Advanced OPen Water or specialties?
Open Water or The Advanced Open Water is touted as the very next program an entry level diver should do. Students around the world have this drummed into them in manuals, videos and by the instructor.
Reality is that the Advanced Open Water course is solely a term used by PADI for their particular offering, although each training organisation has a different name for something similar – SSI Advanced Adventurer, SDI Advanced Adventure Diver. But what is it really?
The purpose of these programs is to give a diver a taster of possible different speciality courses on offer to further continue education. They consist of the first dive of five different specialities and allow that dive to credit against the corresponding speciality course if the diver likes it. Typically Deep & Navigation are mandatory. The deep training element enables the diver to then increase the certification depth limit from 18m to 30m.
The other dives of the course are chosen by the diver and instructor according to the local possibilities such as wreck, night and so on. In any instance the manual for these gives a small overview of the theory and knowledge you would otherwise gain in a full speciality course. After all, remember it’s a taster.
Let’s consider what we are actually saying. A new diver after 1 deep dive and limited theory of deeper diving can now venture to 30m. Every experienced diver knows that at 30m your gas supply is depleted rapidly, no decompression limits slip away and who can genuinely say that buoyancy control and gas consumption were perfected after a handful of dives. Add some narcosis at 40m for extra spice and it’s all fun and games.
There is another way forward and it largely revolves around not bothering with an Advanced Open Water course. What’s that I hear you say – heresy ? Everyone has to do it. Not quite – all it takes is a little bit of thinking outside the square.
One of the reasons I became an SDI instructor was the no nonsense approach to training and course structure that typified the training by its older sister agency TDI. Broadly, my students come to me after open water want to accomplish a number of things – dive deeper, for longer, safer and increase confidence in the water. They want advice on what to do and usually look for a more personal training experience than being one of 8 people on an open water course.
The SDI Deep Diver speciality can be directly enrolled into by an Open Water Diver. This enables the diver to attain experience with the instructor to dive beyond their current certification limits with the extended training of a specific deep diving program.
At the same time the diver could also complete the SDI Computer Nitrox Diver course which allows the diver to use nitrox for those same dives to increase no decompression limits.
Whilst nitrox courses do not require actual diving generally worldwide, here in Queensland Australia we have the pleasure of some of the most restrictive diving regulations that require two dives be completed on nitrox prior to certification.
So those same training dives for the deep diver course will do very nicely and what better way to stay deeper for longer.
Over a single weekend, now our intrepid diver has completed a day of theory and gear preparation, perhaps had the opportunity to hit the pool and use redundant breathing supplies such as a pony bottle, executed two deep dives using nitrox and is certified with two specialities – Deep Diver and Nitrox Diver.
That entire weekend has been focussed on the skills and full knowledge to execute those deeper dives safely and an opportunity to use the right tools – nitrox and redundant breathing gear. Far removed from the cut down training of a single dive and a chapter of a manual for overview. To boot, the diver is actually certified to 40m rather than 30m because of this specialised training.
Perhaps after putting those skills to good use for a few dives our diver completes a SDI Sidemount Course to enable them to use another cylinder whilst deep diving or enjoy considerably longer dive times. With just one more speciality and 25 logged dives for experience they can apply for the SDI Advanced Diver rating.
This is just one example of how divers should speak to instructors with a broad depth of experience to see how their goals can be reached effectively rather than just a simple cookie cutter approach.
Our diver above wanted to be able to join in on dives below 18m with friends. Another may just be interested in shallow water photography and could care less about deeper diving. Perhaps the fire of adventure has been lit and technical is where it’s at. All of the of these goals can be mapped to a pathway more specific than a general overview “advanced” course.
Equally dive professionals or would be instructors should look outside the offerings of a single agency, system or the “that’s how it’s always been done” mentality and provide students with the right training, tools and experience. By being able to offer your clients with several options rather than – “do your advanced course” – you’ll get more from teaching and your client will benefit from the focus.
If you are not already an SDI instructor, consider a crossover to be able to offer a complete array of training options from an agency that thinks outside the box.
For further information on diver level training or SDI Instructor Development Courses, or help with a crossover in Thailand, Indonesia and Australia just contact us and we’ll be happy to steer you onto the right track.