Now that I have earned Open Water Diver certification and dived with nitrox, I have a wishlist for my next round of courses. They are all safety related.
For example, it makes sense to know how to fix your scuba gear before having an equipment failure inside a cave or wreck. In the military, you train everything before deploying. You do not go to a warzone and then learn first aid, you learn first aid first!
Therefore, these seem like all the basics that would be prudent to learn before doing anything more risky:
- Enriched Air Nitrox. I received an initial briefing and did 1 dive with nitrox, but I still need to complete the certification. Nitrox gases are safer to breathe at recreational diving depths than atmospheric air. Safety first!
- Diver Stress & Rescue. There are few things worse than being in a rescue scenario and not knowing instinctively and reflexively what to do. I would like to be a confidence-building dive buddy that every scuba diver would like to dive with.
- React Right. CPR and first aid are critical skills both on land and off. Period. And, like rescue skills, they must be instinctive and reflexive.
- Science of Diving. We learn early on about nitrogen narcosis, oxygen toxicity, and other physiological and psychological issues. It makes sense to understand how our bodies are reacting to different depths, durations, and so forth.
- Waves, Tides, and Currents. I have met a few currents that I swam against and made no forward progress. I have also felt loss of control while drifting. It seems crucial to be able to retain control in all situations.
- Equipment Techniques. My life depends on my gear. I’ve seen air bubbles leaking from someone else’s gauge, and he was able to fix it. But, if I am on a dive that requires a decompression stop or safety stop, I really don’t know how to fix such a problem. I might make a problem like that worse by trying. I need to know how to fix everything that can possibly be fixed underwater, when it is time to rely on my dive buddy, and when it is time to end a dive early.
- Boat Diving. Once upon a time I was snorkeling, looked up, and saw a boat coming at me. This has not happened with a dive buddy, but I would like to know how my dive buddy does this for the day in the future when I might finally be the more experienced diver.
- Independent Diving. At first, this course seems like a terrible idea. No one should dive alone. However, if you have only one dive buddy and that dive buddy needs to be rescued, you effectively become an independent diver. It is now up to you to get you and your dive buddy back safely.
- Limited Visibility. Following previous themes, it is vital to know how to locate your group, communicate within your group, and so forth even in less-than-ideal conditions. I stick close to my dive buddy, but I need to know what to do if I ever can’t see anyone else around me.
So, these seem to be the 9 most-critical courses. Their lessons apply to every single dive. It is only after completing all of these that it makes sense to dive deeper, explore caves, enter wrecks, or anything else where I would be unprepared to handle any of these basics.