Diving really wasn’t on my mind until a couple years ago when Chandler and another friend were talking about how they were PADI Open Water certified, and since we are a competitive group of friends I started looking into diving and how to get the open water certification. After reading some stories and watching a few YouTube videos on diving I was instantly hooked, nothing was more interesting to me than the alien world that lies below our feet whenever we’re in the water. With your open water certification you are certified to dive down to 18 meters or 60ft….


1. Knowledge Development

There are three ways you can go about completing the knowledge development portion.

  • Online – With the PADI eLearning® system you can get started right away and knock out the knowledge development (academics) portion online by watching, listening, reading and interacting with a dynamic instructional program.
  • Independent Study – You are able to purchase the PADI Open Water Diver Manual and learn the fundamentals of scuba diving at your own pace.
  • ClassroomFind your local dive shop, walk in and tell them you want to start diving! They’ll get you signed up for the course, you will perform the knowledge development portion in the classroom at the dive shop most likely.
My PADI eLearning Record/Certificate

I was short on time and the local dive shop was a 30 minute drive so I signed up with the eLearning system and completed the knowledge development portion online. It was pretty simple… Basically when you sign up you get to choose a local dive shop you want to be affiliated with, once your done with the course you can show up, provide the certificate and begin your confined water training. Don’t worry though, if you want to take that certification to a PADI dive shop in Cambodia, it will be just as valid, this is what I did… Then you simply go through the content of each section with interactive eLearning program (videos, voiceovers, pictures, etc…) then complete the end of section quizzes and the final exam, which is graded.

2. Confined Water Dives (Pool Training)

So you’ve got the academic portion out of the way, it’s time to get wet! During the confined water training you will complete 5 “dives” in a pool. During these dives you will have to complete several exercises with an instructor. Since there wasn’t a pool available to us in Cambodia we did this training in shallow water on the beach, it was raining every single day! Below are the exercises your instructor will first demonstrate, than have you perform during the confined water training.

PADI Open Water Dive
Clearing a fully flooded mask, poor visibility as it was raining all day.
  • 200 meter swim
  • Tread water for 10 minutes
  • A vertical dive from the surface in water too deep in which to stand (free dive exercise with only snorkel, mask and fins)
  • Clearing and breathing from a snorkel upon ascent
  • Assemble, dissemble, put on and adjust scuba gear
  • A pre-dive safety check
  • Inflate/Deflate BCD
  • With face in water change from snorkel to regulator several times
  • Descend using the five-point method
  • Clear water from your regulator (exhale sharply and using purge button)
  • Using your SPG signal your remaining air
  • Recover your regulator from behind your shoulder
  • Recognize and respond to hand signals underwater
  • Clear a partially flooded mask
  • Clear a fully flooded mask
  • Remove mask and breathe for one minute, replace and clear mask
  • Breathe from a free-flowing regulator for 30 seconds
  • Demonstrate neutral buoyancy
  • Take off scuba gear and put it back on at surface and at depth
  • Disconnect and reconnect the low pressure inflator at surface and at depth
  • Swim and navigate with a compass at surface and at depth
  • Remove and replace weights at surface and at depth
  • Emergency weight drop at surface and at depth
  • Demonstrate the cramp removal technique for self and buddy (at the surface or underwater)
  • BCD oral inflation at surface and at depth
  • Out of air exercises: use alternate air source, provide alternate air source, practice buddy breathing for one minute
  • Practice a controlled emergency swimming ascent (CESA)
  • Use inflatable signalling device
  • Remove weights, scuba unit and fins in water too deep in which to stand and exit
  • Demonstrate proper post-dive care of scuba equipment by the end of Confined Water Dive 3

Don’t let this list intimidate you. All these exercises are done in the pool with an instructor to get you used to the equipment and breathing with the regulator. They should not be rushed either, if you feel like you need to repeat a skill to ensure your comfortable with it then let the instructor know.

3. Open Water Dives

Open Water Dive in Koh Rong Cambodia

Once you’ve knocked out the pool training it’s time for the real thing. You must complete the four open water dives in order to pass the course. Dives 1-3 go back over the skills above that you learned during confined water training, only now you will be doing them in open water. Your instructor will most likely emphasize the importance of buoyancy control and you will have a lot of time to practice it during the 4 dives. Besides learning how to breathe from a regulator (which is kind of common sense) and reading an SPG (Suba Pressure Gage), buoyancy control is easily one of the most important skills to learn as a new diver. If you are squared away by dive 4 it is usually a relaxed fun dive with you and your class & instructor.

It’s time to go diving!

PADI Pre-Dive safety check
Performing a pre-dive safety check on my equipment

Many people choose to stop at the open water level and that’s perfectly fine. However, if you choose to continue your dive training there are a whole host of courses and dive specialties (night dive, deep dive, PPB, navigation, etc…) to look into. The next logical step in your training would most likely be the Advanced Open Water course, as an advanced open water diver you will be certified to dive down to 30 meters or 100ft. You will further refine your skills that you learned in the open water course and you will pick up new skills that will allow you to expand and explore a broader variety of diving.

I have chosen to continue my training up to Dive Master and have no regrets so far. It has been an amazing journey and experience thus far and I am just now completing the Rescue Diver course and have 20 dives under my belt.


Joey is a West Virginian native who enjoys traveling and exploring the unknown. He has a passion for producing videos and photos along the way so he can share his travel experiences with others.

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