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Learn To Scuba Dive – Part 3

Posted on : 16-12-2010 | By : Brian | In : Scuba Diving

Tags: , ,


This is the third in a five part post about learning to dive. In the previous posts I have discussed why you should learn to dive, is one training agency better than another and is it better to learn to dive at home or when on holiday?

This post will go further into the actual course you would do. As I said in a previous post I‘ve been a PADI instructor for a number of years and have taught in both the UK and in Thailand. The breakdown I’m about to talk about is from a typical PADI Open Water Diver Course regardless if it takes 4 days, 4weeks or 4months, what you learn is exactly the same.

A PADI Open Water Diver Course (OWD) is the first level at which, after qualification, you can dive independent of a dive instructor or professional guide. With this in mind you can understand that you will learn a lot on this course and it’s not until your Rescue Diver course will the learning curve be so step.

pool training

The OWD course is split into 3 sections knowledge development, confined water and open water. When you first sign up for your course you’ll be handed a load of stuff some of which will not make any sense to you yet. The book however will be your first introduction to the world of scuba diving and will be the focus your academic training.

Knowledge Development

Most schools now opt for their customers to do independent study and monitor how much they read and understood the chapter. Depending on where you learn to dive you may also get a DVD or video to take home that talks about each chapter and shows you examples of what it’s talking about. Your answers to the knowledge developments are used for monitoring how well you understood the topic and if you get stuck then the instructor only needs to go over that one area instead of waffling on about stuff you already understand. Good huh!!!

The five knowledge developments are broken down like this

KD 1

  • Buoyancy
  • Comfortable Ascents
  • Comfortable Descents
  • Breathing Underwater


  • Staying Warm
  • Streamlining Yourself
  • Diving Together


  • What’s It Like Where We’ll We Diving?
  • Care For Yourself
  • Care For Others
  • Solution Thinking Underwater
  • Offshore Adventures


  • Nitrogen Narcosis
  • Decompression Sickness
  • Dive Table Introduction
  • Using The Recreational Dive Planner (RDP)


  • Making Safety Stops
  • Emergency Decompression
  • Altitude Considerations for divers
  • Finding a minimum surface interval
  • Electronic dive planning

There is no time limit on these chapters but to proceed onto the confined water sections you must have completed the appropriate chapter in the book, for example to start confined water one you must have completed KD1. In theory this is great, in practise in a holiday resort it doesn’t work. You may find yourself doing 2 chapters then 3 confined water sessions or maybe only 1 chapter than all confined session in a day. This is something you will work out with your instructor.

Confined Water

To most people confined water would be a swimming pool but you may find your first training session to be in the sea. What is meant by confined water is swimming pool or open sea area that offers swimming pool like conditions in respect of clarity, calmness and depth. As you begin your training it should first be conducted in waters shallow enough to stand up in to build your confidence and ability then move on to water to deep to stand up in.

The confined water session are spilt into 5 parts, each taking the training a step further. This is a breakdown of some of the main things you will learn in each part.


  • Scuba Equipment & How To Put It Together & Put It On Safely
  • Breathing Underwater
  • Hand Signals
  • Recovering & Clearing A Regulator
  • Clearing A Partially Flooded Mask
  • Swimming Underwater
  • Using Your Submersible Pressure Gauge
  • Locating & Using An Alternate Air Source (AAS)
  • Ascents From Deep Water


  • Pre-Dive Safety Check
  • Deep Water Entry & Controlled Descents
  • Mask Removal, Replacement & Clearing
  • Air Depletion Exercise
  • Surface Swimming In Scuba Gear
  • Snorkel Clearing
  • Scuba Equipment Removal On The Surface


  • Fin Pivots, Neutral Buoyancy Skills & Swimming
  • Air Depletion & AAS Location & Use
  • Free Flowing Regulator
  • Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent (CESA)


  • Mask Removal & Swim, Replace & Clear Mask
  • Neutral Buoyancy Skills & Swim
  • Buddy Breathing


  • Scuba Unit Removal & Replacement Underwater
  • Scuba Unit Removal & Replacement On The Surface
Open Water Sessions

Now for the real fun parts with four dives in the open water. You are limited to only 2 training dives in any one day so these dives have to be conducted over 2 days. On your first day you will not go deeper than 12m and on the second day you will go no deeper than 18m. How these dives are conducted is where there is a big variation in the PADI courses around the world. Some will be done in fresh water quarry pits, some will be done from the shore of a quite bay, some from a busy beach or from a boat. What ever the location or type of water, there is still a standardised way in which the dives will be done.

The skills you trained for in the pool will now be practised again but this time in deeper waters but like the pool you will have time to get confident in your surroundings before you do any skills.

Ideally your first dive should only include skills that you would do in every dive anyway. The breakdown listed here is only what you may do on any specific dive and the actual dive you do the skill on may vary, so this is just an idea of what you may do.


  • Equipment Preparation Putting It On & Adjustment
  • Pre-Dive Safety Check (BWRAF)
  • Entry Appropriate To Location
  • Weight Check
  • Controlled Descent & Swimming
  • Ascent & Exit
  • Logging The Dive

OW 2

  • Buoyancy Control
  • Partial & Complete Mask Flood & Clear
  • Regulator Recovery & Clearing
  • Alternate Air Source Use Stationary & Assisted Ascent
  • Weight Removal At The Surface
  • Snorkel/Regulator Exchange
  • 25 m/yard Tired Diver Tow

OW 3

  • Cramp Removal Self & Buddy
  • 50 m/yard Straight Line Surface Swim With Compass
  • Free Descent With Reference
  • Buoyancy Control
  • Complete Mask Flood & Clear
  • Buddy Breathing
  • Underwater Exploration
  • Remove & Replace Weight System At The Surface
  • Remove & Replace Scuba Unit At The Surface
  • Debrief & Log Dive


  • Free Descent Without Reference
  • Buoyancy Control
  • Mask Removal, Replacement & Clearing
  • Underwater Navigation With Compass
  • CESA

Now you have the full breakdown of what you will do on your PADI Open Water Course you should be rushing out to book yours or start to look for dive operators at your next holiday destination. In the next post I will be talking about what to do after you have finished your course. Many people learn to dive on holiday and only ever do the four dives required for the course, so I’ll talk about what to do to get the best from your new skill.

Learn To Dive – Part 1 Why Learn To Dive?

Learn To Dive – Part 2 Where To Learn To Dive

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