Although the Open Water course covers the fundamentals of diving, many people still do not feel super comfortable underwater. In fact the idea of going off with their buddy without a professional feels like an impossible task. Most entry level courses involve only 4 open water dives, which doesn’t seem like a lot. However diving is a sport where you progress very quickly. Thinking back to my first ever dive, I remember the instructor deploying an SMB, and I thought to myself “How are they doing that?!” I was so focused on breathing properly and trying (probably badly) to stay at the same level as they were. The idea of adding a third task would be too much. However as the course progressed I found that as soon as you really get used to breathing everything just becomes second nature.
Most of my newly certified divers would come up to me after the course and ask me where should I go diving, where’s good and what is best way to get experience. My response would always be the same, “Get your Advanced Open Water done, and do it sooner rather than later”. You do find that the dive industry is one that seems to have an endless list of things to do, courses to do and things to buy. But it isn’t pushy sales that makes it that way. I have never met a dive instructor who isn’t incredibly passionate about diving and their job, so it is natural for us to want our students to progress and get the most of their diving. Diving sells itself.
The Advanced Open Water course is there not to teach you new skills, but to take those skills you have already learned to a new level. The Open Water course teaches you how to dive safely, mainly the skills are based around emergencies such as losing a mask or running out of air. The Advanced Open Water focuses more on improving your diving, so naturally includes topics such as navigation and buoyancy. The PADI Advanced Open Water course is set over 5 adventure dives. With each of these dives there is a small theory session and a knowledge review to complete. However the 5 dives you select are up to you. The list to choose from is long, there is an adventure dive for every specialty course that PADI offers. So the Advanced Open water is a great way for you to find out what type of diving interests you more.
Two of the dives are mandatory, the deep dive and the navigation dive. The deep dive is required because once completed you can go to 30 meters. During this dive you complete a narcosis test to see how it effects you, observe the change in colours at depth and observe how the pressure changes as we go deeper. And the navigation dive will practice a few skills with a compass such as making a reciprocal heading and navigating a square, but will also go into the details of natural navigation and measuring distance underwater. The other ones are up to you. Do you love photography? Then the Digital Underwater Photographer adventure dives will give you some nice tips to improve your skills. There are over 20 to choose from so it is a good idea to speak to your instructor before so you can work out a program that works well for you.
Although you can choose whichever ones you want there are some that are better than others. My personal favorite for improving a new divers abilities is the Peak Performance Buoyancy Adventure dive. During this dive we focus on training your buoyancy as well as getting you properly weighted. This is normally done by playing a few games underwater. Having good buoyancy control is possibly the most important part of diving, and getting the chance to spend an entire dive practicing with an instructor could improve your diving and underwater comfort hugely.
Personally I will always recommend to anyone who wants to learn to dive that they take both the Open Water and Advanced Open Water straight after. If you leave it a while between the courses with no additional practice it may take you a bit of time to get back into the rhythm of things. But doing one course straight after another allows to get more dives over short period of dives, helping enforce what you have already learned.
Aside from going to 30m, be able to take part in night dives and furthering your dive skills, there is another major advantage to the Advanced Open Water. It opens up the possibility to complete almost any of specialty courses, including technical diving. Ultimately the point of the Advanced Open Water is give you options to be able to continue your education in whatever way you want to.
‘Continue your Dive Education’ was written by Mike