Discovering Scuba: Advanced Open Water Certification

The Advanced Open Water Diver course can be taken after completing the Open Water Diver certification. The title Advanced Open Water Diver is fitting because the certification is meant to advance diving knowledge & skills.  PADI says that “you don’t have to be ‘advanced’ to take it – it’s designed to advance your diving.”  The course is designed to build confidence and expand scuba skills through different Adventure Dives. The course offers an opportunity to try out different specialties while gaining experience under the supervision of an Instructor.  The Adventure Dives are logged dives and help to develop capabilities as well as introduce new ways to have fun scuba diving.

In the Advanced Open Water certification, there are two required dives – Deep and Underwater Navigation – and then you work with your Instructor to choose the other three, for a total of five dives.  Our three additional Adventure Dives ended up being Wreck, Night and Peak Performance Buoyancy.  We completed all five of our Advanced Open Water certification Adventure Dives at Dutch Springs in Bethlehem, PA.

Our Advanced Open Water diver certification process included reviewing some material in a textbook, completing a knowledge review of the information and completing 5 adventure dives.

Our first adventure dive was Peak Performance Buoyancy.  During the dive, we descend to an underwater platform and practiced skills to help us be more graceful in the water.  Controlling buoyancy through proper weighting and intentional breathing were the main focuses of the dive.  Josh did great and was able to hone in some skills that he had already learned.  Things were a bit different for me, of course.  I started the dive attempting to breathe more intentionally and ended up surfacing by myself, while everyone else was still underwater.  After the initial shock and confusion passed, I was able to descend again and focus on improving my buoyancy, under a few watchful eyes.

Our second adventure dive was a Night Dive.  We headed out for the night around 8:15pm, just as it was beginning to get dark and spent about 30 minutes underwater, navigating with flashlights.  Josh really enjoyed the night dive, but was borrowing a flashlight that was set to wide beam instead of focused beam.  He related the experience to having high beams on in dense fog – it’s bright, but you can’t see anything.  I’m pleased to say I made it through the dive with no issues to report!  We were able to see a few fish, which made it a pretty interesting dive.  And, at least we did it in the quarry where there was certain not to be any creepy sea creatures showing themselves through the darkness.

Our third Adventure Dive was a Deep Dive Sunday morning.  During the Deep Adventure Dive, we were to learn how to plan dives to deal with the physiological effects and challenges of deeper scuba diving.  Our goal was to descend to approximately 65′ and check out the Silver Comet.  Side note: we all assumed that the Silver Comet was a plane, so, we were pretty surprised when we got down to it and it was a boat.  Before hopping in the water, we suited up in some more substantial gear – 7mm wetsuits, hoods and gloves – as the water temperature was reportedly around 48° at depth.  The descent went pretty well for everyone on the dive, but somewhere near 58′ – 60′, I’m pretty sure my brain froze.  It felt exactly like sensation you get after drinking a Slurpee too quickly.  It was pretty disorienting, especially 60′ underwater.  I was able to achieve the objectives, despite the frozen brain, but the ascent was slow and cold.  Josh really enjoyed the deep dive, like he does all of his dives.  But, he really enjoyed checking out the color chart at depth and seeing that the blocks that were red and orange at the surface looked black and grey at 60′ underwater.  Interestingly enough, the yellow was still bright yellow – how cool!

Suited up and ready for the Deep Dive!

Our fourth adventure dive was a Wreck Dive.  The goal of the wreck dive was to descend to 30′ and check out a submerged Cessna.  The Cessna was cool, but, we both felt like it was a little anticlimactic after having dived the Benwood wreck in the Florida Keys during our open water certification trip a few months ago.  We completed a navigation around the wreck and identified potential hazards around the wreck, so, we completed the objectives with no problem.  But, the Cessna was no Benwood.

Our five and final Advanced Open Water dive was Underwater Navigation.  The Underwater Navigation Adventure Dive was meant to refine our compass navigation skills and helps us better navigate using kick-cycles, visual landmarks and time.  There were two primary objectives of this dive – use a compass to navigate a straight line out and back, based on a compass heading and use a compass to navigate a square.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that Josh rocked it.  No problems, no issues, even time at the end to do some underwater acrobatics while we waited for everyone else to finish up the required skills.  I, on the other hand, of course, had issues.  Navigating the straight line out and back using the compass heading wasn’t too bad.  My buoyancy wasn’t great, but, with a little help from a friendly Dive Master, we got that sorted out.  When it came to the square, oh boy!  I ended up using my fingers to count out next heading and got it done, but it wasn’t pretty and it certainly wasn’t quick.  I could use a few more hours with that compass, for sure!

Five AOW Dives Complete = BIG SMILES!

After completing the five adventure dives, we took an evening to do complete the knowledge review with our instructor and that was that!  We are now PADI certified Advanced Open Water divers!

For me, this is where my scuba certification journey ends.  For now, at least.  I am overwhelmingly proud of my accomplishments with scuba diving, considering the struggles I’ve experienced and worked through.  I’m really content with having earned by Advanced Open Water certification and am looking forward to spending more time in the water to get more comfortable with diving.

For Josh, this is where his scuba certification journey kind of just begins!  Josh plans to pursue the “going Pro” route of obtaining his Dive Master certification and then, possibly, moving on to obtaining his Instructor certification.  And, he plans on documenting his scuba certification journey throughout the entire process.  Here’s what he has to say: “I have truly fallen in love with scuba diving and enjoy every piece that goes into it.  Plus, it’s a great way to make money in warmer climates, to go hand-in-hand with our future plans.  I already signed up for the Rescue Diver class over Labor Day weekend and I can’t wait!”

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