The Open Water Course is the first step in your diving career. That sounds pretty definitive, especially if you already have a career. But beware, as taking your Open Water could take your life in a whole different direction!
For me it started with a trip to Thailand back in 2005. I had landed a pretty awesome position on a graduate training scheme back in the UK but had a few months to kill before it started. So I loaded up my backpack and headed east.
Backpacking through Asia was quite an experience at the time, filled with new experiences and a decent amount of cheap Thai whisky. Everything you would have expected was there, riding elephants, trekking to waterfalls in the jungle, riding mopeds and beautiful tropical islands with white sandy beaches. One of those islands was Koh Phangan, famous as the location of the Full Moon Party. It was this party which drew me to the island, and like any backpacker worth his salt back in the days before Free Wifi, I followed the advice of my Lonely Planet guidebook. I arrived 5 days early for the full moon party so as to be assured decent accommodation, and I quickly found a hut on the beach for the equivalent of $3 per night.
With several days to kill before even the warm up for the Full Moon Party began, I found myself wandering the streets looking for things to do. After having watched The Beach several times, and had more than enough Chang beer, I found myself curiously looking upon a dive shop.
The Dive Shop
“Alright mate, want to go diving” came the friendly voice from in the shop.
“Never really thought about it” was my reply.
“Come in, grab a seat and I’ll tell you what it’s all about” he said, so I did.
Once inside I had the structure of the Open Water course explained to me. Basically I’d have to read a book, do some homework, watch some DVDs, then the fun bit would start. That would involve going out on a boat for a couple of days where we’d learn all about the equipment required for diving, go through all the skills we needed to know in a shallow sandy area, then do 4 dives to a maximum depth of 18 meters. After that I was told I could dive anywhere in the world whenever I wanted. Sounded pretty good to me, and I didn’t have anything else to do, so I signed up.
That night I did a bit of reading and the next day we had some videos to watch. During the video session I got to meet my fellow Open Water Diver trainees. We had an Israeli couple and a guy from Wales called Daniel. It seemed that Daniel was there to do a “Zero to Hero” course. Even though he’d never dived before he was planning to learn everything up to the point of becoming an instructor. On hearing this I was already more than a little jealous about the concept of living and working in paradise!
Out on the dive boat we moored up in a shallow sandy bay off Koh Phangan. It was here that we were taught how the dive equipment worked and kneeling down in shallow water we learned all the skills we’d need as divers like; clearing water from our masks or finding our regulators. At the end of this day, we finished off all our home work and went over some review questions.
Sleeping Under the Stars
The next day it was back to the Dive Boat, but this time the boat sailed all the way over to Koh Tao. Koh Tao is another island a couple of hours sail from Koh Phangan, and famous as the most popular place in the world to learn to dive. Once there, we began our first dives which were down to a depth of 12 meters! During the dives we had a bit of time to practice the skills we had learned the day before and we saw a lot of fish. It felt like being inside an aquarium, fish of all different colours everywhere! At the end of the dive we were all really happy and couldn’t wait to get back under water.
That night we slept on the open deck of the dive boat under the stars. I had another chance to tell Daniel how envious I was of the new life he was embarking upon, but I was also really looking forward to our last 2 dives in the morning, this time down to a depth of 18 meters. In the morning we got started bright and early. Jumping into the ocean for our first dive of the day was a great way to wake up.
At the end of the day after our last two dives we sailed back to Koh Phangan to celebrate becoming Open Water Divers. Now I was ready for an awesome time at the Full Moon Party with my new found diving friends!
Now I sit here 12 years later looking back on my “Diving Career”. After the Open Water Course, I took my Advanced Course on Koh Phi Phi. Following that, over the next 10 years, I had diving holidays in Belize, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Malaysia. Visiting a new country is always exciting, but having your Open Water card adds a whole new dimension to it. The underwater life and topography is just as different as the changing geography between other countries. Diving with Sharks in Belize was a completely different experience to following turtles in Honduras. I quickly found myself planning my holidays to places with great diving!
After a productive 10 year career in Software Development and Project Management I found myself ready for a change. It was time to follow in my old friend Daniel’s footsteps and become a Divemaster! Now I have been living in paradise for 3 years and loving my diving career!
So my advise to anyone thinking about it, take your Open Water Course. It will, at least, add a whole new dimension to your travels. It might even take your life in a new and exciting direction.
For more information about how you can become an Open Water Diver, see our information page: Open Water Course