A Case for Advanced Training
by Alex Wolff - PADI OWSI 43422
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As an instructor, I am often asked Why should I take advanced courses when I can learn on my own. After all, I am a certified diver and I can learn to dive over time. Experience is the key to becoming a good, safety oriented diver and diving is one method used to gain experience (first hand). There is, however, another method to gain experience, learn from a more experienced or professional diver (second hand experience). There are advantages and drawbacks from both methods, First Hand and Second Hand.
Gaining experience using the First Hand method takes a lot of time. The psychomotor skills you develop while diving become part of you and remain with you as long as you continue to dive. Unfortunately, regardless of the number of dives that you do, you are left without a means to measure your progress. How many beach dives do you have to do before you are ready for a boat dive? How many boat dives before you are ready to penetrate that wreck? Do you really understand the risks involved with the new type of dive? Do you know all of the recommended procedures to complete the dive in a safe manner? Did your buddy remember to tell you everything you need to know? Will your buddy be able to recognize and react to situations before they become problems? Is your own judgement based solidly on fact?
Over time, the answer to all of these questions might be yes, but without formal training or being taken under the wing of an experienced diver a diver would probably have far more questions than answers. This is where Second Hand experience comes in. Most instructors have spent years diving before starting to teach. In addition to building their own first hand experiences, instructors take the various advanced, rescue, and specialty courses offered by their agencies thereby gaining valuable second hand experiences. They have the opportunity to learn the risks, safety procedures, and what the experts in the field (dive agencies) believe a diver at various levels should know prior to attempting that first night, deep, wreck or other advanced type of dive.
One strength of participating in advanced courses is that the minimum information you need to learn is outlined for the instructor by the certifying agency. Unlike your buddy, your instructor will not forget to tell you to exhale air into your mask to prevent mask squeeze during the deep dive. The knowledge the instructor can share with a class full of students probably exceeds by far the knowledge any one diver could learn from first hand experiences in many years of diving. (The course was designed by divers with many years of experience and instructional training.) During open water training sessions, the instructor has the training and experience to react to situations and prevent problems from occuring. You can develop the knowledge in the classroom and the water skills under the guidance of the instructor. The funny thing is, although it takes years to learn this information on your own, most advanced training sessions are completed in a period of less than two weeks.
Possibly the most valuable commodity we have is time. It seems there is never enough time. By enrolling in courses such as Advanced Open Water, Rescue, Deep, Wreck and Night Diver, you can save yourself a few years and start doing advanced level dives with the confidence that good training builds.
Alex Wolff, a SCUBA instructor, is Principal and Technical Director of Sea Wolff Diving. Sea Wolff Diving developed the Sea Wolff Dive Log for Windows, Sea Wolff Diving Buddy Procedures Workshop, SWD Recreational Intensive Training program, the SCUBA Serenity Workshop and consults on PC systems development for the dive industry.
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