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April 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 44, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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More Views on AOW Certifications

get the cert, save the grief!

from the April, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

As we get older, our experience as divers increases, but our increased level of certifications may not. I remember well, young divers giving Stan Waterman (famous for shooting Blue Water, White Death) diving advice on a liveaboard, quite oblivious to the fact that he had been underwater longer than they had been alive!

Few older divers today have maintained logbooks.

Although I helped technical diving pioneer Rob Palmer write the first TDI Nitrox course, I failed to give myself a Nitrox certification. After I did a lot of dives with prototype Inspiration rebreathers, I made sure to get Martin Parker, the man behind the Inspiration rebreather, to give me a manufacturer's certification, as I knew that in a few years I would be disbarred from using one without the appropriate card.

In our March issue, we noted that many of our readers never got past the PADI OWD certification despite having done a great number of dives since. Randy Brook (Twisp, WA) told us of his experience looking into booking a cruise in Micronesia, which required an Advanced Open Water card for decent diving. This is the reply he got when he sent the Undercurrent article to Zegrahm, the cruise company:

"Nice to see they used your experience for this article. To give you some background, Zegrahm moved to require the advanced open water dive certification because there were a couple instances on our expeditions where guests who only had the open water certification put themselves and others in the group in dangerous situations because of their lack of experience and certification. Because we are constantly diving in new and exciting places all over the world, requiring the advanced open water has alleviated these incidents from occurring on our trips since. This is an instance where, unfortunately, a few poor divers 'ruined' the open water certification being enough for everyone else."

"I understand the article's point that there is a varying opinion and not all certifications are done the same way, but this is Zegrahm's diving policy."

John Miller (Lubbock, TX) earned his open-water certification from the YMCA in 1973. He's director of training at the Texas Dive Center and wanted to chime in, too, with important points.

"I get numerous divers who come into my shop asking to take the PADI 'self-reliant' course or SDI 'Solo Diver' or SSI 'Independent Diver' course or [want to] become a Master Diver or instructor. Each of the agencies has different yet similar minimum requirements, but you won't get it if all you show me is your OWD card."

"I find very few divers today with logbooks that they have maintained, whether paper or digital. Many courses require a certain number of logged dives and dives of a certain experience, e.g., wreck, drift, deep, etc. The dive operator that requests proof of an Advanced Open Water certification may simply want to confirm you can deep dive safely and other safe practices."

"Have you taken the sport seriously and continued to dive and learn? PADI divers can earn their AOW with as little as nine total logged dives. Whereas with SSI you won't get it until you have 24 logged dives and some special training. I once went to Tobago with Sport Diver Magazine and they required everyone in the group to have their AOW."

"A nice dive spot near Santa Rosa, NM, is a lake with rock crystals and freshwater sponges. The owner requires a copy of your AOW card even if you are an instructor! It is her insurance company requirement, and if you want to dive the lake, put up a copy of your AOW."

"Don't fault the dive operator who wants to see your AOW or log book. Know the requirements before booking your trip, and if it requires something like a Wreck Diver or Extended Range card to dive the San Francisco Maru at Truk, then get the training before booking the trip."

Typical of long-time divers, our publisher, Ben Davison, traveling under his real name, has only a PADI Basic card (that's not even Open Water), but finds his Nitrox card opens doors to the diving he wants to do.

Bill Gleason (Kentfield, CA) wrote to say that although he and his wife, Doreen, had been OWD certified for around 40 years, he recently got an AOW certifciation just "for the hell of it." He also mentioned a friend who got both OWD and AOW during the same five days in Bali.

"This makes him think he's super-qualified, but he totally lacks experience in dealing with raging currents, low air, equipment failure, assisting a buddy, and so on. We think there should be a mandatory requirement of 50 dives between open water and advanced certification."

Maybe the dive industry is going in the wrong direction, but it seems to us it's better to bite the bullet and get the right paperwork. You can probably do it during your next dive trip without making any changes to your dive routine. And it will save problems along the way!

-- John Bantin

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