So you’ve just completed your PADI Open Water Diver certification, so you’re probably wondering what to do next? The next step in developing your skills as a diver and to gain more experience in different types of diving is the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course.
The primary reason to complete the AOW course is to expand your limits. As a certified Open Water Diver you are certified to dive to a maximum depth of 18metres with a buddy, the Advanced Open Water courseopens up to 80% more dive-sites worldwide, by giving you a 30 metres maximum depth certification.
The new PADI Advanced Open Water diver course consists of 5 dives and each of these dives is the first of the corresponding Specialty. These are called Adventure dives and there are 2 dives on the Advanced Open Water Diver course that are mandatory, and for good reason.
You must do a Deep Adventure dive and you must do a Navigation Adventure Dive. Like the new PADI Open Water course, the new Advanced Open Water course focuses a lot more on dive planning and ‘ Thinking Like a Diver’ – the first section of the Advanced Open Water Diver Manual.
Aside from giving you extra training and depth, divers love to complete this course after their Open Water course as there is no Pool Training or Classroom, its time to explore the world of adventure diving.
Deep Adventure Dive
The Deep adventure dive is what gives you the knowledge and experience to go to 30 meters, following a briefing that tells you all the deep diving guidelines and creating a dive plan that includes turn pressures and No Decompression Limits you enter the water and descend.
On the dive itself you will conduct a number of skills, for example check how depth affects colours underwater and you compare computers with your buddy and/or your instructor to see how they differ slightly and to show the importance of following the most conservative computer.
Once these skills are completed at depth, the rest of the dive is to explore and to see the big schools of fish that are more common once you dive to deeper depths. To end the dive you will complete a Safety Stop for 3 minutes at 5 meters – an important deep diving procedure.
Navigation underwater is an integral part of your Advanced Open Water course. After some basic training in the Open Water Diver course, this dive expands on that knowledge. You are taught 2 of the most common navigational tools underwater – the reciprocal heading (navigating in one direction and turning and navigating the same way back) and the Square Pattern.
You practice using the compass on land before you go diving and then underwater you practice both compass and Natural Reference Navigation. This dive not only improves your confidence underwater but also gives you the ability to use simple navigation around the dive sites without getting lost, which will of course contribute considerably to your enjoyment. Without this extra Navigation Training you can’t be certified as an Advanced Open Water Diver.
The next 3 dives of the PADI Advanced Open Water Course are your choice, and are best discussed with your instructor to find out what is right for you depending on your interests or any additional skills you may want to practice. There are many different adventure dives to choose from including; Night Diving, Wreck Diving, Search and Recovery Diving and Peak Performance Buoyancy to name a few.
Deeper Into Diving – Specialty Training Courses
Certain types of diving require further training beyond your Advanced Open Water, for example; after completing your Deep dive in the AOW you can do a further 3 Deep dives and add another 10 meters to your certification level in the PADI Deep Diver Specialty Course. This gives you access to even more dive sites down to 40 meters.
The PADI Wreck Diver Specialty is also very popular. After completing 4 wreck dives, or 3 if you have done one already in your Advanced Open Water course, you are able to penetrate different types of wrecks safely. With the use of Torches and Reels you can safely explore inside sunken Battle ships, Air Craft and more.
Enriched Air, more commonly known as Nitrox or NTX is probably the most popular course to take either with the Advanced Open Water course or Wreck Specialist course. If you have both of these already you can also take it as a stand-alone course. Enriched Air is essentially adding more Oxygen to the air that we take underwater. The more Oxygen we have in a blend the longer we can stay at a given depth as we take on less nitrogen.
However special training is needed before you can dive with Enriched Air Nitrox as, although we can stay longer at depth; our maximum depths change and get shallower the more Oxygen we add. You must understand all the special procedures for diving with Enriched Air and must have a Nitrox compatible computer or special Nitrox tables to plan your dive.
For recreational divers Deep, Wreck and Nitrox Certifications are the most popular as they add to your certification allowing you to essentially ‘do more stuff’. Some other specialities improve your knowledge – such as the Underwater Naturalist Specialty or Fish Identification Specialty, whereas others help to further develop your skills such as the Underwater Navigator or the Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialities.
There are countless specialities that you can complete depending on your interests and your current level of training. The Self Reliant Diver Distinctive Specialty course gives you the correct planning and underwater training to dive without a buddy, however, to complete this course you must have at least 100 logged dives. Distinctive Specialities are designed by instructors and tend to be less widely available, check at your dive centre as to what specialities they can offer you.
Are You Rescue Ready?
Depending on what you wish to achieve in diving, whether it be purely recreational or working your way to a professional level you may consider embarking on the Rescue Diver course.
The Rescue Diver course is over 2-3 days depending on your group size or according to the needs of the course and divers. While the other PADI programs and courses are designed to help you improve, develop and expand your knowledge as a diver, this course is designed to teach you how to help others.
Emergency first aid is a pre- requisite to complete rescue training which you can complete before you begin or alongside the rescue diver course. In the course you will learn how to deal with all kinds of emergency situations that are simulated underwater and it also gives you the knowledge to spot potential problems and prevent them before they happen.
As well as in water emergency training you learn skills such as managing an accident and how to recognise the signs and symptoms of other diving related injuries like Decompression Illness. Many Divers choose to pair the Rescue Diver Course with the Emergency Oxygen Specialty course, which certifies you to safely provide Oxygen in an emergency, but also counts towards your Master Scuba Diver Rating.
If you are thinking about doing your PADI Divemaster Training or looking to get the coveted Master Scuba Diver rating the rescue course is a must as it is a pre-requisite for both.
Divemaster or Master Scuba Diver
When speaking in SCUBA language Divemaster and Master Diver have two entirely different meanings. Divemaster is the first level of the professional diver rating. Completing your Divemaster training allows you to guide certified Divers on underwater tours, conduct certain PADI programs such at the PADI Re-Activate program as well as giving you experience in logistics and organisation. It is also the step before you can go on to become a PADI Instructor.
The Master Diver is the highest non-professional rating – to get this you must have at least 50 logged dives, have completed your PADI Rescue Diver Training and have 5 PADI specialties under your belt. The really good thing is, you can be both a Divemaster and a Master Diver – kind of making you a Master Divemaster!
Whichever direction you decide to take your training, it’s highly recommended that you do it as soon as you can after you complete your Open Water Diver Training. This helps with knowledge and skill retention and of course gives you more time in the water.
Author: Nina Horne (PADI MSDT #355693)