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.