So you fancy being an open water diver ? Here’s what you should know…

Let’s us all be very honest – there are few people in this world who have not been piqued by the uniqueness of the Earth’s oceans at some point of time in their life. The ocean, with it’s vastness, beauty and marine life, is enchanting to think about. Unsurprisingly, many people consider taking up an Open water diver course, but put it off for another day due to varying reasons. There are also many who put off the open water diver course because of the lack of information with regards to the pre-requisites for diving, diving safety, not knowing how to swim etc. If you’re one of those who’s been sitting un-decidedly on the gunwhale for far too long but want to be a diver then read on…

For the uninitiated, there are numerous agencies in the recreational diving industry who award certifications (C-Cards) for various levels of training. Some of the more popular one’s such as SSI, PADI, SDI can be found affiliated to dive shops across the globe. Some of the less popular one’s are region based (NAUI, CMAS, BSAC etc.) – their regional focus does not mean that they are not as good as the others. Also remember that you can start the process of getting certified as early as 10 years old. Follow this link to find out about the same. If you find that the dive centre closest to your home is supported by an agency which is not among the popular ones, fret not, because the agency does not matter – as long as it is recognised and not likely to shut shop in the near future. The agencies only promulgate the minimum standards and award you the C-Card. What matters most is the person who trains you – your very first SCUBA instructor. He will be the one who answers your initial queries and the one who will pave the blocks of your diving foundation. In short, he will make or break your diving ‘career’. A brilliant instructor will put his candidates through the paces and ensure that his student divers exceed the standards they are being certified for. You will find that good water skills and theoretical knowledge will allow you to acclimatise yourself to the water and enjoy diving to the fullest. Which brings me to the next point – swimming skills !

While most of the recreational diving agencies maintain that knowing how to swim is not mandatory to become a diver, I strongly advise you against this statement. You will do well to realise that every agency is basically a business, and every business wants to be in the green Рwhich means getting more people to dive. While the SDI Diver Standards Manual states that every candidate appearing for open water certification must be able to swim upto 200 metres and float for 10 minutes, you will only be helping yourself if you can better these standards. I personally recommend practicing swimming upto a distance of at least 400 metres and more importantly being able to float unaided with both hands on your head for at least 2 minutes. The rationale is simple Рin the rare event of your being left adrift at sea by your dive boat, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to swim back to the shore (considering that many dive sites are miles away from the shore). What will matter is your ability to stay calm and floating without expending much effort.

Finally, you should be clear about the fact that this ‘sport’ requires a lot of investment and interest. If all you want is 15 minutes underwater during one of your vacations at an exotic location, don’t sign up for SCUBA classes because you will end up wasting your time, effort and money. Instead, you can always sign up for a SCUBA experience, whenever you feel like. Sure, you will not be allowed to dive independently but you’ll get your time underwater. Therefore, get certified only if you are planning to continue with your diving. Here are some of the finer points:-

  • Always enquire about the SCUBA Instructor and NOT the agency. Agency does not matter.
  • An open water course will last anywhere between 3 and 6 days – depending on the agency, instructor and your grasp of skills.
  • Take your time and don’t rush through the course. Build up the necessary¬†skills because they will either save your life or allow you to enjoy diving
  • Get to know the gear you will be using thoroughly. By the end of the course, make sure you can comfortably assemble and dis-assemble your gear without batting an eyelid
  • Get comfortable with breathing through a regulator underwater. Focus on mask clearing and regulator clearing skills as this can potentially make or break your future dives.
  • Insist on additional practice for various emergencies such as free-flowing regulator, out of air situation, buddy breathing, mask recovery during your confined water sessions. These skills will save you and others from potential hazard.
  • Practice the emergencies under supervision again during the open water dives without fail
  • Try and understand the concept of neutral buoyancy.
  • If you feel uncomfortable or sick and don’t want to dive on a given day – say no to diving. You could possibly lose your money but you won’t lose your health or worse – your life.
  • Water Skills > Theory (but only because this is an open water course)
  • Try and get certified at a location closer to your home so that instead of wasting time on a vacation getting your certification you can dive and take in the sights
  • As long as the agency is recognised your C-Card is valid wordwide!
  • Ask for a dive log book and maintain it diligently. This will only help you later
  • Most importantly – enjoy the process and the dive !
  • Always treat the elements with due respect (i.e. water). Just as any other sport, diving can be a punishing and fatal sport with the wrong practices. Never be lulled by anybody into thinking about safety as an afterthought

I hope this get’s you started on your diving journey and much more. If you have any queries or questions, do leave a comment or get in touch with me.

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