The Open Water Scuba Diving Course

The Open Water course is designed to provide the basic skills required for an individual to dive anywhere in the world up to a maximum depth of 18m (or 20m for certain certifying agencies) for life. Once the certification is obtained, the holder can use any dive outlet to enjoy the sport and “Fun Dive” in new and exciting locations.

So what do you have to do to receive such a glorious accolade?

This depends on a number of factors:

1. The agency you use to provide your training & education– Refer to my other page for further information

2. The location of your training – Clearly diving in Iceland is going to need additional specialist equipment over diving in the steam bath bikini-clad waters of Thailand.

3. Your personal requirements– Are you on a timeline, do you need to be moving on through your travels like many of the backpackers travelling South-East Asia or do you have the time to drag the course out over additional days?

4. Your attention span– Learning to dive for the first time isn’t about jumping into the depths and scrambling around with a tank on your back, it’s much more than that, it is about educating new divers how to dive safely, understanding the dangers of the sport itself and how to overcome any issues. Armed with this knowledge you end up obeying rule number 4 in diving – Look cool & have fun.

All certifying agencies follow a similar program to one another with additions of their own take on particular types of education or variations in how to achieve the skills you need to learn. Ultimately though, it leads to the same result of you receiving your certification.

The Basics:

Your course will be broken down into a number of elements as follows:

Theoretical Education – Classroom based with your instructor with a final exam

Videos – A number of digital presentations broken down into chapters

Self Study – This can be in digital form or the older styled homework study guides & text books

Practical Application – Starting in a pool or pool-like calm waters & progressing to various dives

Lets break these elements down a little further for you…..

The Theory behind diving will be presented to you by your instructor in a classroom based environment. It is designed to reinforce what you learn from the other 3 elements of the course. Remember that this is your opportunity to clarify any sections that you may find confusing, a good instructor will have a plethora of tactics to enable you to understand even the most complex elements, so use them, that’s what they are trained to do.

Videos – Ok, the truth, some are extremely boring especially if you are on holiday and want to be watching the sunset sipping cocktails. Unfortunately its all part of the program so it has to be done. Joking aside, the videos provide an important part of your training; the majority of dive centers will have you watch a number of chapters to kick start your thought process off in the right direction and prepare you for the more personal theory periods with your instructor. Top tip…..try stay awake for the videos!!

Self Study – Exactly as the title suggests, yes you have some home study, but do not moan, do not cry out “Oh god but I’ll miss the cocktails on the beach”. Most agencies now have multiple ways in which to present this to you, for example: PADI & SSI have online or e-learning packages which enables you to commence the course even before you get to your selected destination! Another example is with RAID, their e-package enables you to affiliate to the school you have decided on, you pay the sign up fee and hey presto you have access to not only the on-line theory but also the self study. The beauty of the e-learning packages is that your instructor can see your progression and confirm said progress as you complete each chapter & the exam.

The dreaded ‘Exam‘ – Deserves a write-up all of its own. So many people fear the exam, why? because examinations in the past have been pressurized – “you must get good grades or you’ll never earn good money” sends the alarm bells going off in the head. RELAX!!! As long as you have listened to your instructor, watched the videos & completed the self study you will find it a breeze. After all, we are only teaching you to dive to the basic requirements not how to be a commercial welding diver of 200 m depth. The exam is designed to reinforce your learning, if you fail (it would be a miracle or you’ve been burning the candle at both ends chasing after the opposite sex whilst drinking a bucket of cheap local whiskey) then your instructor will discuss the weak points and you get to try again.


Practical Application – The fun but, “Yay” I hear you say, and it is indeed. Don’t get me wrong, you will have loads of fun throughout the entirety of your course, but lets be honest, all we want to do is get in the water and see some fishies!! The practical application is also broken into segments (this is where agencies have variations of a similar theme) the Pool or Confined session and dives 1 to 4 or in some cases 5.

The pool/ confined session – Usually kicks off with your swim test, between 150-200 m without stopping and 10 minutes either floating or kicking to keep your head above the surface. The confined session is designed to teach you all of the skills you will need to become a proficient and safe diver. Across the agencies the skills are very much the same, just that some have different opinions on how to complete such skills. For example, imagine you are diving along minding your own business and looking for Dory, all of a sudden you see a naked diver (traditionally the 100th dive and not suggested for Icelandic diving) which makes you laugh & you drop the regulator out of your mouth (the black hose thingy that you breath through). Some agencies will teach you to recover the one you have just lost using 1 of 2 methods, others will teach you to retrieve your spare regulator and use this whilst retrieving the one you lost. There are arguments of the right way to do things but ultimately they are all correct, just a different fashion or perspective on the best option given a particular circumstance.

Open Water Dives or dives 1 through to 4 – As mentioned above some agencies or schools use 5 dives but the absolute minimum is 4. They are progressive dives where you will start shallow, use a rope or sloping bottom to get deeper, practice some of the confined skills and ultimately learn about the one fundamental skill that will make you a better diver- buoyancy (I’ll discuss this is a later post).

As you progress you will find yourself becoming more at ease with your surroundings and possibly kick start a whole new addiction. It will take a couple of days to do these dives as most, if not all agencies stipulate now more than 3 training dives in 1 day. Therefore your selected school will have tailored your program so that the mix between the elements discussed will maintain your interest and excitement. Lets face it, 2 days of videos, theory & home study would just suck!!

After all of this fun and frolicking around you will soon realize that not only have you gained a new qualification in a F^&*&N AWESOME sport, but you will have gained a life experience that will literally change the way you plan your holidays and down time for many years to come, whether that is on an expensive live-aboard or a relatively cheap holiday to Egypt or South-East Asia. Having traveled the world diving, take it from me that as soon as you pitch up anywhere to dive you are automatically one of the family, people from all walks of life with one goal, to dive and see the beauty beneath the surface.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s