How is being PADI Open Water certified
“From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.”
– Jacques Yves Cousteau
Growing up on a surf beach, as a water baby, means I have spent most of my time in the waves. I’ve always had a deep love for the ocean. I’ve tried most water sports. But, up until recently I had no idea I was missing out, in my opinion, on probably the best activities that exist. Diving!
On a recent trip through Panama I traveled to the Caribbean in hope of finding some surf. Unfortunately, for me, at the time, swell for the season had not yet started and it would still be a week or two before any decent waves were expected to arrive. Fortunately, for me, that meant trying out something new…
I’d never really been interested in diving up until this point. Thinking it was too expensive I would only ever opt for the more cost effective snorkeling instead. I didn’t think there was a lot of difference between the two. You still get to see cool enough stuff when snorkelling on reefs. However, whilst staying on Bocas Del Toro and sitting around waiting to surf, I thought F@#k it! I will spend a few bucks and get certified.
In this case I could have spent less money. It would have been far cheaper to test out only one dive and get the basic training needed to explore a reef. But, I thought about this and decided I would rather spend the time training so I could have a better appreciation of the experience and get as many dives in as possible.
Best $300 spent EVER! I was immediately addicted. I couldn’t get enough. Now, whenever I travel to a new place I’m always looking for new spots to dive.
It’s crazy. You might have heard other divers talk about that feeling of taking your fist breaths underwater. To me, this feeling is indescribable and a moment I’ll never forget. You need to experience and feel it for yourself to understand what I’m talking about.
So, whats the course like?
Easy. I’m just a dumb surfer and now I’m also a PADI Advanced Scuba Diving dumb surfer.
Some of the things I learnt:
•always breathe, even with the regulator out of your mouth
•proper technique for equalising your ears
•clear mask underwater and recover dropped mask
•regulator and equipment recovery drills (if it is out of your mouth, how to sweep for it, or trace, and how to switch to the alternate second-stage)
•how to operate your BCD (buoyancy control device) for flotation
•maintaining neutrally buoyancy / hover underwater
•surface ascent, immediate BCD inflation, keep regulator or snorkel and mask on
•monitor air supply
•how to enter/exit water by boat
•theory of pressure changes at depth
•diver buddy system
•understanding and treating signs of expansion injuries, decompression sickness and narcosis.
The course took about 3 days to complete and included a question and answer theory section, followed by a written exam as well as underwater training and four different reef dives. The best part was when first learning how to dive, most people usually carry out the first day of basic training in a pool or calm shallow water. In my case, I was the only diver learning that week and was lucky enough to have my training on a nearby shallow reef. I was taking my first breaths underwater and learning how to clear my mask all whilst seeing incredible marine life swimming around me.
After 15-20 minutes of learning the basics, I then followed my instructor swimming over the coral reef and to a shallow ship wreck where we saw a massive grouper followed by a sting ray. Fair to say my first experience diving is the reason why I am so hooked on the sport and can’t get enough of it.
Once Open Water certified, I was licensed to dive to 18m deep. I continued diving and learning, even obtaining my PADI Advanced (another post to come). This enabled me to dive in several other countries and even recently diving the Blue Hole in Belize – rated in the Top 10 World Best Dives and one of the most incredible experiences of my life. My next goal is to continue on this path and become a PADI certified Divemaster. Who knows, maybe I’ll even be instructing these courses one day.
Try for yourself. See just what lays beneath the big blue. Don’t be surprised though if you too become addicted. And, if you find an amazing dive spot to recommend, then please share!