need to perform additional buoyancy control by doing tests such as passing weights around or swimming through hoops/hovering. You will also have to perform underwater navigation where you’ll use a compass to travel in predetermined directions. From there, you have a myriad of options that you can choose for your three adventure dives. You should put some thought in now if you plan on getting any specialty certificates such as night, deep, wreck, etc… as these dives will count towards the first dive of those specialties. That being said, don’t stress too hard about it, this is your time to explore and experience new things!
Some of the advanced adventure dives include wreck diving, where you’ll get the opportunity to explore the outside, but not the inside, of a wreck. This is a unique opportunity to see how a manmade structure is impacted once it has submerged below the surface. A deep dive will take you down to 30 meters, or 100 feet, and teach you about how that impacts your body as well as your no-deco limits. Or any of the other options that PADI offers as their adventure dives.
In the end, once you’ve completed this course, you will be good to go to the vast majority of recreational dives around the world. Most major dives are above the 30m/100ft level and by doing adventure dives such as the deep or wreck, you’ll get your first experiences towards understanding how to handle those types of dives.
We know you will get hooked on diving, just like we did. It’s all about having fun and exploring the beautiful world under the sea. Enjoy!