I said in a previous column that open water training was very difficult and the main goal was to weed out anyone that might panic under certain stress. Keep in mind that with the early equipment you really had to make sure you knew what you were doing the whole time you were underwater. You didn’t know when you were going to run low on air. When you did take your last breath you hoped that when you lifted the lever on your tank the technician who filled the tank did it correctly so you would have 500 psi of air left to get you to the surface.
Today, the training cycle has changed very dramatically and (this is a personal opinion) maybe not for the better. It seems that some of the certifying agencies have adopted a very condensed version of the training cycle. By that I mean instead of taking several weeks you can get your open water certification in as little as 3-4 days. I get the idea because it allows for the dive shop or independent instructor to do more students in a month than taking several weeks to get the students through. Is this better or worse for the industry overall, that yet remains to be seen. (End of personal opinion).
After your initial open water certification you can start to learn more about our underwater environment. I recommend furthering your diving education by taking more courses such as advanced open water. Advanced open water may differ from one agency to the next so find out what is better for you.
Then from there you can increase your knowledge with the specialties like underwater photography, intro to wreck diving, underwater hunting (spear fishing), collecting, cavern diving, and deep diving to name a few.
You can further your diving knowledge to the professional level in the scuba diving world like a dive master or instructor.
Now let’s look at some of the equipment and how it has improved: If we look at the typical regulator (the first and second stage) we see several cosmetic features that have changed. The first stage has made leaps and bounds over their grandparents; they are made with the latest and best materials such as titanium, a higher grade of marine brass and a higher tougher grade of chrome plating. The second stage is a modern marvel of technology. It is made with a higher grade of reinforced plastic molding, higher grade of silicone, and more choices of mouth piece materials are available. The modern regulator package in most cases are assembled and tested to take the average divers abuse i.e. not rinsing them after every dive and storing them for long periods rolled up in the regulator bag. (This will be discussed in a later column)
The modern regulators can be equipped with some style of 1, 2, or 3 gauge console. They can have an AI transmitter attached to the first stage so you can monitor the vital information as it transmits to your computer such as; gas consumption, nitrogen build up and/or PO2, your descent and assent rate.
In most of the older models you could only have an AI module or a console but not both. They would only give you either a piston or a diaphragm first stage. Now you have a true balanced piston or a balanced piston/ diaphragm first stage. There are a couple companies that offer a balanced piston/ balanced diaphragm with a balanced second stage.
You can see that the training has adapted to the equipment.
In the next column I will discuss in a little more detail some of the specialties and furthering your scuba education.
Until next time, remember: “An out of air emergency to a scuba diver is not as bad as an out of air emergency to a sky diver.”
NOTE: This is a repeat of a column that appeared in March 2022.