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First, let me say that this board is outstanding. I thought I had run out of things to read about my two upcoming trips (Cabo next week and Cozumel in Feb) until stumbling across this site.
I'm wondering whether I should feel guilty (or am tempting fate) by diving beyond the PADI recommendations for OW divers. I received my OW certification 3 years ago and have just under 30 dives under my belt. I have a deep respect for the possible dangers of scuba diving, but generally feel very comfortable in the water. I have great buoyancy control, don't suck down vast amounts of air, etc.
On my last scuba trip, my divemaster talked me into diving the blue hole in Belize to 130 feet and we also did a night dive. Both went very smoothly, though I did feel pretty narked on the blue hole dive.
Anyway, I fully intend to get my AOW cert and maybe beyond, but haven't gotten around to it just yet. Is it a really bad idea for me to continue night diving and exceeding the 60 foot recommendation until I get my AOW cert? I'd be especially sad to have to give up night diving, which was one of my favorite dives of all time.
It all depends on who you talk to. Some will say the AOW card is a waste of money, and others will tell you that it is a valuable learning tool.
Me? I did my first OW dive to 70fsw. My first night dive was off the beach. It was #13. At the time, I thought I needed more experience before I got my AOW. Well, here it is years later and I am still OW. I have never had a problem getting on a dive boat, of course I have logged every dive I have ever done, and am a pretty regular diver.
A cert. card won't make you any more qualified than your own comfort level and personal abilities. If you know the risks involved, and feel comfortable enough to deal with any probs. you may run into then by all means do the dives. What I'm saying is dive within your own comfort level. There are no scuba police that will ticket you for going to 61+ feet. Get the additional instruction when you can. It will only make you a better diver.
I did night dives to 90 fsw with only an OW cert. I still don't have a night cert and don't really see the point of it now. I've got a deep cert now and I think its the kind of thing which is useful (or at least should be useful -- depends on the instructor and curriculum). At >= 90 fsw you need to make sure that you don't run out of gas and don't have a failure that causes you to rocket to the surface. I know that when I was going to 90 fsw with just my OW training I didn't really know what the hell I was doing. I was taking too small of a tank down there, and I was checking my air every 2 minutes to make sure I wasn't running out.
Guess I can't shame you because I have done the same. I have done a 80' dive and also a night dive. The night dive I did with the same instructor that I did my OW cert with. He didn't have any problems with it, infact invited me to go along. He did have a comment or two about me doing the 80' dive. I think a night dive cert is probably a waste but I might have to say that the deep dive info might be worth it. But keep in mind that I haven't taken the class either.
You can learn stuff by taking classes, and you can learn (some) stuff on your own or from DMs and other divers along the way.
I don't think night is a big deal, especially if you were so comfortable you call it your favorite dive ever - that's half the battle. I've been on a number of boats in the Carribean where there were people that hadn't night dived, and there's often a briefing that covers practically everything they would tell you in AOW or even the night specialty. If you haven't gotten that spiel someplace it might be worth doing a little reading on it to pick up some tips you may not have thought of.
I don't think 60 feet is a magic number, if you've got things together you can gradually push that limit some, that's how you learn. (IMO Blue Hole was pushing it too far, especially if that was your first deep dive.)
The more you dive, and the more situations you dive in, the less you will get out of AOW. But it's worth doing sometime soon as with a good instructor you'll learn some more, and you never know when someplace will insist on that card as a minimum to make some dive.
The deep dive in PADI AOW doesn't cover that much but it's better than nothing and provides experience in a more controlled situation. I think there is (or at least should be) a lot of info to gain from deep diving instruction.
I actually did the PADI night cert because at the time my buddy didn't want to dive at night, and I had not been that comfortable when I did night diving in AOW. Plus, they were throwing in a free light which was the one I was going to buy anyway so it was a really good deal. I don't think that class is generally worth it, but it worked out for me at the time.
Just be aware that in some places in the world it is mandatory (for a variety of reasons beyond the scope of this thread) to show an Advanced or Deep or Night (etc) card to participate in those types of dives.
I think that what card you have is only important if you are diving somewhere that requires it to do the dive. What is important is your experience level. Night diving, or Deep diving should be learned under the supervision of experienced diver/divers (preferably, but not necessarily an instructor) who is/are willing to help you become accustomed to the new diving environment. The other important thing (specifically with deep diving) is to progress in incremental steps. You should not be going straight to 130ft when your previous dives have all been to no more than 60ft, whether a Divemaster encourages you to or not (in my opinion). You should also have gone over the important differences with deeper diving- gas management, potential extra exposure protection requirements, increased air consumption (obviously) and the increased speed that things can go downhill at if something goes wrong, etc..
Night diving is a little different. You should have the appropriate equipment (minimum of two dive lights) and know how to maintain them. Practice light signals, and ensure that you have clearly marked your entry/exit point with a light. Aside from these issues, night diving (within the normal depth recommendations for OW) should not be a problem at all.
could be argued that people managed to do night dives / deep dives quite safely long before agencies came along and started issuing cards.
The other view though is that most dc's and boats will be worried about taking someone out to do such dives if the divers aren't qualified as people seem to love to sue a dc when they get themselves into trouble. I would not take a diver out on such a dive if they weren't qualified and I think the dm who took an unqualified diver into the Blue Hole is putting their dive op and the dm themself at risk of being sued.