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Disappointed / Frustrated with my first OW class

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by filmguy123, Jun 29, 2016.

  1. filmguy123

    filmguy123 Professional Photographer

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Pacific Northwest
    First class tonight of a 5 week course. 2 hour classroom, 2 hours pool.

    I guess I'm not sure what's the norm or what to expect, so maybe my expectations were too high, but i left pretty annoyed at the experience.

    Let me start by saying I'm a 31y/o athletic male that races motorcycles, snowboards, hikes, has snorkeled, and works in video production. I'm used to complicated technical stuff and a variety of physical tasks, in good shape, and came in well read and well prepared.

    And left very frustrated.

    I have heard this is a well respected and good dive shop and training center, and to be fair, the main instructor was absent tonight and will be with us for the remainder. But here's what I experienced:

    1 instructor, 1 DM assistant. Class of 10.

    First 2 hours in classroom weren't used that well - it took about 1 hour and 15 minutes to outfit us with the gear we would be using in the pool session and give intros of why were were diving. I'm guessing this had to do with being short staffed.

    Last 45-60 min of classroom rushed through gear overview and the basics of not holding your breath. I found it mostly useless. Yes, I've read my PADI manual first plus a ton more online and in other books I got. But I found the overview in the classroom to be so basic and utterly useless, I was really hoping to solidify some of those concepts, have time to ask any questions, have some good instruction and examples, etc. But it was just super rushed. The instructor was whipping along - I am he was sure aware of how behind schedule we were - but there was no room to interject, or to give any topic the attention I felt it deserved.

    Beyond that, what was covered was covered so fast that it just didn't give any time to allow for processing, he was onto the next thing before he finished the last. Since it was basic stuff this was ok, but I did have a number of practical questions I had come up that I didn't get to ask, and a number of things I wanted to see demonstrated better in person, etc. We also skipped a few things and the end class quiz, because we were behind and he said our main instructor would have to do it next week.

    As for the pool... my real problem is here...

    We got there late because of being behind, and due to this we had to rush through gear setup with one person explaining to 10 of us in a long row - and without much detail or pause - the setup process. It's not that any of this is that hard, its that I again didn't learn much of anything because so little detail was given, it moved so fast, and there was no personal instruction because it was a 10:2 ratio. And being in a long row, if you weren't in front of the instructor, couldn't really see him to make out what he was talking about.

    I had a concern about my mask being too loose and was told it would be fine and I didn't want it too tight. I said I knew that but I thought it was a little too loose... but was just told "no no its good" BOOM onto next. Alright...

    Well, It wasn't fine, it filled completely with water as soon as we went down. I can deal, it doesnt bother me or freak me ou - I had already read how to clear my mask so I did that.. repeatedly. I was just super annoyed because it was indicative of the whole thing - no time to ask questions, very little detail given, feeling like you had to fight to get any clarification or question in edge wise. And having a valid concern rushed over. I had others too - like how my BC was fitted, positioning of gear, etc.

    The whole session in the pool with actual scuba gear was less than 25 minutes - inadequate time to practice doing any of the mentioned drills, and poor + rushed descriptions of each. Half the time I didn't know what we were doing or why before I was under water, trying to respond to hand signals that were never demonstrated, and trying to remember off of the pictures I saw in the book.

    And when an instructor is 20 feet away rushing through cook book like instructions, its hard to see what he is talking about and you spend half your time trying to figure out what he just did way over there instead of listening to the next thing.

    Anyway. Point is. I came in super prepared, and left completely unsatisfied in not having learned much of anything - in either the classroom session OR the pool session - and am concerned at the depth or thoroughness of training I am going to get. I don't just want a c-card so I can go dive. I want to know my stuff, super well, and that starts with a good foundation...

    Left feeling overwhelmed, rushed, tons of unanswered questions on minor practical things, unconfident in any of the drills we did practice, and with no opportunity to have any sort of conversation or interaction in terms of gaining clarity on things. And no time to practice in more depth any of the "skills" we rushed through.

    Sorry this is long...

    Is this normal for PADI Open Water cert courses? It felt like elementary knowledge, herding cattle, and no time for personal help.

    I am pretty sure this will get better on the next course when the main instructor is there and (supposedly) more DMs to help, and not all the gear selecting and pool tests that ate up so much time...

    Are my expectations too high for OW? Will I find that most of my learning needs to come from post OW training and mentors? Should I have gotten either a class capped with half the people instead of 10, or personal training?
  2. Doc

    Doc Was RoatanMan

    # of Dives: None - Not Certified
    Location: Chicago & O'Hare heading thru TSA 5x per year
    If all "Day 1" events were that distasteful, you woulda' heard about it.

    Prepare for the standardized responses:
    1) PADI sucks
    2) It's not the Agency, it's the instrucor
    3) Buck up, Sparky
    4) Complain like all Hell and get your money back and take your course from an Agency with great training like ____.

    But I do have to ask- you're an experienced snorkeler. Nice that you kept easily clearing your flooding, loose mask. But... at some point you are encouraged and allowed to exercise your mastery over the physical environment. Tighten up your mask strap like you do when you were snorkeling.

    There are any number of horrific reports of Classroom Day One, this too shall pass. Use your existing physical-world skills, muddle through. Real dive education begins at Dive #3 and continues from there, evermore. Hang in, prevail.
    scrane likes this.
  3. CuzzA

    CuzzA Solo Diver

    Every shop is going to be different. Being that your shop is spreading the course out over 5 weeks and it sounds like there was some schedule issues I would wait until I formed a strong opinion. You certainly don't want to have a negative attitude for the rest of the course which may alter what and how you learn.

    If you have questions or issues about your first day go back to the shop before your next class session and ask them. Get answers, you paid for them. 10 students is a lot and so you might find you're going to need to go after information. You may be thinking you shouldn't have to do that, but oh well, suck it up and get after the information. Ask questions here as well if you like.

    As far as the mask, you just unwittingly got a big lesson in diving. If something isn't right about your gear, you body or sea conditions, it's up to YOU and YOU ONLY to make the call. Don't ever expect anyone to make things right for you, babysit you or be there for you when you need them. I don't care if it's during training with a pro. You are in charge of your diving. You should have tightened the mask.

    Good luck, I suspect things will get better. If not, politely voice your displeasure and concerns.
  4. filmguy123

    filmguy123 Professional Photographer

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Pacific Northwest
    Thanks guys,

    To be clear, I was having an issue tightening the mask strap (fiddly buckle, older rental gear) which is when I was told not to tighten it more. Once under the water, tightening the mask whose strap I was already having problems with at the surface was a non-starter.

    Hopefully this doesn't turn into an agency thread.

    Actually, I think a big part of my question is - while perhaps the future courses here, and most OW courses, aren't so frustrating as this experience - should I at some level in any group OW course expect to be hurdled around like cattle with a pretty limited amount of personal attention / instruction? And a pretty basic set of knowledge without much opportunity to ask questions or go more in depth?

    If so, I am also considering looking at some local and respected private instructors... if not for OW, than for my future training after this.

    This may have made me realize that my expectations for training are a "10".. this class delivered about a 1-2... and while I'm sure and hopeful things will improve, I'm wondering if I can really expect them to improve past a "5" on my scale of expectations.

    I do expect the future ones to better. I will be calling them tomorrow to ask some questions and respectfully voice my concerns and disappointments.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2016
  5. doctormike

    doctormike ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: New York City
    Not during training. The OP happened to have been snorkeling before, but many OW students haven't. Would you give them the same advice? A student who had never worn a mask before asks if it is appropriately tightened for diving, he is told by his instructor that it is, and then it turns out not to be tight enough. That is his fault, because he should have just known how to do it?

    I have read similar threads where OW students were criticized for not knowing basic things about scuba diving, and were told that THEY were responsible for their own safety, etc.. I have even heard this in the context of a tragedy.

    Yes, that general idea is true for certified divers, but the whole point of OW instruction is that you don't know anything about scuba diving, and are paying someone to teach you to dive.
    ScubaJill likes this.
  6. CuzzA

    CuzzA Solo Diver

    With 10 students you're not going to get personal attention. You'll need to speak up and ask questions. Don't worry about what the other students might think. In fact they'll probably appreciate you asking the same questions they have, yet didn't have it in them to ask.
  7. CuzzA

    CuzzA Solo Diver

    I understand where you're coming from and I agree. I'm not casting blame, so no, it's not his fault. I said it's a lesson learned. One that every student receives from both the DVD and book and just so happened to prove true on day one of OW for the OP.

    A leaky mask and fitting everyone is probably a very common issue for instructors and dive shops. I'm not defending the instructor. Just pointing out the valuable lesson learned with the minor issue.

    To answer your question, yes, I would give the same advice to anyone. Don't dive if you know something is wrong. Period. I also think students should be proficient with snorkeling prior to scuba diving, but that's another topic.
  8. filmguy123

    filmguy123 Professional Photographer

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Pacific Northwest
    It wasn't the mask issue that bothered me, its the way it was handled, because it was indicative of what was bothering me about everything else: herded like cattle. rushed. no personal attention. inability to work with anyone, ask questions, etc.

    I am not a shy guy - the few times I tried to ask questions, the feeling and vibe I got was not one of eager, excited helpfulness to make sure people understood. Questions just seemed to be me with a bit of impatience. When pulling out tanks, I had asked what sort of tank this was - "Is this an AL 80 or?"

    Why did I ask? because I want to know these things! I've read all about them here and elsewhere, never seen one in real life. What I am looking at and strapping to my back is a valid question I think?

    The 1 assistant DM there tried to be helpful and answer my question, but the instructor quickly hurried him on and seemed annoyed that he was distracted with a non central task. I never did get my answer. The whole thing just sort of felt like a rushed mess, with inquisitiveness met with a feeling of inconveniencing the instructor.

    So, despite my taking initiate... I was frustrated.

    As for the mask, that was just sort of the final straw of this. Even though it was "fine", it was the principle of it. The mask wasn't the problem, it merely represented the problem.
  9. lv2dive

    lv2dive Formerly known as KatePNAtl Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Lake City, FL
    Reasonable questions. IMHO, you may have slightly high expectations for group training. That being said, it is still completely reasonable to expect to have knowledge imparted with a chance for you to ask questions and address gear issues, that's part of the deal.*

    The largest scuba class I have taken had six students and that was too big for me. I've learned 1/1 or 1/2-3 instruction is optimal for my learning, and I am happy to pay a premium if needed.

    If it were me, I would ensure my questions were answered as each section was covered going forward, and I'd politely but firmly request a repeat of the demonstration of the skills if I couldn't see them first time.

    You have great attitude about learning and I would be happy to buddy up with you any day. I would caution you, however, that some people in your class *may* be as much or more interested in the card than the learning. :)

    Best of luck and let us know how your adventure continues!

    *It's very strange for me to read these kinds of posts bc where I do most of my diving, OW classes are often taught with a small instructor to student ratio (at least out of the shops I frequent). Of course it's cave country and I guess the instructors are maybe assuming they are teaching potential future cave divers?

    kensuf likes this.
  10. CuzzA

    CuzzA Solo Diver

    ^ My shop (cave/tech divers) had a 1 instructor to 3 students.

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