You’re open water certified, now what?

A practical guide for new divers.

First. Use your local dive shop – your dive shop and your instructors have been with you every step of the way with your certification. Let them help you with appropriate dive sites, dive trips abroad, local events and free guest speakers, cleanup dives, and gear considerations.

When you start contemplating your gear, you will be surprised at what prices that are available in your local store (they look at the internet too?). You should always expect your local dive shop to give you an in-depth briefing on the different types of gear and what to consider when it comes to safety, comfort and fit. Also, be sure to look at longevity. Some types of regulators only must be serviced every two years which can save you money!

Your local dive shop will also keep you active for less money! Local dive trips are a great way to stay active. Guest speakers, cleanup dives and other classes of interest will keep you active in your sport that gets you closer to the beauty that lies beneath! Ask your shop what the best way to stay current on their upcoming events. Ask if they have an email list. Ask if they post on social media. You can even subscribe to their events on Facebook!

Second. Go Dive! You have four open water dives under your belt. You now should try to get out and dive! Gain experience through fun dives based on your certification and comfort level.

In the local area here in Tampa Bay, it is recommended to use a boat charter in the Gulf of Mexico where you can dive to approximately 45 to 60 feet. Your local dive shop will have a few that they recommend and can answer any questions you might have.

On the East Coast – Jupiter, Riveria Beach, West Palm, Key Largo and the middle Keys are very popular dive destinations for open water divers. John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo is a perfect place to get your feet “wet.” The dives are clear, fun, shallow and very safe! The Blue Heron Bridge shore dive is also a perfect setting for new and experienced divers with depth ranging from 5 to 10 feet with abundant wildlife surrounding the area.

Boasting some of the most amazing fresh water springs – crystal clear, always 72 degrees and almost a completely confined environment, Florida destinations including Devil’s Den, Blue Grotto, Rainbow River (drift dive) are just a few places where open water divers can experience the beauty of the Florida springs without the danger of overhead environments or silt.

Third. Practice your skills while diving. During your dive or your safety stop, practice hovering, mask clearing, oral inflating your BCD. Work on neutral buoyancy while diving or a more efficient fin kick. Safety always comes first so, only practice with perfect conditions and confidence. While diving, keep looking at your equipment console for your No Decompression Limit (NDL), air and depth. Practice buddy communication, learn different signs, practice signaling. A slate might be a good idea to communicate with your buddy or divemaster.

Fourth. Continuing Education. After you get a few dives under your belt, think about what type of diving you would like to do. There are so many different types. Maybe you want to focus on wreck diving, caverns, spearfishing, freediving, drift diving, dry suit, full-face mask, night diving, or enriched air diving (more diving time), just to name a few… Try different types of diving or take a specialty course. You may even want to take an equipment specialist course, an Emergency First Responder, or the O2 Provider to hone your emergency skills. Continuing education courses should small enough for you to hone in on your skills. Large groups make it difficult to master the skills needed for a specialty.

Fifth. Equipment Considerations. Your local shop required that you purchase mask, snorkel, fins, and boots. Maybe some required more. You can now see why it was important – your personal gear should be safe and fit well. If not, go back to the shop and discuss any issues you may have.

Your next gear purchases might include a dive bag, wetsuit, spring straps for your fins, a neoprene mask strap to make diving more enjoyable. Once you have all your personal gear, is when its best to move forward with other purchases. Your decision to rent and how often you rent, can determine when this time may come.

A dive computer and/or a regulator set is the best first choice of the rest of your gear. Although it is an investment, these pieces of gear determine your dive plan and how you breathe. With a dive computer, you will have a record of your logged dives, can track your dive profile, make dive plans, track your NDL and many other features. With a regulator set, you know where your regulator has been, what its service history is, and can confidently be able to understand your equipment. Next, your BCD, tanks and weights are recommended. You can go at your own pace and budget. We want you to be an informed diver and we will give you all the tools available to make a proper decision for your gear – online shopping is convenient but can’t do that. If you did purchase from online, make sure you save all your receipts and take a close look at shipping costs and the return policy. Often, there are hidden fees within these items. Also, be sure to ask about your warranty. Even a lot of the “big shops” who carry gear online may not be authorized dealers. Your items may not be covered under warranty and most dive shops won’t perform annual servicing with gear purchased from the “gray” market.

Finally. Just enjoy it! Meet other divers at events, local dive trips, and cleanup dives. Take it easy, just like you do under water.

Once you gain experience and confidence, then you have reached the point where you can pursue more advanced courses, such as Cave, Technical diving, and deep diving. Or, just go see the pretty blue fishies!! ? Your choice – just be sure to enjoy and have fun under water with family, old friends and new!