“Does it really matter where I take my Certification course, or who the instructor is?”
Yes, it really does. Where and with whom you complete your Open Water Certification course have a significant bearing on the enjoyment and comfort factors of your future diving. And maybe more importantly, your life depends on the skills you learn.
Before you sign-up for the next available certification course at your local dive shop or on vacation, take some time to think about the type of diving you plan to do once certified, where you plan to dive and what sort of learning environment will work best for you.
1. What type of diving to plan to do most once you’re certified? Caribbean/warm water? Northeast wreck diving? Diving in your local lake or quarry?
Almost every dive shop offers an Introduction to Diving, Open Water Certification and Advanced Open Water course, thinking ahead about the type of diving you’ll will help you select a shop that will be able to meet your training, equipment and maybe even some of your travel needs for years to come. If you plan do dive 1-3 times a year while on vacation in the tropics, the local shop who specializes in tech and wreck diving may not be your best choice. However, if you think that you’ll probably do most of your diving locally, then the local shop with a group dives every weekend would be your best bet.
2. Do you learn best in small groups, independently, or does it matter?
Think back to the last course you took, whether it was work related, personal interest or even collage or high school. If you feel you learn best in a group setting, then look for a shop or instructors who conducts classes on a scheduled basis or starts a new class once a minimum number of students have signed up. If you need more one-on-one attention, look for an individual instruction or a shop that will start a class whenever they’ve got an interested student.
3. Is it important to you to have the same instructor for all your classroom and pool sessions?
Most shops have more then one instructor and they do tend to share the classroom and pool session responsibilities. As long as they really do work as a team and one picks up right where the other left off, having a team of instructors conduct your training can actually work to your advantage. Each instructor will have their own way of explaining things and teaching style. You’ll pick up different tips and hints, and if you’re not that crazy about one instructor, it won’t really ruin the course for you.
4. Where will you do your check-out dives? Local lake or quarry? On vacation? Dive shop sponsored trip?
It’s true that no matter where you do the dives you’ll be required to demonstrate the same skills. The things you need to consider is whether the environment (actual place, instructor, gear required, etc.), is one that you’ll be comfortable with. For some, it makes no difference at all. For others, it adds anxiety to the task at hand if, for example, their buoyancy is affected or they can’t move as comfortable in a heavier wetsuit. If you are going to get a referral and do your dives while on vacation, ask your dive shop if they can recommend a shop at your destination. It’s also a good idea to talk to the instructor you’ll be diving with before you book anything.
5. Can’t I just do this while on vacation?
You absolutely can. Just keep in mind that you will have to complete all the classroom work, tests, pool sessions and check-out dives over the course of 3 or 4 days. This won’t just be a couple hours each morning. There’s lot’s of reading, tests and water time involved. If you go this route, check out the dive operator and instructors as best you can before booking the trip.
Just because your best friend, spouse or neighbor got certified through a specific shop or instructor, it doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and, if you don’t feel it’s a good fit for you, thank them for their time and keep looking. You need to be comfortable your choice and do everything you can to ensure that your open water certification training will be the best it can be. Find a dive shop that you will be able to grow with and rely on for your equipment and diver training needs throughout your diving career.