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Neil Harris teaching students in the pool.

Learning basic diving skills

Beginning the Adventure

In order to become an internationally recognised scuba diver, a person must attend and pass an Open Water Diver course from a reputable training agency such as one of the following:

With this certification card, a new diver can then participate in 'open water' rated dives to a depth of 18 metres.

It is human nature and good common sense to feel a little apprehensive about entering this alien underwater world.  Only training and experience will overcome this.

Gaining Experience

It is good business practice for dive shops to encourage their recent Open Water students to participate in pleasure dives where their instructors can keep an eye on them.  A new diver can learn a great deal by watching a good instructor in the boat and under water.  People need an experience base to consolidate and apply new learning.  In other words, you have to practice the basics until they become a reflex action.  Then you can move forward and learn new skills.

The Mythical Advanced Diver

It is common practice in the industry to package four or five specialty courses, and present them as an “Advanced Open Water Diver” course.  It makes a lot of sense to do this because there are economies of scale for the dive shop and convenience for the diver.  This course can be a very efficient way of significantly upgrading a diver’s skills, and creating a long-term customer. However, there does not appear to be a generally accepted industry standard for "Advanced Diver".  This can be verified by reviewing the training agencies' web sites.

Boat Diving Skills

Although some shore dives can be rewarding, for the most part the best dive sites are only accessible from a boat.  If you think through the steps in a typical boat dive, there are many little skills involved: dive planning, buddy procedure, entry, controlled descent, instrument checks, dive computer use, navigation, dealing with current, returning to the anchor, controlled ascent, safety stops, retrieval, exit, safety log, stowing gear, refilling tanks.  Consequently, an advanced diving techniques course should reinforce the basic open water skills and cover the additional skills and safety procedures that are needed for enjoyable boat diving.

Preparing for Adventure

An advanced diving techniques course is only the beginning of the learning experience.  All keen divers should complete Stress and Rescue, Senior First Aid, Nitrox and other specialties that suit their interests.  For example, the SS Yongala lies off Townsville at 30 metres.  The SS President Coolidge in Vanuatu goes much deeper.  There are several accessible WWII wrecks in the Solomon Islands. Truk Lagoon has a broad range of wreck diving.  Wreck and Deep Diver courses are sensible pre-requisites for these trips.  Deep Diver courses cover recreational diving from 30 to 40 metres and, in particular, gas consumption at depth.  Nitrox courses cover the use of oxygen enriched air which provides an additional safety margin.

Some of these advanced training courses are reported in the Articles section of this website.  The author attended and later sat in on these courses again for the purposes of writing about them.  The author is an experienced recreational diver, not a professional diving instructor.  Consequently the articles focus on 'what we did' rather than 'how to do it'.  They also provide an example of the quality and level of training that a new diver should be looking for.


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