Am I ready for the PADI Advanced Open Water Course?

 That’s a good question – and in truth it is entirely up to you!!!!

As well as this article you should also read the blog entitled “should I do the Advanced in the UK or overseas

Divers planning their next dive

Divers planning their next dive on the Advanced

As already stated the “Advanced Course”  is not a great name for this because you really can’t consider yourself an Advanced diver just because you have completed this course, especially if you have not dived much since your PADI Open Water Course.  The idea behind the course is to extend your abilities by providing supervised dives in different environments that are designed to extend your skills and level of experience.  The range of dives is quite wide and the level of skill required also varies widely.  Some, such as the Peak Performance Buoyancy or Navigation, will prove to be a great help in improving your skills, while some of the others may help to improve your enjoyment of diving, but not necessarily improve your skills. 

 The course consists of five dives that you choose from the range of Adventure dives, two of these must be the Deep Dive and Underwater Navigation course. There is plenty of choice and there are bound to be topics that will both interest you and enhance your diving skills.

In deciding whether you should do the course,  there are several questions that people have asked over the years.  Here are a few that may help you.

 I struggled to understand all the theory on the Open Water Course

The dive knowledge part of the Adventures in Diving programme is relatively straightforward and does not involve any gas laws, Archimedes principle or dive tables, so it is suitable for most people.  As always it is important that you read the relevant chapters in the manual before attending the course.  There are 14 chapters but you will only need to read the five relevant to your course.  It really isn’t too much of a challenge.

I am still struggling with my buoyancy

Excellent buoyancy control

That is a good enough reason to do the course especially if the school includes the Peak Performance Buoyancy dive.  Ideally you should go to a school who puts emphasis on PPB skills and adds this to all dives in the course

 I wasn’t very comfortable taking off my mask.  Will I have to do it again?

No you won’t be expected to do that again, but if you really are afraid of this exercise maybe you should get some more diving experience before you join the course.  Speak to your instructor

 During my Open Water course I got a bit nervous when we went a bit deeper. 

It is hard to answer this without knowing the depth that you went to.  However it is possible that you were just nervous being in the water and the depth had nothing to do with it.  However you need to know that as part of the Advanced you will be expected to go to a depth greater than 18m up to a maximum of 30m.  If you really are unsure of this then I would suggest you have a chat with the school you are thinking of doing the course with.   The deep dive is one of the two compulsory elements on the course and although the thought of diving deeper than you have been before can be a little scary, it opens up the possibilities of a much wider range of dive sites and many wrecks.

 I really want to learn more about diving wrecks,

View through a wreck in the Red Sea

View through a wreck in the Red Sea

 Then this could be a great stepping stone.  The course itself will not fully equip you, but it will set you on the right road.   There is nothing quite like descending onto an entire wreck and marvelling as its form slowly clears.  If wreck diving is your thing then this is a good place to start, but after this you may want to register onto the Wreck specialty.  This is a really enjoyable course and is easily completed in a weekend at somewhere like Stoney Cove.

 I did my open water overseas how will I cope in UK waters?

This is actually quite a common question.  How you will cope is affected by several factors, mainly the colder water and poorer visibility.  However your own confidence is also a major factor.  If you enjoyed your open water course and felt comfortable in the water you should be OK.  The colder water in the UK is not normally a problem assuming your school equips you with a two piece suit at around 10mm thick, hood and gloves.  It is not normally the temperature of the water that causes problems  – it is getting cold on the surface between dives that is the real problem. 

 Visibility at the larger lakes such as Stoney Cove is surprisingly good – yes the water is green but you can see and there is lots to look at.  We regularly run photography courses here and the results are always impressive.  Have a look around this site  – most of the UK photographs are taken in Stoney Cove

Can I choose which dives I do?

 There are fourteen adventure dives to choose from.  Instructors are able to teach any and all, but your choice may be

Diver looking at his map before getting into the water

Diver looking at his map before getting into the water

limited by the dive centre.  For example, very few centres have Diver Propulsion Vehicles, which would obviously exclude that dive.  Also diving at an inland lake would obviously mean you couldn’t do a drift dive.  Most centres have a list of dives they offer and many have their favourites.  This is often based on the dive centre offering dives that will give you the most benefit for diving in the local environment.   For example Fish ID is not particularly helpful in the UK but could be in, say the Red Sea (It won’t necessarily improve your dive skills but it might improve your enjoyment.)  Alternatively Peak Performance Buoyancy (PPB) is useful everywhere for every diver.  Discuss this with your instructor, that way you can ensure that you get the most benefit out of the course

 I still don’t have any of my own kit

 This is not necessarily a problem as the dive centre will always provide it (though they may charge).  Ideally at this stage in your career you should have your own snorkel, masks, boots and fins

 Will I have to use a compass, I don’t have a very good sense of direction?

Navigation - a key skill

Navigation - a key skill

The second required dive is the Underwater Navigation dive which builds on the knowledge already gained during the Open Water course. You will usually get a recap on the basic use of the compass and a chance to practice on land (usually with a towel over your head) before venturing into the water. Once underwater you will get a chance to work on your bearings, plot a square course and generally become more confident using the compass. There is typically more time to practice than there is during the open water course.

 Even if you only ever intend to dive in clear water, knowing how to confidently use a compass and plot a basic course is always a valuable skill to have.

 What happens on dive 5?

 The final dive on the course will usually depend on what the school you are with offers or what you have chosen. Some of the options are linked to Project AWARE, underwater marine life or Other diving and associated skills such as boat or drift diving. Some of these can be more easily achieved than others.  The Altitude Dive for example would be difficult to arrange in most UK and warm water sites.  A common selection for divefive is Search and Recovery which can be very useful if you or your buddy loose any equipment whilst diving.

Search & Recovery with a lift bag

Search & Recovery with a lift bag

This builds on some of the work done in the navigation dive and teaches you about basic search patterns.  Having located the lost object you will then have a chance to practice using a lift bag to help get a heavy object to the surface. These obviously aren’t skills that you will use on every dive but they all help build up your experience and increase your confidence in the water.  (They also help to improve your buoyancy skills).  They do also have practical uses – ask my buddy if he was grateful to be able to locate one half of an £80 per of fins he lost by us carrying out a search on a subsequent dive.  This stuff really works!

So are you ready? The fact that you are even thinking about the course probably means that you are.  You’ve already successfully navigated your way through the open water course and now want to take your skills a little further. As I said earlier the term “Advanced” is a bit of an unfortunate title but the course will give you a greater level of experience and prepare you for a whole range of new diving experiences. It will be a challenge, but most things that are worthwhile do require some effort, and if you take the course as part of a weekend trip with your dive school or club its likely to be a great deal of fun as well.

If you want to find out more way not pick up the phone and discuss it with your local dive centre.


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  1. Adam Bonner says:

    You answered my question 100% I wanted to know how much I needed to read in the adventures in diving manual as wasn’t sure now I know I only have to study the courses that I intend to do plus the 2 compulsory dives and I do feel I’m ready

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