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Thread: To those considering an OW class...

 


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    loosebits's Avatar
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    To those considering an OW class...

    This was developed as part of an argument I had with a dive master.

    There has been a trend in open water diving classes (and diving education in general) to ease the requirements needed to certify the diver. Years ago the basic OW class was very extensive and took weeks or months to complete. Today OW classes can be completed in two days.

    Many, including myself, would argue that a diver cannot be adequately trained to safely dive in an open water environment in only two days. So, why the change? Well my guess is it is all about market pressures. The prospective diver generally has no clue what skills are required to dive safely and to enjoy diving so many times they will seek the out the shortest (and cheapest) class they can find (if this were not the case, there would be no market for the two day class). The local dive shops, in order to remain in business, must offer increasingly easier, shorter and cheaper classes by going with the agency that at the time offers the shortest class. If a shop decides to hold out, they will lose business to the shop that doesn't. That market pressure then goes up the supply chain to the agencies. If agency #1 doesn't offer a two day program, they will lose share to agency #2 that does.

    There is really no blame to assess here as the free market defines the programs and it is the people who have no idea the requirements of OW diving that are the consumers and thus drivers of the market forces.

    So, as an experienced diver, I will do what I can to give the prospective divers the knowledge they need to demand a class that will allow them to dive safely and enjoy the sport.

    I took my open water class from a university program. The agency that program used is irrelevant. As I recall, the program consisted of 15 hours of lecture and 21 hours in the pool. I'm not a dive professional so I can't speak to the current minimum requirements but I believe a standard program today is less than 10 hours in the pool. For the pre-certified, not being certified as a professional (e.g. dive master or instructor) does not mean that I am less experienced or have had less training than a professional. It simply means I've decided to go a different route in my diving education (of which there are many), not the route that is required for me to teach others.

    Anyway IMHO, ten hours is simply not enough for the average new diver to learn and practice all the skills they need to become comfortable with their gear or their environment. This has led to time spent on a specific skill to be reduced or the skill virtually eliminated all together. These sacrificed skills often show up later as new classes.

    For example (and I'm not trying to pick on any specific agencies), SSI has two specialty classes, one for boat diving and another for shore/beach diving. Makes me wonder what kind of diving the newly carded OW diver was doing prior to taking these specialties. Shouldn't the material from both of these classes been covered in the basic scuba class? PADI has a class called Peak Performance Buoyancy. Despite the word "peak" in the title, it is designed to teach you the all important skill of being able to maintain a depth in the water column using your breathing and your buoyancy compensator. Again, this is a skill that many would say should be expected of anyone entering the water and indeed is critical to that persons enjoyment of diving (can't have fun riding a bike if you keep fallling off).

    Here is what happens quite frequently to the diver who got a rush certification. He spends $200 on the class, another $200 (or quite a bit more) for the basic set of gear and gets his OW card. If the dive shop is lucky, he then buys the rest of his gear (say another $1500, again it could be significantly more). Why is that so fortunate that he went ahead and got the rest of his gear versus renting for a while? Well, because there is a very good chance the diver will soon drop out of the sport because after that first vacation for which he took his certification, he decided it really wasn't for him and here's why: he was nervous on the boat going out to the site. He was anxious getting in the water. He had a hard time descending. Once down his mask kept flooding and he was having a hard time clearing it - salt water stings. He couldn't keep from bumping against the reef (and getting stung in the process). Finally he found that he was unable to maintain his safety stop depth and spent the entire 3 mins swiming straight down to compensate for the air he neglected to vent from his BC.

    The point is diving, like many sports, isn't much fun unless you've been given the skills to do properly and those skills can't be learned in two days. If they could, we wouldn't see the drop out rate we're seeing today (if every diver certified stuck with it, there would a year long wait-list for a spot on the boat).

    For the divers that do manage to stick with it, they will either need to struggle with a good number of dives or drop money on all the speciality classes that weren't even needed before OW became what it is today.

    So please, spend the money now, take the longest class you can find or risk joining the crowd making room in their closet for the gear they'll never use again.

    To all the experienced divers on this board who see a serious problem with the continual relaxing of standards, please help me resurrect the market for eight week classes.

    Based on my experience with this board, I know the kind of arguments this post is going to generate. People will argue that today's standards are adequate. People will argue that it's all agencies so-and-so's fault or blame it on the instructors or blame it on the prospective divers as they should know better. I don't want to get into a debate as I'm still tired from the last one I had that I mentioned earlier so I'm going to do my best to simply not reply. This whole thing is nothing more than my opinion formed by what I've observed in the lakes, the oceans and the caves. And we all know what opinions are like.
    Considering an open water class? Have you read this? Please PM me before you sign up.

    Rand McNeely

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    PerroneFord's Avatar
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    My only argument is that this post makes far too much sense and thus will be summarily ignored.
    Terri D likes this.
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    It's a great idea. How much will such a course cost? Shall we start shutting down the resort shops now?

    The entire industry is against such a move, but it sure would be great to see. Lamont outlined a great OW course. I'll dredge up the post and see what you think of it.

    Here we go:
    Quote Originally Posted by lamont
    for me it would be something like:

    - long hose in OW. octos relegated to dustbin of history
    - BP/W or back-inflates only. jacket BCs relegated to dustbin of history
    - lecture on why the air-2 is inferior to the long hose
    - introductory gas management skills (focus on simple rules)
    - introductory rescue skills (primarily assisting buddies, and towing)
    - nitrox, gas analysis and ability to read a gas analysis sticker (green and yellow bumper stickers relegated to dustin of history)
    - buoyancy control and skills done neutral
    - introduction to "option #1"

    then AOW would actually build on that:

    - proficiency in basic rockbottom theory
    - proficiency in basic gas planning
    - proficiency in checking gas during the dive against the gas plan
    - more rescue skills (rescuing an unconscious/toxing diver)
    - more s-drills, more buoyancy control.
    - bag shooting.
    - blue water ascents.
    - getting off the bottom quickly in an emergency and slowing down the deco/gas clocks
    - then some fun, probably boat dives and/or drift dives
    - anything left from GUE DIRF and/or OW that i've forgotten...

    and rescue would include:

    - searching
    - managing the whole rescue (managing non-divers, managing alerting EMS, managing reporting to EMS crew, etc)
    - proficiency in unconscious/toxing divers and towing and repetition of complete scenarios in different circumstances and different gear
    - exits to boats, exits to small boats/inflatables, exits to docks, exits involving dead weight lifts, helicopter rescues[*], etc.
    - O2 training should not be suggested, but mandatory in addition to CPR

    something like that (and you did ask this question in whine and cheese...)


    * and not just "make sure to let the helicopter ground its static charge", i mean to get someone from the coast guard into the class to give a short lecture on what to expect, how the coast guard gets called, what their response times will likely be, what to expect when they show up, etc.
    And a link to the thread.
    Less BS, more BT

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    beach89's Avatar
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    The OW course I'm taking is 3 days long. 7 hours pool and 10 hour classroom. I hope it's long enough.

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    mfalco's Avatar
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    I somewhat disagree.

    I took a 3 day resort course. Basically useless unless diving with experienced divers. However this got me into diving. A year later I took the AOW course, and started diving on my own (with a buddy). Now I dive whenever I can.


    In retrospect I wish I had found a course that was allot longer and involved more training, but without the short 3 day course, I would not be diving today.

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    mrjimboalaska's Avatar
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    While I am not an instructor, I do feel there is a problem with students who do not have the basic skills down being passed in OW. I have seen Many divers come out of OW that could dive and just need to dive and finetune their skills(which I am still doing).
    I think the bottom line is "you pay, you pass", and THAT is what needs to be changed. Of course, ALOT has to do with the quality of the instructor and the material he/she has taught.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mfalco
    I somewhat disagree.

    I took a 3 day resort course. Basically useless unless diving with experienced divers. However this got me into diving. A year later I took the AOW course, and started diving on my own (with a buddy). Now I dive whenever I can.


    In retrospect I wish I had found a course that was allot longer and involved more training, but without the short 3 day course, I would not be diving today.
    What do you think if you would have taken a discover scuba instead of a resort course, would that have bitten you enough that you would have went forward with a more involved class?

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    My wife and I are in OW right now. Part of the reason we selected the course (and LDS) was that the format was 3 nights in the classroom, and 5 nights in the pool, and finally two days in the quarry. The other LDS's in the area were only offering the "two days of pool/classroom, then two in the quarry" format and we felt that we wanted the extra time in-between in case we didn't fell comfortable with something. The 5-week format has let us go hit the pool in between to practice basic stuff (like mask clearing) and also to research equipment prior to purchase. This particular class actually emphasized trying some of the basic gear in the first couple of classes before we bought - masks and fins basically. We were able to pick out stuff with some idea of what we liked or didn't like rather than going solely on recommendations.

    My brother just signed up for the "other" shop's 2+2 course. I'm really curious to hear what he thinks of it. He's already into it for about $700 in course+basics and hasn't even hit the pool yet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FIXXERVI6
    What do you think if you would have taken a discover scuba instead of a resort course, would that have bitten you enough that you would have went forward with a more involved class?

    Quite possibly.


    What happened was the resort offered the one day class and take you out on a dive for free. After that I was hooked. I then took the OW class from them.

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    Wreck Wench's Avatar
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    Both formats have advantages...

    Many divers are comfortable in the water and have tight schedules which preclude them from taking an extended course. Obviously there are market pressures as loosebits suggested but resort courses do not fall into this category and they remain quite popular and have produced many a diver who as a result really wants to really learn the sport after having the appetizer so to speak.

    Other students need more time or just can't absorb everything they need to know in a shortened format. Or perhaps they are cautious and want some wiggle room in case they encounter an issue such as TravisD and his wife.

    I think divers should be offered both options by dive shops with the relative advantages and disadvantages to each format. Usually when presented logically people will make the best choice for themselves which is usually the best choice in general.

    And the LDS can use this as a selling point..."we cater to our divers by matchng their needs with our instruction". The LDS then merely educates the diver as to what their choices are and encourages the diver to make a decision based upon other criteria than price. Most students will appreciate the education, the opportunity to choose and subsequently get more out of the class since they will feel it is more closely geared to thier needs.

    I know that I needed the longer class to do remedial work in between pool sessions. Had I been in the accelerated course I would not have been able to keep pace. However someone very comfortable in the water or someone who has done a resort course would do fine in the accelerated format without sacraficing any of the required knowledge they needed to obtain. What you might sacrafice in the shorter class is the chance for more personalized attention which can be another advantage of the longer format.
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