The PADI Open Water Diver course has traditionally been the most popular foundational diving qualification. For anyone over 10 years old, with basic health, fitness and swimming skills, it provides you with the core skills. If you pass successfully, it’s also the first step to beginning your scuba-diving adventures.
Some people end their training there, happy to enjoy diving within the open-water limits. Those who would like to expand their scuba-diving knowledge and increase their depth limits, though should pursue the PADI Advanced Open Water course. And, with recent revisions, the course now offers more options than ever, aiming to turn you from an enthusiastic novice to someone who “thinks like a diver.”
Should you take Advanced Open Water?
The draw of the PADI Advanced Open Water course has historically been two-fold. First, the class certifies participants to a maximum depth of 100 feet (30 m) It builds on the PADI Open Water diver course’s dive- and gas-planning procedures, utilizing no-stop limits and the rule of thirds to safely plan and execute dives at depths beyond introductory limits. Having the Advanced Open Water rating has always been key in preparation for (and often a prerequisite of) a liveaboard dive trip.
Second, the PADI Advanced Open Water Course allows students to try five different specialty areas of diving, each known as an “Adventure Dive.” The Deep and Underwater Navigation Adventure Dives have always been — and sensibly remain — mandatory requirements of becoming a PADI Advanced Open Water diver. However, that still leaves room for three elective Adventure Dives. Whether you’re interested in honing your buoyancy and finning skills, learning how to execute a night dive, or navigating your way on a shipwreck, the AOW course can give you a taste.
Moreover, the individual Adventure Dives completed within the AOW course offer credit toward the full specialty diver rating for that particular area. For example, if you complete the Wreck Adventure Dive as one of your five, you will receive credit for the first of the four qualifying dives of the PADI Wreck Diver specialty diver certification.
Now, more than ever, the Adventure Dive selection is vast. Divers can — environment and logistics permitting — undertake Adventure Dives in the following areas:
- Digital Underwater Imaging
- Dive Against Debris (AWARE)*
- Dry Suit
- Enriched Air*
- Fish ID
- Full-Face Mask*
- Peak Performance Buoyancy
- Search and Recovery
- Shark Conservation (AWARE)*
- Underwater Naturalist
* Must be conducted by a Specialty Diver Instructor
Changes to the Advanced Open Water course
Recent revisions to the course include a new “thinking like a diver” area of training. To encourage divers to see the PADI Advanced Open Water course as more than simply a gateway to an increased depth limit, the course now emphasizes key concepts such as careful planning of dive objectives, planning depth, time and gas turn-points, situational awareness, managing task loading and practicing good habits above and below the surface.
PADI has also revised the training materials, which now feature updated photos and media. A popular digital-learning option means divers can study on a tablet rather than using books and papers. If you’re an Open Water Diver there has never been a better time to progress to the next stage and extend your scuba-diving education. Re-imagined, revised and updated with an emphasis on enjoyment, knowledge and ‘thinking like a diver,’ the PADI Advanced Open Water course is now an even-more rounded introduction to what lies beyond introductory diver training.