Are you ready to become a certified scuba diver? Congratulations! You are about to explore parts of the world that few people are lucky enough to see. This could be the beginning of a life-long hobby! But before you can crack open (or even buy) your books, you have an important decision to make: What form of the open water course should you take? Before learning about your different options, you first need to know how the open water course is organized.
Organization of the Open Water Course
Regardless of the training organization, student divers must complete three distinct sections of the open water course. These sections may be presented in various ways to accommodate students' needs.
1. Theory: The theory portion of the open water course may include book work, DVDs, study questions, online presentation of material, and quizzes. Dive theory covers a range of topics such as pressure-depth relationships, the underwater environment, dive planning, and equipment.
2. Pool Work: During pool (or "confined water") classes, students practice basic diving skills in a shallow, calm dive site such as a pool, bay or lake. Divers practice all the skills that they use on open water dives like ear equalization and mask removal and replacement in this controlled environment before entering the open water.
3. Open Water Dives: Under the watchful eye of an instructor, students apply the knowledge and skills learned in the theory and pool sections of the course on real open water dives.
Certification in Your Home Town
Completing an open water course at a local dive center introduces student divers to the dive community in their area. Diving is a great way to network and make adventurous friends, and students will discover local dive sites that they can enjoy with a dive buddy after completing certification.
Open water courses given at a local dive shop can be one of the most effective ways for students to learn to dive. These courses usually last several weeks, with theory and pool classes in the evenings and open water dives over the weekends. Because the course is spread out over several weeks, students have a good amount of time to become comfortable and competent with the information and skills presented in the course.
A few drawbacks to completing a scuba certification with a local dive shop exist. If a student lives in a cold area, completion of the open water dives during the winter (or even in the summer) may be uncomfortable or even impossible for divers who are sensitive to the cold. If local dive sites are very far away, the logistics of traveling to the site may be difficult for divers who have busy schedules. Students facing these issues should consider completing an open water referral course (described later in this list).
Certification on Vacation
If driving 2 hours to a local lake and squeezing into a 7 mm thick wetsuit is not your idea of a good time, enrolling in a scuba diving course at a vacation destination may be a better option. Vacation courses also work well for students with busy schedules. Many people find the only way they can set aside time to study and complete a diving course is on vacation.
The main disadvantage of taking a certification course on vacation is that there is a limited amount of time to complete the course. The entire course may be crammed into 4 days or less. While it is possible to teach a good open water course in 4 days, it requires the presentation of a huge amount of information in a relatively short period of time. Students planning on a vacation course should expect full (but fun) days of hard work. As students on vacation generally have less time to master course material and practice skills, they may not reach the same level of diving expertise by the end of the course as they would have achieved had they taken the course back home.
Students who desire the advantages of learning to dive back home (such as meeting the local dive community and having plenty of time to learn theory and practice pool skills) but prefer to complete their open water dives in a warm or exotic environment should consider the open water referral course.
In an open water referral course, students finish all theory work and pool sessions back home. The local instructor issues a certificate of completion which they present to the dive shop on vacation. With this program, a student can complete his open water dives anywhere in the world.
No, you can't finish an entire scuba certification course online, but students with limited time can compete the theory portion of the course via the internet. Students who don't want to study while on vacation or in a classroom setting at their local dive shop will love the online course option.
Before Enrolling in Any Course . . . .
Before enrolling in any course, be sure to consider the following:
• Are you medically fit to dive?
• Will you be able to successfully complete the required swimming and floating tests?
• Are you getting the most for your money with your diving course? Consider that shorter is not always better when it comes to dive training.