Thinking Like a Diver: Learning for Life

PADI Digital Underwater Photography Course

By John Kinsella

It’s easy to underestimate this: The skills and attitudes divers learn during the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course really can help them lead better lives overall.

The Thinking Like a Diver section, for example, encourages divers to think about what they’re doing before, during and after every Adventure Dive in the same way more experienced divers do. It focuses on principles such as gas management, situational awareness and buddy communications. It helps divers better understand how to improve their dives and manage risks.

It’s important stuff, and PADI Pros diligently help their charges “think like a diver” by discussing how it applies to each Adventure Dive. It helps the dive go smoothly; divers think through the dive in advance, dive the plan, and consider what went well (and what didn’t) after. It’s a great skill, and a great attitude, and it has applications far beyond the particular dive and scuba diving itself.

Make a point of thinking like a dive pro by taking a minute or two to relate how the knowledge, skills and attitudes developed during the Advanced Open Water Diver course apply to people’s daily lives. Show them that the approach and process they learn to use while planning the Deep dive is just as relevant to a hike up the side of a mountain or a first subway trip across a new city. Make a point of mentioning that what they get out of the Digital Underwater Imaging dive will apply to, and may even improve, every subsequent image they make, either under or above water.

It doesn’t take much. Even a brief mention that relates the immediate dive activity to a similar situation in a broader life context will add great value to your course and will get people thinking. It will help them realize that their investment in dive training has benefits they might not have realized. And you’ll find it’s a great way to get divers interested in the related Specialty Course too.

AOW: Search and Recovery Dive Helps People Find Themselves


By John Kinsella

We were waiting excitedly on the dock for the lead Course Director to arrive. We were a bunch of newly-trained OWSIs and this was a dive for our Search and Recovery Specialty Instructor course; we were looking forward to it after an intensive IDC together. This was quite the dive site for a search and recovery dive too. It was inside a marina in an area about the size of football pitch that had been cordoned off especially for our use. We had spent the last 15 minutes hypothesizing as to the actual bottom content: murder weapons and worse were the latest thoughts. One thing we all agreed was that there’d be a ton of miscellaneous rubbish down there.

As the CD walked down the gangway towards us, he wriggled his wedding ring from his hand and tossed it casually into the middle of the open water while explaining that he had so much confidence in us that he wasn’t worried about having to mention this to his wife.

Talk about an attention getter. I remember the moment in perfect clarity to this day. There was a collective gasp as we realized that we were now staring at the expanding rings that marked the last know location of the first object we were to recover that day.

In my view, the Search and Recovery Adventure Dive and Specialty are right up there with Rescue Diver as the most rewarding courses in the PADI System. There’s something bordering on pure magic when divers spot a long lost object underwater and bring it to the surface. Successful search and recovery takes discipline, effort and careful planning in addition to solid dive skills.

Much of this comes in handy other times too. Lost your keys? Figure out where you last saw them and start there. Search each area you look thoroughly so you don’t have to search it again. Have you more than one searcher? Divide up the search areas. It’s basically the same approach we took that day to finding the wedding ring in the marina.

Make sure your Advanced Open Water Divers get to know the rewards of Search and Recovery Diving, in addition to enjoying some rewarding diving, they’ll build skills that will stay with them forever. And find the ring we did, only to discover it was a cheap plastic substitute.

Advance Equipment Sales with the New Advanced Open Water Diver Course

USA Tour

There’s a lot to like about the new PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course but, from a business bottom line perspective, one of the most important benefits is that it opens up a plethora of potential new equipment sales. In fact, this revised program could well be the ultimate example of the interconnection between continuing education and equipment sales.

You’re doubtless already capitalizing not only on the sale of the associated PADI products but also on the “standard” Advanced Open Water Diver related equipment sales. While, ideally, Advanced Open Water Diver student divers are fully equipped with personal gear, many of them are still getting there, and it’s not uncommon for divers fresh from their Open Water Diver course to rent some of their basic equipment. For Advanced Open Water Diver, they’ll need knives, dive lights, DSMBs, compasses and so on that may not be available from the rental department. Not stocking and selling a selection of these essential items is akin to throwing money out the window.

In addition, think for a moment about some of the new opportunities you’ll have. Depending on your specific location and market, it’s possible to get divers started in sidemount, ice, cavern, full face mask, DPV or any other standardized specialty during the Advanced Open Water Diver course. PADI Members with the appropriate qualifications and relevant experience can use the new Advanced Open Water Diver course to introduce divers to these equipment intensive activities. (If you or your staff don’t have the qualifications, but do have the interest and enthusiasm, this would be an excellent time to remedy that with a little professional-level continuing education.)

full-face-mask-diverFocusing on just one of the many opportunities, the Full Face Mask Diver course really highlights the new sales potential. Originally the preserve of the commercial or public safety diver, full face masks are becoming increasingly relevant in a recreational context. Aside from just being plain fun, they have several advantages over standard masks, including the ability to add inwater communications and make diving in cold water more enjoyable. All it takes to get even experienced divers excited (and fill Full Face Mask Diver courses) is to display and promote some of the full face masks available from manufacturers such as Ocean Reef, Poseidon, Scubapro, Ocean Technology Systems (OTS) and Interspiro. Better yet, simply use full face masks during multiple-level training sessions in confined or open water and stand by for the tidal wave of interest.

Have a look – there’s a lot of detail in the 3rd Quarter 2016 The Undersea Journal – at the new list of Adventure Dives and standardized specialties associated with the new Advanced Open Water Diver course, and find a few new and existing equipment sales opportunities that your bottom line, and your divers, will thank you for.

Implementing the Updated PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Course

There’s a lot to like about the revised and updated PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course: the obvious and necessary content updates, the new Thinking Like a Diver section, the cool new PADI Advanced Open Water Diver materials and, from an immediate implementation perspective, the fact that the new course is at once new and exciting yet still essentially familiar. Perhaps the neatest benefit and the greatest opportunity is the streamlined relationship between the Adventure Dives and PADI Specialties.

Latin America

Now’s the perfect time to review the specialties you (and your staff) teach and seriously consider expanding what you offer. Evaluate the specialty dive opportunities in your area, and those you are particularly passionate about, which you couldn’t link to the previous Advanced Open Water Diver course. This is the perfect opportunity to create your own special course that reflects your unique area and benefits, and which excites divers.

Now, the first dives of all standardized PADI or AWARE Specialty Diver courses may be offered as Adventure Dives. You can offer these “new” Adventure Dives – for example, an Ice Dive or a Dive Against Debris™ Adventure Dive – if you’re certified as an instructor in the specialty, and the student diver meets the specialty prerequisites. (Also, while the PADI Rebreather Diver course is not a PADI Specialty Diver course, the first, task-intensive, confined water dive counts as an Adventure Dive.) There’s a complete list of the revised Adventure Dives and the standardized PADI Specialty Diver courses, and a lot more information, in the 3Q 2016 The Undersea Journal.

USA Tour

A few obsolete Adventure Dives are gone, but you can offer more than ever before. A great example is the Digital Underwater Imaging Adventure Dive, which replaces both the Underwater Photography and Underwater Videography Adventure Dives. This new dive focuses on modern cameras that shoot both stills and video, and develops basic skills and knowledge in both – though you and your student divers may favor one or the other. The dive still credits as the first dive in the PADI Digital Underwater Photographer course, even though it differs from the specialty (which will be revised in the future).

The opportunities are nearly endless: Depending upon your location and market, you can get divers started in sidemount, ice, cavern, full face mask, delayed surface marker buoy (DSMB), diver propulsion vehicle (DPV), enriched air or any other standardized specialty using existing specialty materials.

Tie in the new Adventure Dives by having the PADI Specialty Instructor ratings for the new opportunities, and grab this unique moment to make your new Advanced Open Water Diver course truly special.

To learn more about when the Advanced Open Water Diver products will be available, read “Introducing the New PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Program.”

Introducing the New PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Program

The revised PADI Advanced Open Water Diver program launches this September, and while the changes are significant, the essence of the course remains untouched. Think of it as a shiny new car, but one that’s the same model as your old familiar vehicle.


Three goals drove the revision:

  1. PADI updated the content. Dive equipment and techniques have changed since the release of the last version of the course and content is updated to reflect this. Now, for example, there are references to electronic compasses in navigation and no references to film in digital underwater imaging. Also, the first dive
 of all standardized PADI Specialty Diver courses, Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris™ and Shark Conservation Specialty courses and the PADI Rebreather Diver course credit as Adventure Dives. This means more dive opportunities no matter what or where you’re teaching.
  2. PADI modernized the instructional products. The instructional tools are now as state-of-the-art as the devices student divers access them from. While a paper manual will still be available, the revised program introduces a new, mobile-friendly PADI Advanced Open Water Diver digital product. All new images and video make these instructional products pop.
  3. PADI accelerated development of the thinking skills divers acquire through experience to build confident and conservative divers. There’s a new Thinking Like a Diver section that focuses on principles such as gas management, situational awareness and buddy communication. This encourages divers to think about what they’re doing before, during and after every Adventure Dive in the same way more experienced divers do. Consequently, they better understand how to improve their dives and manage risks.


There’s a lot that didn’t change, too. Philosophically, the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course still gives new (and experienced) PADI Open Water Divers the world over continued training and skill development under professional guidance. It’s still focused on introducing specialty diving. The Deep and Underwater Navigation Adventure Dives, plus three other Adventure Dives, are still required for Advanced Open Water Diver certification, and any three Adventure Dives qualify a diver for Adventure Diver.

When will the new Advanced Open Water products be available?

  • Advanced Open Water Diver Manual and DVD (English): September, 2016
  • Advanced Open Water Diver eLearning Online (with mobile-responsive capabilities): 1Q 201
  • Advanced Open Water Diver eLearning Offline (built on updated mobile-responsive eLearning platform): 3Q 2017

The revised PADI Advanced Open Water Diver improves on an already great program, is easy and familiar to teach, and offers even more of the exploration, excitement and experiences that divers look for. Take a look at the third quarter 2016 The Undersea Journal, which has several relevant and detailed articles, and make a point of implementing the new program as soon as the materials are available.

Two New Adventure Dive Options

Looking to add some variety to your Adventures in Diving course? There are two new adventure dives you can offer: AWARE Shark Conservation and Recreational Sidemount.

  • Dive One of the AWARE Shark Conservation Specialty can be used as an Adventure Dive in the AOW program.
  • Similarly,  PADI Sidemount Instructors may use Dive One of the Sidemount specialty as one of the AOW elective dives.

Only instructors with these specialty ratings may offer the adventure dives (see additional info below).

For complete details on the new adventure dives, please see page four of the 2nd quarter 2012 Training Bulletin.

The 2QTB also says: Look for the incorporation of these two new Adventure Dives into the PADI Adventures in Diving manual, log books and other PADI materials when revision schedules allow. I don’t have any additional info on when student materials may be available, so in the meantime:

Materials for the Project AWARE Shark Conservation Specialty can be downloaded free from Project AWARE’s website. Any PADI Instructor in Teaching Status (OWSI or higher) may apply for the AWARE Shark Conservation Diver Distinctive Specialty Instructor rating. For further detail, reference Specialty Instructor in the Professional Membership section of your PADI Instructor Manual and/or download the instructor guide.

For more information on the Sidemount specialty (including student knowledge reviews), please review the Sidemount Instructor outline – product 70490. To qualify as a PADI Recreational Sidemount Instructor, you must be a teaching-status PADI OWSI or higher and either:

  • Complete Specialty Instructor Training with a PADI Course Director + 10 logged sidemount dives.
    (method one application)
  • Provide proof of experience (method two)
    • Sidemount Diver certification + 20 logged sidemount dives 
    • Proof of 50 logged sidemount dives.

How much are the specialty instructor application fees?
Here is a link to PADI Americas’ 2012 Instructor application fees.

Related post:
What are the most popular elective dives for Advanced Open Water? Check out our poll results.

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