When I was a little girl The Little Mermaid was my favorite Disney movie and if you’d ask me then what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer would be “mermaid”. I wanted to be in the ocean and be friends with all the creatures! Visiting aquariums and borrowing fish identification books from the library kept me satiated as a kid, but since I finally took the plunge (hah!) in 2016 and got my open water certification with the Diving Locker in Kitsilano, I have fallen completely in love with the ocean and I can’t get enough of diving.
As with any hobby, you want to better your skills and push yourself to the next level. For me, that meant being able to do more than what my current PADI Open Water certificate allowed me to do. With PADI advanced open water certification, I would be able to dive deeper, dive at night, explore wrecks, and have the chance to try a ton of other specialties at the recreational level. So I went ahead and signed up with the Diving Locker gang once again to push my limits.
Well, let’s get on with it then!
The Difference Between Open Water and Advanced Open Water.
In the Open Water Diver course, you essentially learn the fundamentals of diving. You complete knowledge development by reading, watching videos, and taking quizzes. You learn and practice all the required skills during confined water dives, usually in a pool. After you’ve completed all the modules and do your ocean dives you will be certified!
You don’t need to be advanced to take the Advanced Open Water course. You can take it immediately after the Open Water Dive, and it’s a good opportunity to practice your skills under the supervision of an instructor and see what specialties interest you most in diving!
There is very little to no classroom. You can expect to do five different Adventure Dives and they may count as the first dive of a Specialty Diver Course. Of the five dives, the Deep Adventure Dive and Underwater Navigation Adventure Dive are mandatory. During the deep dive, you will dive deeper than in the Open Water Diver which is somewhere between 60-130 feet. During the underwater navigation dive, you will practice useful navigation skills using a compass and the natural surroundings. The other three courses may vary depending on which dive school you choose to go to. With the Diving Locker, we also did the night dive, wreck dive, and peak performance buoyancy.
Getting through the course
As I mentioned, to complete the Advanced Open Water course we need to do 5 dives. This was split up over two days. The first day we did our buoyancy, navigation, and then the night dive. The second day we did our deep dive followed by the wreck dive.
Day one was spent at Whyte Cliff Park where we completed 3 dives. This was a familiar spot for me as I had been here for the Open Water Diver Course.
The peak buoyancy dive was fairly easy as it was just showcasing the skills we had already acquired in the previous course. Our instructor would point his flashlight to a spot on the sea floor and we were to stop and hover above said spot. We also had to hover in front of a wall for a bit. Buoyancy can be challenging, but it is so important for a diver to improve so that they can enjoy the dive without kicking up dust clouds by being too low or floating away to the surface from being too buoyant.
The underwater navigation was the easiest dive to complete, in my opinion. All we needed to do was successfully read the compass and swim with our buddy in a square. We also needed to know which direction we needed to swim to turn back the dive to where we started. A piece of cake, especially if you read the manual.
The night dive was exciting, but a little bit of a challenge for me. The visibility during the day was not very good, and the lack of light in the evening would not improve those conditions. Also, we had to carry an underwater flashlight so that we could see and also keep track of all our dive buddies. We didn’t see much life on this dive, but that might also be because I was more focused on staying with the group and keeping track of my dive buddy. Next thing you know we ascend over a wall and I’m shooting up to the surface! My awesome buddy followed after me so we were able to join back up with the group and continue the dive. It didn’t go as well as I hoped, but that just encourages me to try again so I can get comfortable diving in this situation! Perhaps, I’ll go for my Night Dive specialty =]
For the second and last day of the certification, we head to Porteau Cove to do our Deep Dive and Wreck Dive.
The deep dive is exciting because we finally get to go to a deeper depth than previously allowed. There wasn’t necessarily anything more to see at the depth where we were, but it’s like setting a personal record. There is also the possibility of feeling the effects of nitrogen narcosis at a depth of 100 feet! Basically, you feel slow and a bit silly, and it might be difficult to remember to do tasks besides breathing. It’s easily cured by going back to a shallower depth. None is our group had the chance to feel the effects, so I guess there is next time.
The wreck dive, which was our last dive, was the most enjoyable of the weekend! The visibility was amazing and we all just got to enjoy our time underwater and explore the area. We never went inside the wrecks, we swam next to and over some small boats. There were a lot of lingcod protecting their eggs, and plenty of sea anemone and invertebrates. When we concluded the dive and swam back, a couple seals watched curiously from a short distance from us. It was an awesome way to end the weekend!
Where to go from here?
Where to go from here really depends on the person. Do you want to go professional? Do you want to just dive recreationally? What skills do you want to acquire?
For me, I am unsure if the professional route is truly for me. The idea of being able to live in the tropics and get paid to dive every day is very appealing. However, sometimes when something becomes a job, it might become less enjoyable. In the meantime, I plan to continue exploring BC waters and register for the Rescue Diver course in the Spring of 2017!
Share your advanced open water certification experience with me! If you’re not a diver but have thought about trying it, what’s stopping you?!