What a certification should mean to you!
I would like to focus on what becoming a beginner diver is limited to doing and why. Also I would like to discuss continuing education, and why it is so important. I’m fairly certain that every diver is conscious about what their limitations are so I will not re-teach your open water diver course. However there are many people that exceed the limits of their training and need a little bit of education on how this is going to affect you, the dive industry, your instructor and especially your buddy.
Why are there diving certifications?
There is no real difference to any diving certification agency, they all adhere to the same standards, they all teach you how to SCUBA dive and they all give you a fancy little card with your picture on it. The reason you take your drivers course is not so you can go out and dive as deep and as long as you want, there are obviously various restrictions. The reason these restrictions exist is because people have been injured while doing the very activity you have been certified to do. Another reason that I don’t think a lot of people recognize, is in the unlikely event of an emergency, your life insurers would not uphold your plan without proper certification. So if you go wreck diving, stay within your limits, and you don’t have a wreck specialty your loved ones can kiss their compensation goodbye (not trying to be dark or anything just stating the truth).
Let’s get off the dark and gloomy side of this topic and move on to something a little happier. The other main reason for a diving certification is so that you can feel comfortable in the water, have fun and above all acquire new skills. There are very few sports in the world where you can learn so much, and you should take advantage of this knowledge because it will not only help you in diving, but in becoming a well rounded human being. You gain knowledge of science, physics, biology of animals and humans, kinetics and muscle memory, geography, navigation, technology, and so much more. Diving is like going to university and majoring in 12 subjects. Not to mention it’s a blast!
I have met many divers in the past few years that have decided that an open water level certification is sufficient to their needs in SCUBA diving. But then this same diver goes on to tell me about his most recent 100 foot (30 meters for those of you) dive along a beautiful wall that runs into the darkness. This really gets me going, I have to consider both parties here, but I would like to explain to him just how much of an idiot he really is. I’m positive that this topic will bring up a few arguments, so I would like to try and cover my bases. I agree that experience is the most important factor and if you had done 40 dives at one hundred feet before taking a more advanced scuba class you probably wouldn’t feel any different after. Now that being said, you are lucky that nothing went wrong, the reason the courses exist are not to take you to your maximum depth , just because you are certified to 100 feet does not mean you have to go there. You are getting dives with a professional that is trained to handle the most miniscule problems down to your mask strap breaking underwater. A few short training dives with someone that has more experience than you do should be looked at as a chance to pick their brain, ask questions you don’t know, and talk about good and bad experiences they have had. You are paying good money for experience to keep yourself safe, and above all keep your fellow divers safe (This is going to be another of my features about choosing a good dive partner, so stay tuned).
There are a hundreds of different courses you can take, so think of them as experience dives, not the ability to get in the water and go nuts. If you want to take risks and be a cowboy you could buddy up with Darwin and go sky diving or something.
I am open to discussion on this topic, so if you feel my opinion could be changed I would love to hear from you, or if you have any further questions about training please ask!