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Open water, then what?

Probably the most asked question by students following their open water certification is, “what course should I take next?” And I get it! You were just blessed by a disciple of Poseidon with the ability to take personal, life-saving-equipment underwater and experience the whole new world that was just opened to you. The sea is literally your oyster, and you want to know how best to augment your ability to enjoy her.

Unfortunately, there is no best answer here. Factors such as where you live, where you plan to do most of your diving, as well as your personal dive abilities play heavily into a sensical order of classes. 

Granted, there will always be a recommended flow: for example, you should probably learn how to dive a Dry Suit before taking on Ice Diving, just as much as Advanced Buoyancy would be recommended before you delve into Marine Ecosystems Awareness or Underwater Photography. But for the most part, I will refer to the paragraph above for the key factors in where to go next.

For example, if you live in the PNW or Canada, and you plan to do most of your diving and training in the chilly ocean or lake waters around you, then Dry Suit is going to be your best option. 

If, however, regardless of where you live (or if you live in Key West, Florida), you plan on traveling to tropical areas for the bulk of your diving, I would be more likely to recommend you start with a Nitrox course, with TDI Nitrox being the better option over Computer Nitrox.

Does it really matter?

It absolutely matters, unless you’re going to take all of the courses you need/want back-to-back! If you’re made of money and are just planning to smash out every course you can, then no: it matters not. 

HOWEVER… if you don’t live in an area with year-round 82º water temperatures, and snow is a real possibility in winter, then I’d choose Dry Suit over Nitrox.

The reality is, the ocean temperature can be as cold as 47º in the winter months, and lakes and reservoirs can get even colder! This is well beyond the thermal protection of the average wetsuit. Even diving dry we are hard pressed to get in more than four dives in any given day just because you never get the chance to warm up.

On the other hand, if all you do is travel back and forth to someplace like Cozumel for your dive adventures, or you live in Cabo, your dive opportunities will offer a more realistic chance for you to benefit from 32% EAN on hour-long dives. This would make TDI Nitrox an easy winner over the Dry Suit course you’ll want to take before going to visit your 8th grade buddy Martin up in Canada for some cold-ass lake diving.

What’s your point, Vanessa?

Well, since you asked, the point is this: while there are pros to taking any course which gets you better skills or abilities in the world of SCUBA, there is a sensical order to taking those courses if you can’t do them all at once. 

SCUBA Diving is not without its costs. Many out there sink anywhere from $600-$5,000 getting certified and acquiring their own gear, just to get started. The reality is, extra training will cost you extra cha-ching!

While I don’t think there is such a thing as getting too much training, I wholeheartedly believe that taking a slower approach to continued educational development makes more sense, just in general. 

In fact, outside of Dry Suit and TDI Nitrox, I am a believer in waiting until you hit around the 20 consistent dive marker before you even think about challenging yourself with additional skills and training. 

What are your thoughts?

I know that everyone out there has their own opinion, as well as their own pace they’d like to get things done. If you’re an instructor, what has been your experience with students? Do you have a recommendation for a “best case training order”?

As for the young links out there, what do you think? Was there a course you think was better to take than another, or presented you with more real-world opportunity for diving?

Let us know in the comments below. Maybe you’ll change my mind!

Until later… train hard, dive easy!

Doc Strand

An eight year Marine Corps veteran, Dr. Strand discovered Chinese medicine as a last resort when recovering from a military related injury. He has since dedicated his life to the practice of medicine; a doctor to all - a healer to many. In recent years he has turned to SCUBA diving as a meditation aid in his quest for ultimate peace. The desire to share that gift led to the creation of Spartan Scuba. Doc’s experiences and travels abroad impact not only his writing style, but his passion for life, scuba, and medicine.

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