New Cert, now what?

I completed my PADI Advanced Open Water certification over the weekend. The question is, what’s next?

Advanced Open Water

The Advanced Open Water certification is a continuation of the Open Water training with a focus on opening up new dive sites, primarily by expanding the available depth. My certification focused on five areas:

  1. Deep Dive (below 18m/60ft)
  2. Navigation
  3. Bouyancy
  4. Boat
  5. Drift

The Boat and Drift specialties were a fun introspection into pretty much the only dive types I’ve ever done: of my 17 official dives, 16 have been boat AND drift dives. Truthfully, I’d be a little anxious if I had to find an anchored dive boat by myself.

The Deep specialty opens up a number of new dive sites below 60 feet, and taught me a little more about the pressure at those depths. On paper, I see the math regarding depth and atmosphere, but it’s incredible to see just how much difference there is between 20m and 30m in terms of pressure. I also learned a bow knot, and how to tie one at 90 feet.

Navigation was interesting, although pretty easy considering the environment. Swimming a square with a compass is much different when you can see the full square in the 30+ feet of visibility of the Caribbean versus the 6 feet of visibility in a quarry. Considering I’ve only ever done drift dives, precise navigation has been somewhat less important. I will have to work on my orienteering on dry land so that I’m more comfortable with a compass.

Buoyancy was, by far, the most useful of the specialty dives. I’ve been pretty consistently using 10 kilograms (22 lbs.) since I got certified. However, I forgot that, when I did my certification dives, I was wearing a 3mm shorty wetsuit (short sleeves, short legs). Since then, I’ve shed the wetsuit since I’ve been diving in warmer waters. However, I didn’t shed the weight. Through some trial and error, my instructor helped me get down to diving with 4 kilograms (8.8 lbs.). My last 4 dives were at that weight and there was a tremendous difference. Far less fiddling with my BCD to adjust buoyancy, and a lot more opportunity to use breathing and thrust to control depth.

So many specialties…

PADI offers a TON of specialty courses. Wreck Diving, Night Diving, Peak Performance Buoyancy, Search and Rescue, and so many more. I’m interested in a number of them, so the question really is, what’s my plan?

Right now, well, I think I am going to review their specialty courses and make a list. As for “big” certifications, Rescue Diver seems like the next logical step, but it requires a number of specialties first. However, there is something to be said for just diving. Every dive has increased my confidence in the basics, making every dive more enjoyable. So I don’t anticipate every trip being a “certification trip.” Sometimes, it’s just nice to dive!