A few thoughts on the new padi open water course

Last weekend I finished an IDC for the lovely Aquanaut in Kingston and Dive Wimbledon. We had a great time and I know the candidates will nail the IE. As part of the IDC we spent some time discussing the new skills in the updated Open Water Course and practising those skills in the pool.

One of the things that came out of the practise sessions is that there is definitely a little more investment of time in the new version required to deliver a valuable course.

Both of these centres just like Diving Leisure London and Big Squid offer a quality Open Water Course/Referral. They all charge in the region of £400 for the full open water and just under £300 for the referral course. They don’t do one day groupon deals for £80 (plus course materials, plus PIC etc etc). My views on groupon can be found here…..

The price of an open water course hasn’t changed much since I started in the UK industry over ten years ago. However in that time VAT has increased, rent, rates etc all have gone up.

All these centres are running with a group of students over four days for a full course or two for a referral making it around £100 per day to learn to dive. Personally I think this is a total bargain especially as that is pretty much all inclusive too. Really it should cost more and I’m hoping to see the price of an open water rise to around £450 and a referral to £300.

I’m not aiming to point out the impossibility of delivering a course to the same quality level as the aforementioned dive centres when you’re charging a third of the price with 3 times the number of students and half the time (oh I just did) but more to express my hope that the demands of the new open water course will begin to affect the ability of low cost/high volume operations to actually meet the required standards.

Without entering into specifics, the main differences between the old course and the new are an emphasis on trim and buoyancy as well as the student demonstrating the ability to plan and conduct dives as a buddy team. Buoyancy in particular is a hard concept for many students to grasp over a two day referral let alone one. Introducing trim (ie hovering in a more horizontal position so as to be more efficient and less likely to damage the marine environment) adds a greater level of difficulty.

Trying to bash this stuff out in an afternoon (except in one on one situations) is going to lead to divers who are unprepared for the open water dives and perhaps, just perhaps, the centres overseas that receive these students will begin to question more firmly how the referral course was run.

The new open water course is a fantastic opportunity for quality dive centres to differentiate themselves from the others. Let’s make a big deal about the new skills and how the extra time and smaller groups offered over a 2 day referral course will lead to much more confident divers.

Personally I’m really enjoying getting instructors up to speed with the new course so we can all begin to create happier, confident divers who are much more likely to continue their diving education.

The London IDC June 2014

The second London IDC has just finished this time with Aquanaut and Dive Wimbledon candidates. The ethos of the London IDC is to bring quality London dive centres together to pool their candidates to make much busier IDCs. This has a double advantage, for the dive centres it makes the IDCs a more profitable enterprise but it also makes the IDCs more enjoyable and useful for the candidates, IDCs benefit from having larger groups as the candidates can watch multiple presentations of a variety of different skills as well as seeing how different dive centres do things in slightly different ways.

We began on Friday night with a skill circuit at Putney Leisure Centre.  In total we had 5 IDC candidates (Rick, Sam, Wiktor, Cheryl and Mark), 2 Staff Instructor candidates (Billy and Laura), 3 Staff Instructors (Kristine, Steve and Geoff) and me. Coordination is the key to things like this and it was immensely helpful to have Staff Instructors along too to help with the evaluations. This is another massive advantage of running bigger groups in that it means there’s a real need for the Staff Instructors to come along and help out. The skills were already at a really high standard so things were looking good for the rest of the program.

Putney pool

Looking good in the pool,. Thanks to John Southill for the great picture

We also had a plan to workshop some of the new open water course skills too so we had some DMs and other instructors along as well as Lynne the owner of Aquanaut. It can be a little intimidating even for big, bad Course Directors like myself(!) to suddenly have about 16 faces swivel towards you and watch you demonstrate new skills but we all had fun trying the emergency weight drop and tightening a loose cam band. By the end of the session we had everyone hovering in horizontal trim which was a fantastic sight to see!


Pizza in the classroom. Note sun outside

The next day was spent in the classroom doing lectures. Sam amused us all with his non digital, unbound version of the instructor manual which caused him endless frustration in every lecture that required the candidates to check standards (pretty much all of them). Pizza was consumed, coffee was drunk and the day was done. The next morning saw us at the pool practicing our confined teaching presentations. The pool was at a posh public school but something had happened to the water (maybe they had dissolved naughty pupils in it) which meant it was somewhat cloudy. We took this in good spirits as preparation for open water the next weekend and everyone did incredibly well.

Instructor manual woes

Sam discovering he’s in the wrong section again

In the afternoon we headed back to the classroom for teaching presentations, where Sam amused us again by wrapping paper around a workbook and calling it a PPB manual. They love stuff like that on an IE.

Not a PPB manual

Not a PPB manual

I then jetted off to Malta for some sidemount fun(it’s a hard life) before zooming straight back to Heathrow the following saturday morning and directly from there to Wraysbury. I had one of those mornings where the world aligns for you and I landed at Heathrow at 9.25 and was at Wraysbury just after 10. After the sunshine in Malta and the sunshine whilst we were all locked up in the classroom the previous weekend, the UK obliged by sending a torrential downpour for most of the day, leading to the use of a transit van as the base for delivering dive briefings.

Once in the water the vis wasn’t fantastic and once again the candidates did a superb job running their teaching presentations in some tough conditions. They cracked straight on unaware of the ariel jostling for position amongst the evaluators trying to get in close enough to grade the proceedings.

We ended the day with some knots and lift bags and a DSD workshop that saw the candidates attempting to control some really quite abysmal DSD students. It was another excellent day.

Our last day was spent in the classroom wrapping up lectures and finishing up in the Aquanaut shop before a celebratory beer and paperwork sorting at the Norbiton and Dragon.



Massive well done to all the candidates for working so hard and all the staff instructors who came along and assisted on the program too, it wouldn’t have gone so smoothly without you.

Bring on the IE!

Customer Testimonials

Read what some of our successful candidates have said about us!

IDC Aug 2015 – “A fantastic IDC with a great balance of support and challenge… not to mention fun! Opportunities were built in for development to meet personal needs and a high level of support through the entire course. I cannot recommend Alex highly enough!”

Maryse Dare

IDC March 2015 – “Being a young Course Director, Alex Griffin was someone I could really relate to. His teaching was relaxed, creative and very good. He restored a lot of trust at a time when I was very unsure about things. Because of him, my PADI IE was completed with great results! I dedicate my success to him.”

Adrian Jones

IDC Aug 2013– “I started my IDC in February of 2013 in preparation for the IE in August of that year in Peterborough. The AI was conducted by Lynne Clafton of Aquanaut Scuba in Kingston with the OWSI being conducted by Alex Griffin. Having been a DM for a few years it was important for me to take the next step and also find a way of regularly being in the water doing what I love. Lynne was excellent and very flexible to fit around my busy schedule plus her relaxed teaching style meant that ‘most of it’ sunk in the first time. Lynne also accommodated for extra pool sessions when I felt they were needed and was a constant source of knowledge on all things diving. Having completed my AI I was next introduced to Alex who took me through my OWSI and got me prepared for my IE. Alex’s teaching style also warrants applause as not only does he possess a mountain of knowledge he has an excellent way of delivering it. The OSWI was conducted across 2 weekends and was very well organised. Alex had recently completed his CD and was right up to date with the latest teaching techniques which gave me great confidence. Alex and Lynne both did an excellent job in preparing me for the IE and after a few nervous hours of exams I really began to enjoy myself. At no point during the IE weekend did I encounter something  that I was not prepared for, in fact, I found myself having more time to prepare things than I expected. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire IDC and the IE and thanks to Lynne and Alex I passed with flying colours.”

Paul Searle

IDC 29th June 2014 –  “My IDC was scheduled over 2 weekends with 4 other candidates. Our Course Director for the IDC was Alex Griffin (who seems to be known by the whole PADI world, and was highly recommended by other OWSI’s to do my IDC).  Alex’s PADI knowledge, patience, presentation skills, enthusiasm and humour made the IDC experience and IE Examination preparation a pleasurable one rather than a chore.
 My IE was at Peterborough on 16/17 Aug 2014 and throughout the weekend Alex was always available on the phone for guidance  and re-assurance. A huge thank you to Alex for your support and sharing your wealth of PADI experience to help me get through the IE to become an OWSI.  (My Instructor Specialities with Alex……already being booked).”
Mark Greenslade #252206

IDC Aug 2013- My name is Richard Cullen and I am a PADI Staff Instructor and an Instructor Trainer for Deptherapy Education. I completed my IDCS with Alex Griffin at Diving Leisure London. I had known Alex for a long time and found that on the programme he brought to the course his friendliness and enthusiasm for diving that are very much a hallmark of Alex as a person. This was Alex’s first IDC programme as a Course Director and I know the IDC students and those of us working towards Staff Instructor had an amazing experience. Alex’s enthusiasm for diving and his knowledge of the PADI system are obvious and this creates a desire to do well in his students. Whilst the programme is intense Alex also brings a style of his own that encourages and facilitates learning. Feedback is very well managed even when this involves some bad news. For me Alex’s description of the scoring system in skills evaluation and student presentations was absolutely brilliant. He deals with student feedback in a very caring way and manages performance issues in a sensitive manner that encourages achievement amongst his students. I really enjoyed the programme and learned a good deal, the IDC students were enthused by Alex’s style and his obvious love of diving and delivery of the IDC programme.

Richard Cullen

IDC Nov 2013- I did my IDC with Alex Griffin and it was a great experience. Doing it out of season I was able to get thorough one on one tuition which was really beneficial. I was made to feel really comfortable to ask any questions about the course and also using the teams experience to further my education. The course was very enjoyable and was a great introduction into UK diving which I had never considered before. I will certainly be using Alex to further my diving education by completing my MSDT course with him.

James Clack


Speciality Instructor training

To be a fully rounded instructor regardless of where you’re teaching there are a few specialities that you need to have under your belt. Here in the UK the most important ones are drysuit, deep, search and recovery, wreck and nitrox. If you can teach these specialities you’ll be more employable and more likely to get to do a wider variety of courses than just running referrals in the pool! Specialities are the most fun courses to teach, you’re usually dealing with qualified divers wanting to learn new skills, that means you’re not trying to ‘sell diving’ to someone you’re teaching them new cool stuff. It’s also really important to be able to up-sell from an Advanced Course to specialities as this will often be a newer divers first taste of activities like wreck or drysuit.

Teaching lining off

Teaching lining off

I do a ‘UK Specs Weekend’ that covers these 5 specialities. This also primes you for MSDT as you require 5 specialties to qualify and means you can then go onto Staff Instructor and then hopefully help out on our IDCs!

Earning instructor specialities is a little more involved than many people think. For each speciality, amongst other things, you’ll need to do a knowledge development presentation and then in water demonstrate all skills involved including running an open water teaching presentation just like you did on the IDC. If a speciality has 2-3 dives then most of the time the instructor speciality can be conducted in 1. If the speciality has 4 dives then it’s 2 at instructor level.

I normally run the course as follows:

Day 1:

Drysuit: 1 dive

Search and recovery: 2 dives

Nitrox: Theory only, no dives

Day 2:

Deep: 1 dive (based on deep run as a 3 dive course)

Wreck: 2 dives.

As you can see this is a full program and we cover lots of stuff: Skills, drills and tips for teaching drysuit and search and recovery and then a lot on the control and supervision of deep and wreck courses which is vital to understand in the UK. I have heard of some individuals getting over 10 specialities signed off in a weekend. This isn’t possible and should raise a few eyebrows if offered.

Mark and plane

Mark using a real plane as a non diving related training aid!

The weekend can be run alongside an IDC before candidates attend an IE. This can be really useful as it gives another weekend practising the skills required to pass the IE. The candidates simply process the speciality instructor certs after completing the IE.

The cost of a UK Specs Weekend is £500 as an added bonus I’ll also let you come back on another weekend and complete any other specs you might be interested in, for example Equipment, SMB or navigation!

See here for a full list of available specialities courses

The New Open Water Course

At the London IDC, we teach the new open water course. The following lists some of the key changes to the course. Our Course Director is available to consult in your dive centre if you would like an in-water update on the new course.

  • Securing a loose tank camband.
  • Emergency Weight drop.
  • Emphasis on neutral buoyancy throughout teaching.
  • Emphasis on horizontal trim: no more buddha hovers!
  • Dive planning: Mini dives in confined and open water.
  • Dive computer planning as a requirement: RDP is now optional.

These are some of the new areas of the course. The new open water course is not a total overhaul but instead a modernisation of the course to bring it up to date with current ways of thinking.


How’s it work?

The premise of the London IDC is very simple: We bring candidates from different dive centres together to create a series of regular well attended IDCs.

We work with a number of dive centres: We get together, agree dates and then jointly market the IDC. The IDC then runs over those dates with some candidates from all or some of the dive centres using all the facilities that those dive centres have available from classrooms, to pool time and equipment.

Why do we do this? The answer is because it makes more sense for everyone involved. The London IDC was started by Course Director Alex Griffin when he saw the difficulties of running and scheduling IDCs within his own dive centre:

“Many dive centres don’t always have enough candidates, available at the same time, to justify the expense of bringing in a Course Director to run it. The result is constant rescheduling and poorly attended IDCs.”

From a candidates perspective this is no good as it’s good to have other candidates and staff instructors to work with and you also want to be able to commit to dates well in advance.

By bringing together top quality 5 star IDC PADI Dive centres to pool their candidates, the London IDC can offer a series of fixed dates through the year with access to all the facilities that these dive centres have to offer.

As a result everyone wins. You, the IDC candidate, gets a range of flexible dates to commit to and a well attended course. The dive centre wins by being able to confidently market the program without fear of losing money.