Many people get their basic scuba certification on a whim or for a specific trip or purpose but wind up falling in love with the sport and the underwater world during their Open Water course. As one these new divers what to do next can be a little confusing. You might want to keep diving but are not sure how to go about doing that. Fortunately, there are many options available to help you keep exploring and learning and having fun in the water.
Below are 5 tips to keep you diving after your open water scuba certification.
1. Continue with your diving education
Most divers opt to take more dive training as a way to keep diving at first. The advantage of taking this approach is that you not only increase your own skill level, but you meet like-minded divers, often at a similar skill level to yourself. These fellow students can become perfect dive buddies once the course is finished because you will have similar training and can practice your new skills together.
You can take several different directions with your training. PADI Specialty courses will help you hone certain specific skills and often permit you to do certain things once certified, like use Enriched Air Nitrox or rent and safely use a drysuit. The Advanced Open Water course acts as a bit of a sampler with Adventure Dives and focuses on your navigation skills and introduces deeper depth limits (and the narcosis and gas planning that accompanies them). For a change of pace, divers may opt to refine their existing skill set and improve their buoyancy, trim and propulsion techniques and maybe even start down the path to technical or cave diving through courses like the GUE Primer or GUE Fundamentals.
2. Invest in new scuba gear or camera equipment
Need an excuse to get in the water and blow a few bubbles? Buying new dive gear will give you that excuse. It sounds a little frivolous, but it is true for a couple of reasons. First of all, dive gear rentals can add up fairly quickly, so despite an initial investment, owning your own scuba equipment is a more cost effective way to get out diving on a regular basis. Second of all, it’s exciting! Whenever I get a new piece of dive gear I cannot wait to get in the water and try it out and do so over and over again. I know I am not alone in this compulsion. New equipment is fun! And diving is all about fun! Thirdly, owning your own dive equipment means that you can select pieces that are best suited and fitted to you and your diving. It means that you never have to worry about equipment being available to rent and it means getting comfortable in the performance of a piece of equipment in and out of the water. And if you’re comfortable, you’re going to be much more eager to plan your next dive.
3. Travel to new local and exotic diving destinations
A great way to stay excited about diving is to plan a trip that either includes a bit of diving or one that is entirely centered around diving. New divers may not know that it is possible to book liveaboard dive vacations in many parts of the world, such as the Caribbean and South Pacific, but these diving specific boat trips are hugely popular with divers. They can be casual and economical in some regions or essentially luxury dive cruises. These trips are popular for various reasons, but the real appeal is that they get divers to remote sites comfortably and allow for a lot of diving; two factors that are limited on day trips.
Getting out to explore more extended regions of your “local” diving scene can be a valuable way to stay interested and keep things fresh. You can sign up for shop led weekend trips or day charters. These are great ways to stay enthusiastic about your local dive environment. Typically these trips are offered to the areas which feature the best diving and/or for specific types of dives or marine life (think drift or wreck dives and sea lions or sharks). Much like liveaboards in exotic locations (although there are a handful of Canadian liveaboards, as well), dive retreats allow the diver to concentrate on diving. Many include meals and accommodations or make them easily accessible. The great thing about these trips is that you’ll meet other divers that are keen on diving in your region and may make some lifelong dive buddies or simply be able to exchange tips and tricks on gear, dive sites, techniques, marine life identification, etc that is applicable to the type of diving you do.
4. Stay connected with your local dive shop
If an extended trip is not feasible, stay connected with your local scuba dive shop. If they are like us, they likely run local fun dives to a variety of shore sites. Local scuba shops provide a divemaster or instructor on site that will conduct site orientations for those new or relatively unfamiliar with a site. The staff member will also have emergency equipment (oxygen and first aid) available along with a save-a-dive kit and spare gear. The instructor or divemaster will also usually conduct a guided dive for those that wish to be led/have the assistance of a dive professional and help organize buddy teams for those without buddies. Again, this is an excellent way to connect with new dive buddies in the area.
5. Find and stay connected with your local diving community
Once you’ve gained some confidence and an understanding of your local environment why not head out with a competent dive buddy and explore with their knowledge and/or the help of a thorough guide book and underwater compass? Just make sure you check the tides and possibly have a back-up plan before you go (in case access is restricted, parking is limited, etc). Dive within your limits and be aware of what you’re getting yourself into before jumping into a new site. Come by the store or give us a quick call or talk to experienced local divers to get details on the potential hazards and points of interest at a site that is new to you.
One of the advantages of living in the information age is that through social media we can connect much easier these days with likeminded individuals. Online resources such as community boards and social media sites offer a variety of ways to find other divers in your area that may be looking for a diver.