How to skilfully demonstrate skills….

you love me

One question that regularly comes up on IDCs is to do with skills and how they should be done. As any good instructor knows, the key point to remember is the performance requirement, there is no standard ‘PADI way’ or signal for a given skill. It’s also very important to understand the difference between getting it wrong vs the way you like things done. As an example, you might prefer holding BCD straps to a ‘roman handshake’ during an out of gas drill but both are fine (in fact one may be better than the other and vice versa dependent on gear set up etc). There’s also no problem with a dive centre establishing a consistent way of performing skills through their DM and IDC programs but it’s also important to understand that doesn’t make their way, the right way either.

Because I work with candidates from multiple centres on the same IDC, my philosophy is that I don’t set out to attempt to mould candidates in my image. I’d much rather they got on with doing skills their way, with me occasionally pointing out some improvements or tweaks along the way.

One of the nice things about this way of working is that I get to learn different methods for skills too. Fortunately my ego is no longer as fragile as it was (seemingly directly proportionate to the greying of my hair) and I no longer panic when someone does a skill better than me. In fact I’m usually quite open about my intention to nick someone else’s method when I like it!

Having said all of this, I do have a preference for the general way skills are done (yes, my preference but also, obviously, the right way). Here’s my guide to all things skill related:

  1. Poncing About. Lots of instructors love poncing about. I do not. Poncing about involves loads of wind-milling arms, theatrical flourishes and invitations to everyone in the surrounding vicinity to ‘LOOK AT ME, ME, THE INSTRUCTOR, LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME NOW BECAUSE I AM ABOUT TO BRING THE SHIT WITH THIS SKILL’. I don’t mind a quick ‘look at me’ signal, I do it, it helps get me in the zone to do my demo but just get it over with and then do the skill. Just please, do the skill.
  2. Concentrate on the critical attributes: If you want to clear a mask, then basically you need to put some pressure on the top of the frame (any which way you like), look up and exhale through your nose. If you do that slowly and clearly, that’s pretty much a 5 as far as I’m concerned. Throwing in lots of stuff to show what you shouldn’t do doesn’t really add anything. Also don’t go through a slow and loving piece of theatre about everything that you are about to do and then fail to clear the mask in one go, or finish with one lens still with an inch of water in the bottom. Even Brando couldn’t save himself from a 4 with that.
  3. Be Quiet: Please, please don’t start every skill by doing that thing where you punch your palm with an open fist repeatedly. I realise that when people aren’t actually looking at you it’s a great way to get their attention, but when they are, it’s a bit like snapping your fingers in their face like a sassy drag queen from an 80s movie starring Andrew McCarthy.
  4. Dumping gas: Don’t start every skill by whirling your fingers at the top of the BC hose to show you have dumped all your gas. It’s not a performance requirement to do every skill whilst heavily negative. Whilst in real teaching scenarios kneeling on the bottom of the pool will help in some skills, it doesn’t require you to be negative during your demos.
  5. Lose the numbers: Some skills may benefit from a series of steps broken down by number as in step 1: Do this, step 2: Do this etc. But most don’t. Sometimes the sheer volume of hand signals being produced completely eclipses the skill and it all becomes a confused blur of sign language. Remember, just do it slowly and clearly.
  6. Be decisive. Often one of the big differences between a score of 4 or 5 is simply down to the confidence with which the hand signals are deployed. We’ve all been there, when your hand extends only to discover that it’s intent has been forgotten. Try to make sure your hand signals are confident and clear. Avoid the tentative hand slowly extending and producing a limp apology of a signal, it looks like an elderly vicar trying to break up an orgy. A good method is to practice your hand signals for skills in front of the mirror. I often video skills on the IDC too which allow you to see how you’re getting on so we can work on ways to improve.
  7. Don’t sweat it: When all’s said and done, you can do these skills. If you couldn’t you probably shouldn’t have got through your open water course! The best thing you can do is just slow down, relax and do the skill slowly. If you do that, you’re pretty much guaranteed at least a 4. If you then just throw in some clear signals that emphasise the critical steps, there’s your 5.

Of course, the next person you talk to will contradict everything I’ve just said but then that’s what makes it all so interesting. Obviously I’m right though. Obviously.

Hard working recreational diving instructors are the unsung heroes of the UK diving industry.

Bonus points for spotting the reference…

I remember when I was first thinking about becoming a diving instructor, which was pretty much as soon as I came up from the last dive of my advanced course, it seemed like one of the coolest professions it might be possible to have. At the time, tec diving was still a tiny niche area and the heroes of the scene were people like Mark Ellyatt who were doing immensely deep dives on open circuit. It was epic but hardly the kind of thing that was aspirational to your average recreational diver.

Fast forward 15 odd years and the landscape has changed. Tec diving has become much more accessible and popular but it’s aspirations have changed as well. No longer are the deep divers held up as heroes (albeit slightly bonkers ones), witness the outpouring of unpleasant schadenfreude after the death of ‘Doc Deep’ a couple of years ago. Nowadays tec diving has become fixated upon technique with the result that our current heroes are held in high regard because of their ability to hover without twitching an arse muscle instead of their achievements and accomplishments. I’ve already ranted about this more than enough times already

The upshot of this is that becoming a recreational instructor is not always seen as the top of the tree. It also occasionally seems there is a degree of snobbery aimed at recreational scuba instructors mainly centred round things like kit configurations, perceived lack of personal skill or lack of skill demonstrated by their students.

I believe this is because, as an industry, we have pitched tec diving as if it is a superior activity to pro-level recreational courses when in actual fact they’re just different. I don’t really care how many amazing deep dives you’ve done on CCR, it won’t make you a good diving instructor.

As an example, whatever someone might want you to think, teaching DSDs is not an easy task that anyone can do. Meeting minimum standards might be straightforward, but actually making a DSD enjoyable and safe takes an immense amount of skill and work, very little of which has to do with looking good in the water. In fact, if you spend time worrying about how you look, instead of looking at your students, you’re probably at risk of being distracted if a problem does arise. When you think that for many people a DSD is their first diving experience and the make or break over whether that person will continue diving, then it quickly becomes clear that instructor ego and a fixation on skill perfection is a toxic combination unlikely to do the DSD candidate or the industry any favours.

In fact, I’d go as far as saying that a lot of instructor trainers and tec instructors (me included) would probably soil themselves in terror at the prospect of taking 5 people through an open water course now. That’s because we’ve been spoiled by only dealing with customers who have their own kit and already know what they’re doing (most of the time..). This means we get to sit in our ivory towers bollocking on about horizontal trim when we don’t actually have to get a group of open water students through 2 dives in rented drysuits in cold water and then drive a van full of kit all the way back to the centre, unload it and sort paperwork before we finally get to drive home, often all for the love of it.

Last week I was at NDAC doing a tec instructor program. On the Sunday I watched an instructor with a big group of Advanced students running through his briefings. He had 3 dives to do (always a challenge with the van runs at NDAC) but he was funny and engaging and his students were clearly having a good time. On top of all this, he’d somehow found the time to be wearing a Pokemon costume over his drysuit for Halloween which his students also loved and at the end of the day I saw them all laughing and joking over paperwork.

I wasn’t in the water with them but all thing being equal, to me, that’s the true sign of good instructor and also a reminder of just how challenging and rewarding it can be.

Tec diving is a brilliant next step for a diver wanting to continue their education but it’s not always the best thing to rush straight into either. I see lots of divers who might otherwise have chosen to progress down the DM and Instructor path now choose the tec path instead. This is all well and good but I can categorically state that divers who have attained at least DM level almost always have a greater level of skill and comfort in the water than those who haven’t. It’s also true to say that whilst DMs and Instructors will regularly continue onto tec diving, which I think is great because it gives them a diving activity that’s just for their enjoyment, it’s rare for tec divers to come back and do DM or instructor, which is often a great shame.

Becoming a recreational diving instructor is an incredible achievement and being a good diving instructor takes a rare combination of skills of which in water prowess is only a part. Don’t let anyone let you forget that!

PADI IDC skill circuit in London

Yesterday I started an instructor development course at Aquanaut in South London with a staff instructor course beginning too. We had a great day in the classroom and then a skill circuit in the pool in the evening. Gary and AJ did a great job running through skills with Rich evaluating!

Why you should treat your PADI Instructor Development Course like a delicious sandwich…

sub sandwich

How many of you out there have heard of ‘Goldilocks pricing strategies’? It’s where you do the whole bronze silver and gold thing in an attempt to at drive people to the silver option (it’s not too hot and not too cold, geddit). It’s a system that works well but personally I find the whole bronze-gold terminology a bit lame. It’s also really, really hard to come up with alternatives (I was playing around with something to do with playing your IDC on a legendary setting but then realised that was lame too). The other issue is that there are so many ways of putting together an IDC that having three options doesn’t really do it justice.

So instead I want you to think about your IDC like a delicious subway sandwich (OK, I know it’s mainly processed facemeat on cheap bread but bear with me here):

What I want you to do is look at the basic IDC of AI, OWSI and EFRI as the standard sub: Bread and some fillings. If it’s a good IDC it will have some cheese too. My IDCs always come with cheese, in more ways than one.

The trouble is, that basic sandwich is only going to be so fulfilling depending on whether it’s a light lunch or a life sustaining source of fuel for a big night out. If that’s the case you’re going to want to add some delicious toppings, a tasty sauce, maybe get it toasted and if you’re really hungry you’re going to need it a footlong too.

Your IDC is kind of similar too, if you’re wanting to become a great instructor who’s good in the water and super employable, you’re going to need to add some stuff to the basic setup. For example, if you want to teach in the UK you really do kind of need your drysuit spec. And you’re going to need that straight away and you’re going to want to do it with me because I am going to really show you the tips and tricks for not only effectively diving a drysuit but how you pass those tips onto your students too. Then you can go forth and create your own legion of super slick drysuit divers, not a hoard of over-weighted Michelin men riding invisible underwater unicycles.

When you book your IDC with the London IDC we want to know what your plans as an instructor are, that way we can tailor make the IDC to suit your needs. Are you going to be working in the UK or abroad? Are you going to be part-time or full time, what are your personal diving interests. All of this can help us put the right package together for you.

So here are a series of tasty treats that you can choose to add to your IDC when booking it. You can have some, none or all of them which will get you a special overall price for doing that too. The idea is you can build the IDC that suits your needs (hopefully any eagle eyed instructors will also have spotted the contact, value and application to the current level of training in those opening paragraphs too. BOOOOOOOOOMMMM):

  • BASIC IDC (including AI, OWSI and EFRI): £1095
  • Speciality Ratings: £100 each
  • MSDT Package of 5 specs: £500 (including Drysuit, Wreck, Deep, Nitrox and S&R). Wreck and Deep can be run at the UK coast giving you hands on experience of teaching techniques at sea and from boats as well as introducing you to Chris Webb and the team at Mutiny Divers who can help you facilitate your own teaching weekends at the coast. As an added bonus for signing up for the 5 specs you’ll also be to do the following 3 specs free of charge: SMB, Nav and Equipment and in addition you’ll be able to get 5 speciality applications to PADI for the price of 4.
  • Self reliant student/instructor level: £300 This course goes into a great level of detail regarding gas management, carrying redundant gas, dive planning and self rescue which are all extremely important for a working instructor. I cannot recommend this course highly enough to new instructors. It will help you teach other courses like the dive planning segments of Open Water and the ‘Thinking like a diver’ sections of the Advanced. It also helps you meet the requirements for carrying redundant gas when diving in cold and/or deep water.
  • O2 Provider: £75. This speciality is incorporated in the EFR Instructor course and subsequently you will be able to add this into your rescue programs, which adds value and extra certifications for you.
  • Night Diver: £100. This can be run either at Wraysbury or at the UK coast during the summer and is a fun added bolt on.
  • PADI Digital Products Suite: Get 5 new touch products from PADI when you sign up to an IDC with me for only £90, a massive saving of £137. Digital products are definitely the future of the industry so having and understanding how they work is crucial for a diving instructor
  • PADI Business of Diving Course: £150. An essential extra days worth of training invaluable to any UK based instructor and also in particular very useful for anyone looking to develop a scuba diving business whether part-time or full time. The course covers all the HSE requirements of UK dive training as well as covering many basic business principles.
  • IDC/IE Prep: £150. An extra day either before or after the IDC where you’ll be able to practice any areas that you feel you would like to work on. These can be done in the classroom, open or confined water and can cover any areas that you would like from dive theory and knowledge presentations to confined water skills or open water teaching.

The total value of all these courses (excluding the PADI digital products which is a payment made directly to PADI and also the night diver which is offered on a seasonal basis) comes to £2,270. If you sign up to the whole thing (as in get your sandwich ‘with the lot’) the discounted price is £2000. In addition you’ll receive £50 off a Tec course if you would like to start down that road too!

In total you’ll receive over £500 worth of courses and savings by signing up for your IDC ‘with the lot’.

For the latest IDC dates, please look at the calendar or drop us a line directly. Now go enjoy your sandwich, mine’s a subway melt on honey-oat bread with southwest sauce.

 

What to Bring to Your Instructor Exam

kitchen_sink

Thanks to Maryse Dare for the inspiration on this blog post. It’s one of those things that gets discussed a lot on an IDC so I thought it would be useful to put it all together in one place. So here is a definitive list of everything you should and shouldn’t bring on an IE.

First of all, you are regularly told throughout your IDC not to fear the IE, to relax and enjoy it, that everyone is on your side etc etc but very few things with the word exam in their title are relaxing and enjoyable (the words general, common, entrance and also rectal spring to mind) and it’s unlikely you will be leaping out of bed fist pumping the air with joy on the morning of your IE. However, there are things you can do that will lessen the stress of the whole experience.

Most important is to be prepared and ensure that you have every thing you need.

  1. Paperwork: Your Course Director should give you a giant wodge of paper to take to the IE. Whilst it’s important to ensure that this is all filled out correctly, what is absolutely, vitally important is that you bring a copy of an in date medical form signed by a doctor. If you don’t have one of them, you will not pass Go.
  1. The correct attitude: There are minimum passing scores for an IE. This doesn’t mean that this is the benchmark standard for a diving instructor. What it really allows is some leeway for otherwise completely competent people to have a ‘moment’ during exam conditions. I haven’t seen many centres advertising for mediocre instructors so strive to be as good as you can and then go, you’ll find the whole experience much more rewarding.
  1. The right exposure protection: IEs are a little like adult film sets, there can be a lot of waiting around for your turn to perform (apparently). That waiting around can also take place under the water so it’s crucial that you are wearing enough gear to stay warm. Don’t decide to wear your thinnest undersuit so you can be ‘flexible’ or ditch the gloves to aid in knot tying if it means that 30mins into the dive you’re borderline hypothermic and your hands have become inoperable numb claws. It’s also important for the pool too. First off remember a wetsuit, I nearly forgot mine on my IE which meant I could have ended up doing it in my pants, something no PADI examiner should have to witness. Swimming pools aren’t always that warm either so consider a full suit (they’re better for horizontal hovering too).
  1. Your basic kit: Take all your usual kit including spares, now is not the time to stress about mask straps, buckles, o rings etc. The IE is also not the time to test your new drysuit or BCD. Making an arse first ascent to the surface entangled in a liftbag is not considered to best way to run the skill.
  1. Specialised Kit: You’ll need to ensure that you have all the other toys too. You will definitely need to have the following: Ropes (decent thick pieces of rope, not your shoe lace), liftbag, SMB and compass.
  1. A streamlined approach: You need to be streamlined in two ways on an IE. First of all your kit should be tidy and simple. Whenever I see an instructor candidate walking towards me in a giant flapping monstrosity of a BCD already partially incapacitated by neon yellow curly lanyards and retractors a small piece of my soul drifts away, lost forever in some corner of Wraysbury. You don’t need all the slates, just the slates you need. Also remember one of the great advantages of diving in a drysuit is that they have pockets. Put all your stuff in there, including your snorkel if you like, and be streamlined. Secondly you should have a streamlined approach to your presentations. In a real world scenario of course you might choose to spend more time elaborating on various key points but remember on an IE that it is unlikely that the examiners or other candidates have any doubts about how to clear a mask so keep your briefings and debriefings short and sweet.
  1. Tanks and weights: You won’t be supplied with any kit for the IE. ANY KIT.
  1. Your Game Face: This is an American expression. The English translation would be to conduct yourself with quiet, dignified stoicism. Running about flapping breathlessly with your drysuit round your ankles is not a good look during the IE.
  1. A calculator and an eRDP for the exam: You are not allowed to use your phone as it can be potentially used to cheat. You can use a calculator on a tablet and also download the eRDP app from PADI to use on your tablet as well though.

What not to bring to the IE:

  • A giant crate full of junk to use as non diving related training aid. We live in a digital age. Use your smart phone or tablet to access t’intenet and creatively illustrate your point.
  • Ankle weights: Take them off, you don’t need them.
  • Split fins: If you booked a swimming lesson and your instructor turned up wearing armbands, would it inspire confidence?
  • A hangover.

So there we have it, make sure you do all the above and you’ll be fine. In fact, you will definitely pass!*

*Please note, you will not definitely pass.

 

Candidate Spotlight: Dan Mills

Dan Mills

Our latest candidate spotlight is on Dan Mills who completed his IDC in 2014:

“I started diving in 2005 gradually gaining experience and progressing through the PADI system until completing Divemaster in 2012. I hadn’t really pictured myself as an instructor but I’ve always enjoyed training and coaching in my regular employment and I love diving so it seemed to make sense.
“I embarked on the IDC with Alex in the autumn of 2015 and passed the instructor exam at Whittlesey in the November.
“Of course we all learned a great deal during the IDC, fine tuned our own skills and really thought about the delivery of PADI OW courses and beyond. Alex created a relaxed atmosphere with room for debate, provided encouragement and fair critique and we developed considerable camaraderie within our cohort.
“I find I can get fairly frequent part time work as a freelance instructor for Aquanauts in Kingston, Diving Leisure London and Puerto Rico Diving in Gran Canaria. I genuinely enjoy introducing new divers to the sport, meeting people and making new friends.
“Since passing the IE, I have been lucky enough to spend time with Alex on Specialty Instructor weekends and attained MSDT.  As well as being an awesome diver, Alex is tremendously knowledgeable. His approach though is pragmatic and realistic and his slightly sarcastic sense of humour means that his courses are both enjoyable and memorable.  I have always felt comfortable checking my understanding of a standard or asking for advice or guidance. Even when it’s a topic from a recent blog (that I obviously missed) responses are patient, professional and generously given.  Nearly two years on, I’m looking forward to repeating the IDC – this time with the aim of becoming a Staff Instructor.
“Longer term I am planning to return to the Canary Islands, where it all began for me, and taking up the reins full time running the dive centre.  I’d like to think that while the London IDC made me the instructor I am, I will still be able to call on the support and friendly advice that will help continue my development as a PADI professional, even when I’m two thousand miles away.”

Why Become a PADI IDC Staff Instructor?

PADI IDC Staff Instructor is the last core recreational course before Course Director. It’s a real achievement to attain Staff Instructor so I thought I’d list three of the main reasons to push for the rating and also how to start:

1.Teaching IDCs.

PADI IDC Staff Instructor allows you to teach the Assistant Instructor part of the IDC. This is a great course to teach as it keeps you directly in touch with the standards and updates to the PADI system. It also makes you an invaluable member of the dive centre’s teaching staff as you can promote and aid the dive centre’s instructor development courses.

The London IDC has grown in success over the last couple of years and by becoming a Staff Instructor you can help to engage new candidates and also assist on the IDCs themselves. When we have lots of candidates, Staff Instructors are invaluable to the process. You won’t just be hanging about watching, you’ll be an integral part of the team, running teaching presentations and evaluating the candidates. I personally believe that helping run an IDC is one of the most rewarding jobs you can do as a diving instructor.

2.Master Instructor

After you attain Staff Instructor you’ll be able to begin working your way towards the Master Instructor rating. This relies on teaching AIs and also staffing IDCs. It’s not easy to attain and carries real kudos too.

3.Refreshing your skills.

Even if you’re not too fussed about teaching AI or Master Instructor many Staff candidates comment to me how useful they found sitting in on the IDC again without the pressure of the IE at the end. You’ll be able take everything in again as well as learn about new teaching methodologies. You’ll then be able to apply this to your everyday recreational courses. For example, we cover the neutral buoyancy recommendations for teaching all courses now including hints and tips for getting your students into trim and how to exercise control whilst neutrally buoyant.

What does the PADI Staff Instructor Course involve?

When should you think about staff? To start off, you’ll need to be a Master Scuba Diver Trainer which means having 25 certs and also 5 specialities. I did my Staff exactly one year after my OWSI and just after attaining MSDT.  There’s no great value in waiting until you have 100s of certs under your belt to do the course as, a bit like Advanced following on from Open Water, the information you’ll cover will be useful straight away.

The Staff course itself is fairly straightforward. We need to cover 4 short lectures and you’ll also need to repeat the exams scoring 80% instead of 75%. You’ll need to do a knowledge development presentation and also a confined water presentation scoring a minimum of 4 instead of 3.5 and 3.4. After that you’ll audit a full IDC learning how to evaluate the teaching presentations and matching scores with the Course Director. As such we can run the PADI IDC Staff Instructor course anytime we have an IDC running.

For more information have a look at the course page and also please do drop me a line!

Candidate Spotlight!

James Clack2

Our next candidate spotlight is on James Clack who completed his IDC with the London IDC at Diving Leisure London in 2014:

‘Having completed my divemaster in the summer of 2013 I was confident that a career in diving was something I wanted. After getting lots of advice from friends who are also dive professionals I was convinced to take the next step forward and complete my IDC and become a PADI instructor.

Due to the timings of the European dive season this only left me the winter to get this done. Having looked around London for an Course Director I came across Alex. I told him about my needs but also that I had no experience with cold water diving before. We met in the early January and began the course. Having proved my skills in the swimming pool we were able to focus on my main weakness; the written exams! Having never focused too much on the written side of diving I knew Alex would have to be patient with me but when the weekend of the exam came there were no problems and I passed. At the Easter I flew back out to Sicily where I completed my first full season as an instructor.

When I had completed this I knew I wanted to keep furthering my dive education so I made contact with Alex again and we made plans for me to take the MSDT course over the first weekend of November. Yet again time to dust off the dry suit! Following the completion of the course I was able to apply to a wider variety of jobs and I soon received an offer to go and work on the Pacific coast of Mexico. This was a huge opportunity and I completed a full 10 month season out there!

As for 2016 bring on Australia and the Great Barrier Reef!’

James Clack1

Candidate Spotlight!

Vanessa Baxter

This is the start of a regular spotlight on some of our successful candidates. Kicking us off is Vanessa Baxter who completed the IDC with Big Squid Dive centre in March 2015. After doing a bit of instructing in the UK, warmer climes came calling and now she’s working full time overseas as a Dive Officer at Frontier Tanzania located on Mafia Island.

Vanessa Baxter

In her words:

“Frontier Tanzania is a marine conservation outpost that works with the Tanzanian Marine Park, mainly the marine conservation reserve on Mafia Island to help protect and preserve the coral reefs and seas from over fishing and destruction from human activity.

My job responsibilities is to foresee all diving operations, including the boat maintenance, engine, safety and training, financial budgets and administration.

Alex couldn’t have prepared me any better for the IE and life within the dive industry! He has the ability to deliver massive amounts of information clearly and professionally, whilst maintaining an extremely laid back, fun and non stressful persona. His teaching techniques were also very modern and relevant to the PADI IDC. I can’t thank him enough for his patience and dedication during and after the IE!”

VB IE

Vaness Baxter passing her IE in March 2015!

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.