My version of what an open water class would look like..

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Posted by MHK on August 07, 2001 at 16:01:50:

I have been requested to provide my comments about how I would structure an open water class, if given the opportunity to set the standards..

My classes would very stringently resist the current trend towards discounted and streamlined education.. Streamlining is for under the water, not in the classroom.. Some agencies have it backwards, they streamline the class and then load you up with useless gadgets below water..

To start off with there would be no pleasant point of purchase, instant gratification cd-roms for sale.. If you want to know what I'm going to teach you have to come to my class.. That also will set the tone that what I'm teaching is valuable and specialized to meet the local demands of the student.. For example, I believe diving in Cayman is vastly different than diving in Northern California, and thus has it own unique demands, ie; full westuit, hoods, gloves, colder waters, surge, kelp etc. etc... Accordingly, the one size fits all cd-rom will by definition be delluded since it is based to the lowest common denominator..

In my view I would encourage meeting with the student prior to the class and telling them that they are about to place themselves into an environment that could potentially kill them.. I wouldn't sugar coat it and hide behind the * unlikely event* nonsense. I would do just the opposite and I would also let them know up front that there is a likely chance that absent a competent performance in class that I would NOT certify them.. I would also encourage them to be in physical shape since the swim tests will be designed to reduce the risk of panic and increase the comfort level of the student.. By definition that would require that they know how to swim, so I would eliminate the condescending swim test with the fins on.. The approach to the class would be that the student will need to be proficient, not just demonstrative, of the following skills:

Mask R & R in less than 10 seconds, then a 50 yard swim without mask and an ascent with buddy from 30' without mask;

Bouyancy control would be a controlled ascent and descent without using the line and not dropping to the bottom or surfacing.. I would want the diver to be able to float in a proper horizontal position for atleast 3 minutes at 15' without the need for a line..

Trim would need to be domonstrated before I would issue the c-card and I would not pass someone who looks like they are bicycling..

I would spend way more time on weighting than most OW instructors currently do and I would not allow a diver to overweight themselves in order to descend.. They either learn to do it while properly weighted or they would need to return for added instruction..

There would be NO computers at all in my class and diver's would learn Nitrox from the basic open water classes.. Accordingly, the decompression theory portion of my class would in no way resemble the lip service that currently exists..

The initial c-card would expire after 1 year and would be renewed only if the diver has completed 10 open water dives in that period of time.. Moreover, in no case would the card have a life of greater than 3 years and you would need to demonstrate that you did 30 dives in that period of time, with 10 being completed in the last 12 months.. Absent these continuing diving requirements you would need to do a refreasher class

Gas management skill would be taught that the diver at anytime during the dive would be able to guesstimate within 500 psi how much gas was in there tank..

The student would need to demonstrate proper kicking techniques and would be to do a different propulsion technique during each of the instructional dives, which would be atleast 10 dives, 2 of which would be beach dives.. I would want to see efficient flutter kicking, frog kicking and I would require that the student do a swim while staying 5' off the bottom and not silt it out...

Obviously the concept of *team*, *buddy* diving would be ingrained from the start.. In other words I would require that the diver appreciate and recognize buddy awareness.. Is the buddy's hose leaking?? Is his backup light switch on accidentaly? etc. etc. I would have one team memeber lead out and the other lead back this way they understand that they can't abdocate under water awareness to the *stronger* buddy..

I would require CPR/ first aid either during or prior to class. preferably prior to class..

Pre-dive planing and post dive debriefs would be the norm, not the exception..

Obviously I would be teaching using BP and wings and my primary method of teaching OOA's would be by donating the primary reg, which would be on a long hose.. Unlike current training where anything goes, I believe that the student is coming to me to learn what I have to offer and I chringe every time I hear instructors tell students to try whatever they desire and then make up there own minds.. They have no idea what they are doing so how do they no what to look for or ask about??? They are paying me for my expertise and I'll give it to them, I won't tell them to rent gear and then figure it our themselves..

One of the first things I would ask the potential student in the pre-class meeting would be: Do you want to learn how to dive or do you want to buy a c-card.. If I started hearing about * well, where going to Hawaii next week so we need it quick*, I'll send them straight to Sport Chalet and tell 'em to buy a PADI C-card.. If you want to learn how to dive then I'll teach you, if you just want a c-card and a patch then I'm not the guy for you..

As far as time goes, it would be about the equivalent of the combined number of hours for the open water and advanced and I would use 12 dives as the starting point.. However, I would do up to an additional 2 dives free of charge if the student isn't satifactorily completing the skills, and if after that they still weren't proficient then they would need to retake the full class, for 50% of the fee..

I would be hard pressed to discuss * discounted* loss leading shops that claim to teach you how to dive for $99 and if the student was worried about that kind of blatant marketing nonsense, I would simply tell them that they get what they pay for and move on in life.. I would also be very candid in my comments in that I do NOT believe that diving is for everyone and I'm confident that my failure rate would be much greater than the 7% or 8 % that was reported last week. However, I believe that most accidents that occur on the outset of training and why most new diver's do not continue diving is that in both cases the students lack the comfort level and confidence level.. Accordingly, when they left my class I would want them confident and not left with a business card telling them that I have an advanced class starting next week.. That sort of reminds me of every time I buy a major purchase [ car, big screen or what have you] you have the salesman telling you how great the item is, why you should have it and it's superior cratfmanship and then the first thing they do after you agree to buy it, is they then try to sell you added warranty * just in case*.. The same ridiculous principle applies in diving.. OK, I took your money, trained you and gave you a C-card that will last you for the rest of your life, but by the way you need another class next week..

Just food for thoughts guys and it's pretty hard to compare the added academics that I would require, but suffice it to say that after leaving my class you wouldn't be rushing out to buy $400 computers...


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