Nine out of ten times once I certify a diver, and it doesn’t matter if it’s an Open Water certification or Divemaster, I get asked the question, what’s next? Many divers feel this natural urge to continue their diving education, albeit some of it is driven by ego (i.e Card collecting) or by a preconceived goal like becoming an instructor or visiting a specific dive site where special training is needed. Whatever the reasons are for divers to continue their education, I fully support it, and not just because that’s my main business, studies have shown that well-trained divers who take classes, dive more and stay in the sport longer. And that’s good for not only my business but the dive industry as a whole.
So, depending on where you are in your training sequence, you may be at a crossroads of what to do next. Allow me to offer my opinion on a sensible and efficient training progression.
You just finished your Open Water diver training.
Firstly congratulations on completing your course, you have accomplished what a small minority of humans have done. You have learned to breath underwater and not drown yourself. For many divers, that’s more than enough. No need for any additional training. Are you happy being a tourist on holiday and staying well above 60ft? If so, great, there is nothing wrong with only diving easy sites all around the world. Just go out and dive.
For the other divers whom wish to see what’s past 60ft or maybe have an interest in a specific type of diving, staying at the Open water diver level is probably going to be short-lived. I encourage you to get more training by taking an Advanced open water course (from any agency, all the courses are all very similar).
But only take the AOW course if you will really gain something out of it with your present diving skills. Meaning, if you can’t hold a steady hover for longer than 10 seconds or don’t possess the ability to keep an eye on your buddy for the duration of a dive, you are not ready for an AOW course. Honestly the instructor will probably spend more time reinforcing basic skills that should have been mastered in your basic open water class than going over the skills for an Advanced course.
Don’t get me wrong though, no matter how good the instructor is, an AOW course is not meant to prepare you to dive the Doria within 5 dives. It’s meant as an open water plus course. But when divers take the course, who are not ready to learn the skills, they are wasting their own time.
So, let’s say you are ready for the course. You have great situational awareness and your buoyancy is fantastic.
What should you look for in an AOW course? The course should prepare you for the type of diving you are interested in. Not all courses are created equal, make sure you actually get something out of the AOW course aside from doing 5 quick dives which served no real purpose. Our AOW course at Good Life divers tries to prepare divers for diving here in the Northeast and includes buddy skills, Reel use, pony bottle use, Navigation, deep diving, SMB deployment, Hands free underwater lights and the use of Nitrox and different equipment configurations. Your mileage may vary with another instructor or shop.
Also at this point in your diving, get your Nitrox certification. You could take the Nitrox class as part of your Open Water course, but if you didn’t or it wasn’t offered take the full Nitrox course as part of your AOW or stand alone. It’s worth it. And please learn to use the tables as it will help you if you ever decide to do tech diving. There is no clear benefit to learning strictly how to dive a recreational computer while ignoring dive tables.
So, You have completed an Advanced open water diver course…
AOW is the minimum course you need for pretty much any type of specialty diving you can think of. You don’t need to be a dive master to start wreck or cave diving. Are you interested in rebreathers? AOW and Nitrox are the per-reqs for the Mod 1 course. For cave diving, AOW and nitrox is the minimum to start your cavern training.
Now you need to decide or at least start thinking about what direction you would like to go in with regards to your diving. Do you want to be a northeast wreck diver? Do you want to become a rebreather diver or North Florida cave diver? Are you taking all these classes to work for your local fire or police dive team? Are you interested in taking pictures of sea life and little else?
Most training agencies would like you to think that all of these types of diving require the same training, but it’s untrue. I’m offering the path of least resistance in this article. The most efficient way to your goals.
For example, the rescue diver course is great, and I would love to see all divers take it, but it’s only required as a pre-req for very few courses. So let’s look at a few goals and the path to those ends.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will discuss training paths…