It is very common that certified Open Water Diver (OWD) divers who wish to continue with their diving training come to us and ask us what course do you advise I take now? Many take it for granted that the natural step is to take the “Advanced” course, but others wonder: what does this course contribute? Is this the best training option for an OWD? What other alternatives are available? What might be the most suitable option for me?
In this article we are going to try to present in a summarized way what are the possibilities of Continued Education that are offered to OWD divers when choosing how to progress in their recreational diving training, so that they can decide which of them best match their needs and interests.
DIVING SPECIALTY PROGRAMS
In general, Diving Specialty programs are aimed at providing the student with both knowledge and specific skills to dive safely, overcoming the limitations of OWD certification —maximum depth 18m, in daylight conditions, always with direct access to the surface and using basic scuba gear—. They are designed to increase the capabilities of beginner divers in all areas of recreational diving, so they truly are the path to continuing education.
By competing Specialty programs, you will be certified to dive in environments equivalent to those of your training, thus overcoming the restrictions imposed on OWD divers. Consequently, by obtaining a new Specialty certification, the legal coverage of your diving insurance will be automatically extended to cover your new capabilities (maximum depth, more demanding environments, breathing gases other than air,…).
SSI offers more than 30 different Specialties: Ecology (Sharks, Mantas,…), Diving Knowledge (nitrox, science of diving,…), Open Water (night diving, deep diving, underwater navigation,…), Dedicated Equipment (dry suit , scooter,…) and for diving in overhead environments (wrecks, ice diving, cenotes,…). To do most of the SSI Specialties it is only required to be an OWD SSI diver or from any other recognized agencies (PADI, ACUC, CMAS,…). Some more advanced Specialties also require the student to have additional training and experience —previous Specialties and / or a minimum of logged dives—.
In short, by doing Diving Specialties you will be able to live new experiences (night diving, drift diving, …), visit new diving spots (deeper, wrecks, overhead environments,,…) and use specific diving equipment (dry suit, nitrox, decompression stage,…), all in a comfortable and safe way.
ADVANCED ADVENTURER PROGRAM
The Advanced Adventurer SSI program (or its equivalents from other diving agencies) simply provides an introduction to 5 different Specialty programs (but not all). It is like a “tasting menu”, which allows you to “taste the flavor” of 5 different specialties so that you can decide which of them you are interested in.
It is important to clarify that this program does not carry out any specific training, either theoretical or practical, since it only consists of performing 5 different “adventure dives” always with an instructor. Therefore, this course will not certify you for any specific Specialty, simply because that is not its purpose.
Thus, even if the course includes, for example, an “adventure dive” of the Nitrox Specialty, as Advanced Adventurer you will not be enabled to dive with Nitrox autonomously whenever you want. To do so, you must complete the Nitrox Diving Specialty and be certified as such. However, if the Advanced Adventurer program includes a Deep Diving “adventure dive” (over 18m), it will enable you to dive to a maximum depth of 30m.
Some people point out the inconsistency of this, claiming that if there is no specific training there should be no associated qualification, as happens with Nitrox. In this opinion, exceeding the 18m depth should require the specific training of the Deep Diving Specialty, which provides the diver with the knowledge and skills to dive safely to a maximum depth of 40m.
Ultimately, the Advanced Adventurer SSI program (like its equivalents from other agencies) is not designed to provide specific training aimed at increasing the diver´s capabilities, but as an instrument to detect / stimulate interest in the continued education, which is developed through the different Specialty programs.
OUR EXPECT ADVICE
Based on the previous explanations, below we expose our professional advice aimed at those OWD divers who are considering progressing in their training:
- if you are clear about which area of diving you are interested in, the most appropriate thing is that you take the SSI Specialty (s) of your choice, through which you will acquire the specific knowledge and training to become the diver you wish to be. Remember that you have more than 30 alternatives available.
- if you do not yet have a clear preference, our recommendation is that you start by doing the Perfect Buoyancy Specialty (e-learning + 2 dives), which will allow you to improve your diving skills to achieve greater safety and comfort in the water, thus contributing to fully enjoy your dives.
- once you control your buoyancy well, and depending on your particular interests, you can continue your training doing the Deep Diving Specialty (e-learning + 3 dives), Nitrox Diving (e-learning only, no compulsory dives), Night Diving (e-learning + 2 dives), Underwater Navigation (e-learning + 2 dives) or even, if you are determined to develop your stress management skills and buddy rescue skills, we recommend you take the Stress & Rescue program (e-learning + 4 dives, together with specific training in First Aid).
- and if you lean towards developing your diving knowledge —to mitigate the fears and anxieties that come from the natural fear of the unknown—, we recommend you take the Science of Diving Specialty (e-learning only), or any of the Ecology Specialties, if your interest is to learn more about marine life and the ocean.