Advanced Open Water: What You Need to Know

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Advanced Open Water: What You Need to Know

Once someone has completed their Open Water diving course they’ve only just had a taste of all that diving has to offer. Advanced Open Water is the next step in improving their diving abilities, allowing them to refine the skills that they learned in their open water course while opening doors to more exciting underwater adventures.

By the end of this course the person who took it will feel more comfortable in their gear, will have a better handle on underwater buoyancy, and will have added another five dives to their log book, all while under the instruction and supervision of a professional.

Is PADI Advanced Open Water Worth It?

By the end of the Open Water course, a diver will by no means feel like an advanced diver, but the Advanced Open Water course does not require a diver to be an advanced diver to take it. Whether the diver’s goal in diving is to become a Dive Master or they are taking courses for recreation with the main goal of being able to go dive on vacations, Advanced Open Water opens many doors for new fun and excitement while advancing a diver’s skills.

This course will include one deep dive and one navigation dive focusing on the use of your compass underwater. In addition to these two required dives, you will complete three specialty dives from PADI’s list of dive specialties.

The Difference Between Open Water and Advanced Open Water

Getting an Open Water Diver certificate is usually one’s first step into the world of diving. It mainly focuses on introducing a diver to using scuba equipment in a safe way as well as teaching beginners to plan and execute basic recreational dives.

When one finishes their Open Water diver course, it is normal for them to still feel uncomfortable underwater. Finishing the Open Water Diver course is by no means a ticket to complete confidence underwater, and is mainly used just as an introduction, or foundation, upon which a new diver can build their skillset.

Advanced Open Water is the next step up from Open Water with a primary focus on providing the diver with tools and experiences that make them more comfortable while diving. The course enables divers to broaden their diving horizons with an introduction to deep diving, night diving and a number of other scuba specialties.

Starting an Advanced Open Water course assumes that the person taking the course has had previous experience in the water, and has successfully completed at least 4 dives. The course consists of 5 open water specialty dives, each aimed at teaching the newer diver to be comfortable and confident in their diving ability.

Most divers who complete their Open Water class and fall in love with diving will go on to take and complete the Advanced Open Water course because it certifies the diver to go on dives that would otherwise be irresponsible to go on. Whether a diver is interested in wreck diving, cavern diving, night diving, deep diving, cold water diving or even altitude diving, Advanced Open Water is the next step in any diver’s scuba career.

How Long Does it Take to Get Advanced Open Water Certified

Knowledge Portion

This is largely going to depend on where you are taking your Advanced Open Water course, and which agency you are being certified by. The standard rule of thumb is that it will take you a few days to a week to complete and study the knowledge portion of the course, and another couple days to complete the application portion (diving!) of the course.

Some people can breeze through the knowledge portion easier than others. That can stem from either being a fast learner or having several dives under their belt between Open Water and Advanced Open Water. It is safe to say that one should budget at least a week of studying to pass the knowledge tests required to pass the class.

Diving Portion

The diving portion of the course typically takes 2-3 days. If you aren’t depending on taking a half-day boat charter to make your dives and are instead making shore dives, you can manage to do 3 dives in the first day and then the other 2 dives the following day. Typically half-day boat charters will make 2 dives per trip, which will lead to the application portion of the course taking 3 separate trips.

The diving portion of the course is also largely dependent on the weather. If someone is taking this course in a lake, the main thing that they will have to worry about is thunderstorms or temperature. In the ocean (especially on boat dives), there are a few other factors that can affect the timeline of the diving portion of AOW:

  • Surf/Waves
  • Current/Drift
  • Availability on dive boats in the area

All of this being said, a good rule of thumb is that the Advanced Open Water course should take a couple weeks start-to-finish including the knowledge and diving portion.

What is Required for Advanced Open Water

The name of this course is somewhat deceptive. It is not required that someone be an “advanced” diver to take this course. The only prerequisite in terms of diving is that the person signing up for AOW is a certified Open Water Diver.

Outside of that, the only requirement for signing up that is in place is age. Similar to the Open Water course, a diver must be at least 15 years old in most locations to get the full Advanced Open Water Diver certificate. PADI offers a Junior AOW course that is made for individuals 12-15 years old. Once that individual turns 15, their certification automatically gets updated to a full (non-junior) certification.

Advanced Open Water Max Depth

The main difference that most AOW courses will automatically provide a graduate right off the bat is the ability to dive deeper than they were able to on their regular Open Water certification. The limits of the AOW certification as it relates to depth are dives to 40m/130ft.
What do you do after Advanced Open Water?

Passing an Advanced Open Water course and receiving the certification really opens up the doors of scuba diving to all new divers that take it. There are several paths forward and sideways from here.

Enriched Air Nitrox

After getting a handful of dives under one’s belt, they should definitely look into getting certified to dive with enriched air. This will have the most benefit for divers that are limited on their dives not by the amount of gas they breathe on a dive, but instead by no-decompression limits.

Nitrox can be a great tool for divers once they complete their Advanced Open Water and is definitely something anyone with a passion for diving should look into.

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Specialty Courses

Taking the Advanced Open Water course automatically provides exposure to quite a few specialty dives, but there are many more that a new diver may find interesting.

The common specialty courses that PADI teaches are:

  • Altitude Diver
  • Boat Diver
  • Cavern Diver
  • Deep Diver
  • Drift Diver
  • Digital Underwater Photographer
  • Dry Suit Diver
  • Fish Identification
  • Ice Diver
  • Night Diver
  • Peak Performance Buoyancy
  • Search and Recovery Diver
  • Self-Reliant Diver
  • Sidemount Diver
  • Underwater Navigation
  • Wreck Diver

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Forward Progression

If someone were interested in progressing further to the upper echelons of the scuba diving world, their next steps would be to take the Rescue Diver course. The Rescue Diver course is a prerequisite to earning a Master Diver certificate and even branching into the professional or technical side of diving. Every scuba diver that enjoys diving should aim to achieve at least a Rescue Diver certificate.

Get out there and Dive

After earning an Advanced Open Water certification, the most important thing to do is get out and dive. There are so many experiences that an AOW certification opens up for a new diver and the best way to get a little better is to get more dives under your belt. As with everything else in life, practice makes perfect. Finishing the AOW course should push new divers to get out and make use of what they are certified to do. Dive in quarries, dive in springs, do boat dives in warm tropical waters or do shore dives.

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