After booking onto the PADI Open Water Diver course I was sent through the PADI Open Water Diver manual, Dive Planner (and booklet) and a DVD.
The manual is just under 300 pages in total. Whilst this may sound like a lot, it is well laid out and split into 5 sections, with useful tips littered throughout, diagrams, test questions and your knowledge reviews not simply 300 pages of solid text.
In this part you the course you are expected read through the manual, completing the test questions (it gives you the correct answers at the end of each set of questions) and then you complete a knowledge review at the end of each section.
You do not get given the correct answers to the knowledge reviews. Once you have completed the knowledge reviews you send them back and they are checked by one the instructors. Any questions you didn’t understand are explained to you, either over the phone or when you complete your pool dives.
I completed one section of the manual per evening. In all it probably took me 10 – 12 hours to read all of the manual and complete the knowledge reviews (I’m not a particularly fast or keen reader though).
After reading through the manual I was ready for my pool dives. As part of this there is some more theory, in a classroom format and a test; well 4 tests actually but don’t worry, it’s not nearly as daunting as I’d feared!
I completed my pool dives at Hebron Hall, Cardiff. After arriving and checking in with the instructors we were taken through putting our dive kit together by Dan.
There are a few parts to this, but we were guided through each step slowly before being shown the disassembly. We then had about 10 mins to practice assembling and disassembling our kit with help from Dan and the other instructors; Ray, Chris, Jo and Zani (I think, sorry if that is completely wrong!).
After we were comfortable putting the kit together (and the instructors were satisfied too!) we went and got changed and made our way to the pool for our dives.
The first thing we did after getting in the pool was to put our faces in the water and breath through the regulator. This is the exact point that I became hooked on diving.
After that we started to work through the various skills we were required to learn, which included:
After we had gotten the skills, that bought the first session to an end. It was at this point I realised that there were in fact only 2 of us continuing on to do the full Open Water referral course, with the other students actually on the try dive package.
The second session was held in the deeper end of the pool and was focused around safe entry / exit into and out of the water and buoyancy skills (these are not easy, but fun learning). There was also some snorkel work included. As there were only 2 of us left on the course we actually had two instructors for each of us students, so got one on one help which was excellent.
Once the instructors were happy we’d learnt the skills we had 10 – 15 mins to just have a swim (underwater of course) and practice our skills, with the instructors just keeping an eye on us.
The final tasks in the pool were our first ‘tests’
After that it was out of the pool to get changed.
The 2nd part of the day was based in the 'classroom', followed by a couple of tests.
Although I refer to it as classroom based theory, it was nothing like a classroom environment. I was actually the only person doing this part of the day (James, who had been doing the dives with me had actually extended the Try Dive so hadn't had a chance to complete the self study yet) so it involved sitting in a room with Dan, reviewing any areas I had questions about and talking about certain parts of diving. Whilst it was a very relaxed, informal setting I did learn a good number of things from Dan.
The final tests were 10 questions on the Recreational Dive Planner and 50 questions on things you should have learnt through the manual and the classroom theory.
If you have genuinely read the manual you shouldn’t have too much trouble with the questions, they’re multiple choice just the same as the knowledge reviews in the manual. My big tip is to read the question carefully! Whether it’s deliberate or not some of them are not particularly well written in my opinion (they’re PADI questions, not Quest) so you need to make sure you understand what they are asking. I managed to get 100% in both of them!
After some more general chatting about diving with Dan & Ray it was back home to prepare for my open water dives the following weekend.