New Scuba Diver Advice

Dive Deeper: Top 5 Scuba Courses After Open Water Diver

As an Instructor, I get students asking me about continuing education all the time. I get excited when I get to share with them all of the possibilities. See, the world beneath the waves holds secrets just waiting for new divers to discover them. But there is more, so much more to it. On your personal scuba diving adventure there are paths you can take and others that you can avoid. There are courses after Open Water Diver you can take to enhance your scuba diving experience.

Imagine extending your bottom time on stunning coral reefs, mastering buoyancy control for effortless gliding through the water, or encountering the magic of a vibrant night dive. With additional scuba diving training, you can refine your skills, explore new environments, and become a more confident and proficient diver.

Let’s look at the top 5 courses every Open Water Diver should consider taking. This is the same list I give to all of my students when they finish their Open Water Certification. These courses will help you become a better diver and enjoy your time underwater even more.

So, gear up and get ready to take your diving journey to the next level!

Nitrox Diver: Breathe Easier, Extend Your Dive

Remember that feeling of weightlessness during your first Open Water dives? Do you remember the awesome feeling of floating among marine life? Remember how it was cut short because you ran out of air before you ran out of desire to be underwater? There is a way you can extend those bottom times, allowing you to explore those mesmerizing coral reefs or shipwrecks in even greater detail. That’s the magic of Nitrox diving!

Enriched Air Nitrox (Nitrox for short) lets you breathe a gas blend with a higher oxygen content compared to regular air. This reduces the amount of nitrogen absorbed by your body, allowing you to stay down longer without risking decompression sickness.

The Nitrox Diver course equips you with the knowledge and skills to utilize Nitrox for recreational diving safely. You’ll learn about nitrox mixes, dive planning considerations, and how to analyze your gas blend using an oxygen analyzer.

About 60% of all the students I’ve ever taught end up taking Nitrox along with their Open Water course.

Peak Buoyancy Control: Dive Like a Pro, Effortlessly

If you have ever felt like you’re constantly battling your buoyancy underwater, there’s a course for that. Peak Buoyancy Control can turn you from a flounder to a streamlined dolphin cutting through the water effortlessly!

Mastering buoyancy control, however, isn’t just about comfort; it’s also about efficiency and safety. This specialty course hones your ability to achieve neutral buoyancy, the key to a smooth, enjoyable dive experience. You’ll learn advanced techniques for perfect trim (horizontal body position), minimizing air consumption, and maneuvering with finesse.

These two first recommendations are the two courses that really shaped how I dive. I was lucky in that I had an instructor who strongly recommended that the lovely and talented Kathy and I take these early on and they have paid for themselves many times over.

Advanced Open Water Diver: Dive Deeper, Dive Broader

Now that you’ve mastered the fundamentals, isn’t it time to expand your underwater repertoire? One of the best courses after Open Water Diver is the Advanced Open Water Diver (AOWD) course is your gateway to a world of exciting diving specialties.

Think of AOWD as a choose-your-own-adventure for scuba enthusiasts. It builds upon your existing skills and allows you to delve deeper into specific diving interests. You’ll typically complete five dives, including two core dives, deep diving, and underwater navigation. Then you select three elective dives from a wide range of options.

Each specialty dive introduces you to a new course. If you chose to take that course, the dive you completed with your AOW, counts as the first dive of that specialty. The AOWD course isn’t just about ticking things off a list though. It’s about gaining confidence in various diving environments, honing your skills, and discovering your diving passions.

Your AOWD class is an exciting time. Down here in Palm Beach, FL, most of the dive centers teach AOWD like this.

  • Day 1: Navigation at the beautiful Blue Heron Bridge
  • Day 2: Deep and then 2 specialty dives off a boat
  • Day 3: 2 specialty dives off a boat.

While you can only do a maximum of 3 training dives per day, on day 2 you end up with a fun dive for the 4th dive. Additionally, if you like, you can book the other boat for Day 3 and get 4 dives in on day 3 as well!

On a long weekend, you can walk away with your AOWD certification and 5 – 8 wonderful dives as well.

Deep Diving: Dive Deeper, Explore Further

Remember the awe-inspiring moment of descending underwater for the first time? Now imagine venturing further down, where sunlight filters through the crystal-clear water, revealing a new world teeming with unique marine life and breathtaking underwater landscapes. That’s the exhilarating world of Deep Diving! The Deep Diving specialty enables you to explore deeper dive sites not accessible by divers with just an Open Water certification.

While exciting, venturing deeper requires specialized knowledge and skills to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. The Deep Diving course equips you with the necessary expertise for responsible deep dives. You’ll learn about decompression theory, managing nitrogen narcosis (the feeling of euphoria at depth), and using specialized equipment for deeper exploration.

If you are planning on diving the Florida Keys, make sure you have your Deep certification first. Many of the best wrecks are at depths not accessible by divers with just an Open Water certification.

Night Diving: Dive into a World of Mystery and Magic

If you have ever wondered what the ocean reveals after the sun sets, the Night Diving specialty is one of the courses after Open Water Diver for you. Night diving unlocks a completely different underwater world, a realm of mystery and magic teeming with fascinating creatures that come alive under the cloak of darkness.

When night diving you can glide through a bioluminescent wonderland, where the water itself illuminates your path with an ethereal glow. You can witness nocturnal predators emerge from their hiding places, or see the mesmerizing mating rituals of marine life unseen during the day. Night diving offers a unique perspective on the underwater world, one that will leave you breathless.

The Night Diving course equips you with the skills and knowledge to navigate safely and confidently in low-light conditions. You’ll learn essential techniques like using specialized dive lights, maintaining proper buoyancy control for optimal visibility, and communicating effectively with your buddy in reduced light.

The exciting thing about night diving is that even if you’ve done a site during the day, the same site is totally different at night. New creatures come out to play, and you are more focused because your light focuses your attention.

Here in Palm Beach, FL, we are blessed to have the Blue Heron Bridge. While you cannot dive the Bridge every night, most local dive centers schedule night dives and night dive courses on the nights when it’s possible to dive. I have over 150 dives at the Blue Heron Bridge and I still love to dive it at night to see all the new sights.

Wrap Up

We’ve covered a range of exciting options, from extending your bottom time with Nitrox to mastering buoyancy control to venturing into the magical world of night diving. Remember though, the best course for you depends on your individual goals and diving interests. Consider what excites you most: exploring deeper wrecks, encountering unique nocturnal creatures, or simply becoming a more proficient and confident diver.

No matter which course you choose, one thing remains certain: by pursuing continuing education, you’ll be unlocking new experiences in the world beneath the waves and elevating your diving skills to the next level. New training and new skills will help you dive confidently!

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