What now? How to make the most of your Open Water Certification

Many new scuba divers feel lost after they complete their open water certification.  If you don’t have an exciting trip planned after you finish your course, you may feel adrift in a sea of options.  Sometimes new divers are afraid that their skills are not yet at the level where they can take a dive vacation or are just not sure how to choose the right dive operation or trip for themselves.

We have a handful of suggestions for next steps you can take to ensure you make the most of your Open Water Certification.

  • Find a Weekend Trip Appropriate to Your Skill Level

If you just received your open water certification with us or another dive shop, you are ready to get in the water!  Check out our schedule for a list of our upcoming trips or shoot us an email for advice on planning a trip around your schedule. The sooner you get in the water, the more current, comfortable and confident you will feel in your skills.

Many dive sites in the Caribbean and Mexico are perfectly suited to open water divers.  The waters are crystal clear and allow for excellent visibility.  Usually, there is also a lot to see without venturing too deep–most corals and underwater life thrive between 20 and 60 feet.  There is also typically very little current in the Caribbean, making it easier to stay with your group and conserve your air.  Because of these elements (1) good visibility, (2) the opportunity for shallow dive profiles, and (3) weak to no current, Mexico and the Caribbean are excellent choices for a first dive trip.  And don’t forget, the water is typically warm year round!

If you are not sure how to plan a trip on your own, we recommend that you consider doing the following.  First, start out by researching dive shops online by reading their websites and their reviews on trip advisor.  Reviews are a great way to find out about the quality of the rental gear available and how attentive the dive masters will be during your trip. Then, as your scuba diving friends for their recommendations for dive shops in a particular location — you can even use the Third Scuba Facebook group for recommendations from our community.  One dive shop we loved diving with in Grand Cayman, Ocean Frontiers, was recommended to us by friends and we cannot wait to go back!

Second, if you are nervous about your first trip, remember that you will not be alone. Because diving uses the buddy system, you and other diver will be looking out for each other.  And because reputable dive shops use dive masters, your group diving experience will be guided by someone who is familiar with the site you are diving.  Also, if you are planning your first trip, there is no need to travel alone!  If you reach out to other scuba divers you know, use our group page, or join a trip organized by TCS, you will be sharing your experience with friends.

Also, consider a trip with Third Coast Scuba to Ocarina Springs or Canyon Lake near Austin.  While Texas lakes and springs do not offer the same visibility and variety of wild life as the Caribbean, Texas dive trips are a great opportunity to stay current or improve your skills if you have a busy schedule or a tight budget.

  • Take the Advanced Open Water Course in Texas or Complete the requirements on a trip with Third Coast Scuba

Another excellent way to get back in the water right away is to schedule your Advanced Open Water Course with us.  You can take your advanced open water course as soon as you complete your Open Water certification.  The 6 dives required to complete the course are a great opportunity to work on your trim, buoyancy control, and air consumption all of which will make you more comfortable in the water.  If you want start taking a camera with you on you scuba dives, this is also a great opportunity to see how using a camera affects your diving.

  • Take a Nitrox Course

If you are planning an extended dive trip or want to pack up to 4 or 5 dives into a day on your dive trip, you may want to consider becoming certified to dive Nitrox. When diving with Nitrox you can extend  your time at depth and limit your required surface intervals. As you know from your open water course, air is comprised of 21 percent oxygen and close to 79 percent nitrogen. In the nitrox mixes used in recreational diving, the oxygen concentration can be anywhere between 29 percent and 40%.  Most dive shops that offer Nitrox fills offer a 32 percent blend. The higher percentage of oxygen, and the proportionately lower percentage of nitrogen, allows divers to extend their time at depth.

For example, according to conventional tables, a diver breathing air at a depth of 60 feet will hit his no-decompression limit in 57 minutes; at 100 feet, he hits it in 19 minutes. However, if the diver were made same dives on 32 percent nitrox, he would be able to increase his bottom time significantly.  On these two dives, he would increase his bottom time to 92 minutes at 60 feet, and 30 minutes at 100 feet.

Because the increased allowable bottom time due to decreased nitrogen content in your breathing gas, using nitrox can significantly extend your overall bottom time and decrease your required on days where you plan to complete many repetitive dives.  Learning how to safely dive nitrox is, therefore, very popular with divers who want to make many scuba dives on their vacations.

  • Start Planning the Trip of Your Dreams

If you feel comfortable in the water, you shouldn’t hesitate to start planning the dive trip of your dream!  Realistically, there are many beautiful dive sites that do not require you have extensive experience or training to dive.  Read up on the locations you want to visit to determine how challenging the dives you would like to do are likely to be. Consider current, depth, visibility, and water temperature.  Also the basic skills like air consumption, buoyancy control, and trim that you worked on in your advanced open water course.  Ask yourself if you want to practice diving with a camera before you go on the vacation of your teams.  The chances are, you are more ready than you think you are!