Having fallen in love with SCUBA diving after trying it in Udupi, I started making inquiries about the certification my instructors had spoken of. I spoke to the person who had taken me diving, and he told me that since he too was an instructor, he could help me with it. After some days of talking and arranging, my friend and I found ourselves on a bus to Tuticorin (Thoothukudi) in Tamil Nadu, heading off to become certified divers.
What is the SSI Open Water Diver course?
When you go diving for the first time, 99% of the time you are diving with no knowledge or skills. You go for what is known as a try dive where an instructor holds on to you the entire time, and you just look around.
In the simplest of terms, the open water diver course eliminates the need for that instructor. Once you do this course, you are certified to dive on your own. This does not mean alone; it means that you are free to dive on your own if a divemaster or an instructor accompanies you.
How much does it cost?
The open water diver course costs roughly around Rs. 30,000. This price covers renting the equipment, the instructor’s time, and certificates and cards. This is not inclusive of the cost of transport to the dive centre and the stay.
How long does the SSI Open Water Diver course take?
The course will last for 3 to 4 days, depending on your level of comfort. You are not obligated to finish it in 4 consecutive days, but since it doesn’t take long to complete, my advice is to finish it all in one go.
Or, you can split the course over two cities. You may do the pool training/tests in your city of residence (if your chosen dive centre has a tie-up in your city). In this scenario, you finish your pool work in one city and then travel to another to complete the skill training and the four dives needed to finish the course.
What do you learn during the open water course?
Yes, there is theory to diving too, and you’d do well to pay attention because everything you study relates directly to what you are about to do.
Upon signing up for this course, you will create an account on the SSI website. Through this account, you will be able to access various training modules. For the open water course, you will have to complete a module consisting of about six chapters. Each chapter will have a quiz at the end which you need to pass.
You will also have to do a written test to complete the course. This test consists of 50 multiple-choice questions. The passing grade is 80%. The test will be from all the material you have already studied.
Test of competency
The very first thing you will do is go through the competency test. This test requires you to do two things, swim and tread water. You will have to swim 200 m without a snorkel and fins or 300 m with a snorkel and fins. You will also have to tread water for 10 to 15 minutes. If you pass these tests, your training will begin.
Learning about the equipment
First, you’ll be taught about the equipment. You’ll be familiarised with every piece of kit a diver uses. This will include:
- Learning about the mask and snorkel
- The BCD (buoyancy compensation device) and how it works
- The regulators and hoses (also known as the octopus)
- The air tanks and how to fill them or check them
- The weight belts
- The fins and the difference between snorkelling fins and SCUBA fins
- The compass, knives, dive computers, carry bags, etc.
Once you are familiar with the material, you will also be taught the safety checks you need to perform before getting into the water. It can be remembered using the phrase “Bruce Willis Spoils All Films”. The first letter stands for the piece of equipment that you need to check in that order. The order of the checks are:
- Straps (fasteners on the BCD)
- Air (check tank pressure and if the air is flowing into the regulators)
Skills you’ll learn
Once you are familiar with the equipment, you’ll head to a swimming pool to learn the skills. After you are comfortable with the skills, you will perform them in the sea. Keep in mind that all of these will be performed underwater. These skills will include:
- Kitting up: You’ll learn to assemble and put on your diving gear on land and in water.
- Entry techniques: Depending on the boat, you’ll learn either the giant stride entry or the back-roll entry.
- Descent techniques: You will practice free descent and controlled descent.
- Mask skills: Removing, wearing, and clearing the mask of water.
- Regulator skills: Removal, retrieval, and clearing the regulator.
- Safety procedures: Air sharing, ascending with someone who’s out of air (air sharing ascent).
- Buoyancy management: You are introduced to the concept of buoyancy and taught how to remain perfectly buoyant underwater.
- Dive logs: You will learn how to fill up the dive logbook and maintain it.
Where can you do the course?
To find a place to do the course from, all you have to do is google “SSI Dive Centres India”. I did my course from a place in Tamil Nadu. The dive centre is called Wild Blue Diving, and it is located outside the town of Tuticorin. If you want to talk to someone about the Open Water Diver course from SSI you can get in touch with Praveen, one of my instructors.
I can recommend this institute with complete confidence because the instructors here are very friendly and patient while teaching you. If you make a mistake, they will make you practice that skill again and again till you perfect it. Should you start feeling uncomfortable they will stay with you till you feel better to continue the dive or return to the boat. Not to mention, the dive centre is attached to this awesome resort called Aqua Outback. Trust me; if there is a place to learn, it’s here.
What are the courses you can do?
|Diver Level||Dives Needed||Specialties Needed|
|Open Water Diver||4||0|
|Advanced Open Water Diver||24||4|
What to do after the open water course is complete
GO DIVING!!! OBVIOUSLY! 😛
On a serious note though, once your open water course is complete, you will receive your certificate and diver card. The next thing for you to do is to start going for some fun dives. Some of you may want to go in for the Advanced Open Water Diver course or may want to skip open water and go straight to Advanced Open Water. My advice would be NOT to do that.
What I recommend is to do your open water course and then just start going for diving. No courses and stuff. This will let you perfect your skills like maintaining the depth, which takes about 12 dives to perfect. If you really like diving, then make sure that you dive a few times a year to keep the skills sharp.
Another suggestion I have is to keep in touch with your instructors. I did that, and as it turns out, when I ran my plan for diving by them, I ended up getting some very valuable advice that saved me time and money.
Once you are comfortable with the basics of diving, you can start doing the specialties that SSI offers. You will need some of these to advance to higher levels.
Choosing SCUBA diving as a profession
Some of you will want to switch streams and take up SCUBA diving as a profession. Here are some things you’ll need to know before doing that:
- The levels mentioned in the table above are all non-pro levels. You cannot be a Master Diver and earn money.
- To start earning, you will have to become a Dive Master (comes right after Master Diver). This will let you take other divers on fun dives.
- To be able to teach, you will have to become an Instructor, which takes time. You can do it in one go (go from no diving experience to instructor), but it will cost some money (I think about Rs. 2 lakhs or so).
In the end, you need to remember one thing, it’s best to pace yourself. Dive only when you are comfortable with it and do courses and advanced levels ONLY if you plan to follow through. If you can’t follow through, then leave it at the open water course. You get the best of all worlds. You get to dive on your own and save money on the expense of the advanced course.