The Benefit of Getting Open Water Certified NOW!

Ocean First   Jul 01, 2022

Do you want to get Scuba Certified but have been holding off because you don't have a trip scheduled (and have no idea when you will)? Even without the uncertainty of the current pandemic, this has been a problem that has prevented many people from starting their training. Many future divers are apprehensive to start their training due to worry that they will forget what they learned before they are able to book a trip to complete their open water dives.

In our industry, it has long been taught that you should do your Open Water class and pool as close in time to your 4 open water training dives as possible. Is this logic faulty? Not necessarily. If you don't have a way to practice between your class /pool work and when you do your open water dives it is best to keep them close together so that you don't forget your skills. This is especially true if your class was taught in a condensed way. However, if you do have the ability to practice then spreading them out can make much more sense!

Let us go back for a minute. What does it take to actually get certified? Most agencies have on-line study of some sort, or book study, in advance of your class. You'll read all about the rules of diving and what can happen if you don't follow the rules. You'll also read about the equipment you'll use, and probably watch several videos detailing some of the skills you will gain in your pool training. Next, you'll come to a physical classroom to have a brief review of the key concepts and have time to ask questions. Not every agency is the same in how much time is required, but our shop focuses on making sure you are not rushed and have ample time to communicate with your instructor. More often than not, the pool sessions run concurrently with the classroom training. Some shops focus on a short duration for the class/pool work so that the customer is not inconvenienced for time. Our strategy is a bit different. Knowledge is best gained and retained through repetition. With Ocean First, by the end of your class time, you will have practiced all of the skills multiple times over multiple days so you are well prepared for your open water dives. To finish your certification, you will complete 4 dives over 2 days to show your instructor that you can do the skills you learned in the pool in a deeper water setting without coming up to the surface between the skills...just like in real diving!

With this much invested in your training, no one wants to "fail" their open water dives. For many years, the standard practice was to conduct the open water dives closely to the pool/classroom sessions to prevent loss of skills. First of all, you won't "fail" your open water dives! Even though you should be proficient at all the skills that they are asking to see, instructors want to ensure success so they'll coach you when needed. Hopefully, this eases that worry from your mind!

Another consideration is that most of the agencies have a certain timeframe that the checkout dives need to be completed within once you finish your pool work. For SSI that is 6 months after your last instruction. Additionally, until you complete your certification dives you are not certified as an open water diver, which means you always have to dive with an instructor or divemaster until you complete the 4 dives. This can be tricky for some shops that do not have their own pools to enable practicing or enough instructors to conduct practice sessions.

So, why would I advise you to give a pause between your initial class/pool work and your certification dives? For Practice! Luckily, with our on-site pool and the ability to certify each Open Water student as a Referral Diver after their class and pool, all of our students have access to free pool time to get in the water and practice their skills. We also have multiple options for students to get in the water with an instructor each month as well. Our commitment to our students is that we will keep working with them until they feel comfortable so this is a natural extension of that. Beyond the benefit of obtaining more practice time on skills, you will also gain more comfort by just swimming around and diving! Any certified diver can tell you that once you learn to equalize your ears, handle ascents and descents easily, and control your buoyancy, your dives become that much more fun. Even the best and most comfortable students in the water can benefit from additional practice!

I had mentioned that with SSI you only have 6 months after your last training to complete your certification dives.By scheduling your class & pool work with serveral months before your open water dives, you give yourself the freedom to choose when you are ready. You will have way less pressure on you to complete the dives so that you can focus on your comfort rather than a time frame. Most students do not function as well when they feel rushed, the same goes for time between the pool and OW dives. If you were somewhat uncomfortable in the pool on a skill, knowing that you have time to work through it can make a huge difference when it comes time to demonstrate the skill.

What about the fear that you won't be able to complete your certification if you start now? If you are like me and have had 3 trips this year canceled, that is a valid concern. Rest assured, even with the country being shut down we do still have options to complete your open water dives. Local destinations like Homestead Crater in Utah (95F in the water year-round) are still open. We also run several trips to the Florida Keys and Cozumel each year. Both of these are open right now and we have had staff visit each place and report back with their experiences. See Key Largo: Domestic Diving at Its Finest & Oh, Mexico: The Time to Go Is Now! for our recent travel reports on these respective locations. By completing your certification dives prior to your personal trip you take away the nerves of the unknown and enable yourself to enjoy your vacation. Just because you can't go on your dream vacation to complete your training dives doesn't mean you can't complete your certification well in advance so you are ready for the next trip!

Scuba diving can be a life-long sport rather than just a fun activity you do on that one trip you have booked. If you take the time to learn and practice, you will be that much more comfortable and likely to want to continue diving. With the ability to decrease the stress of needing to complete your certification quickly, the option to practice your skills over time, and the ability to complete your dives locally, why wouldn't you start your training now in preparation of the time when you can travel again!