How to Become a PADI Open Water Diver?

How to Become a PADI Open Water Diver?

Do you want to become a Padi Open Water Diver or maybe you want to know how to pass the Padi Open Water diver exam? We have created this post to help new divers pass their Open Water Exam and Open Water Certification. This post has compiled all the info so you can pass your exam and begin diving as soon as possible. What are you waiting for! 

How Long Does It Take to Pass Padi Open Water?

Before you take your Padi course or choose how far to go in the process (more on that later in the article). You  need to do a few things first. The process to become certified can be very quick (a few pretty intense days) or longer if you don’t want to rush or have other commitments. Although most people choose to do this in around four days (give or take!)

Many new divers choose to complete the course in one go. This mean you can get straight out in the big blue and start diving those beautiful reefs or pirate wrecks. We don’t blame you. But for some people with other things happening in their lives. A month course split over a few hours a week with some homework and a dive a week is the obvious choice. 

The most common option we’ve found from talking to divers is the classic ‘week course whilst on holiday’ (which is also what we did many years ago). The layout usually is:

  1. Day One – Paperwork Day

Day one is the paperwork day, sign your life away in case a shark bites you (joking!) and getting to know the terminology and lingo. This day also covers coursework (the horror!) and the important knowledge and theory. This new information keeps keep you and your dive buddies safe and relaxed.

This first day tends to be thought of as less ‘exciting’ as there is lots of paperwork involved and learning about the more technical aspects of scuba diving.  But think about it, you wouldn’t drive a car without learning where the gears are! The knowledge you gain here is used every time you jump off that boat or start your ascent from a 30m night dive.

You will get a textbook that you will need to study in order to pass your exam and get your certification. There will also be many videos to watch and you will get a true feeling of what it takes to dive.

A certified PADI Diver

STW Top Tip

This might seem obvious, but from being around diving centres a fair bit we’ve noticed a recurrent theme. A lot of people show up with nothing, think a bikini or a pair of shorts and nothing else. 

Of course, this is sometimes fine but it may be handy to carry a pen with you if you are studying and maybe a bottle of water. Or even, sounding crazy now, a bag to put your gear in. Of course, some dive centres are very well equipped and others are not so. But, you will at the very least gain a few points and avoid the divemasters eye roll as you proclaim you don’t have a pen to write down the answers to the exam that you paid a few hundred shells for. 

Preparation is key (this will be drilled into you when doing the course).

  1. Day 2 – Let’s Start Diving

Day two is the start of the diving. No need to stress, you practised this the day before and this test is passed by older kids (10 upwards) all the time. It’s good to not celebrate the end of the first day with too many beers or a late night on the town.  

After completing all the coursework, you will begin the controlled dives. The idea here is to practice in a safe environment and get confident with your breathing apparatus and buoyancy. 

The instructor will take you to a pool and you will practice using the equipment and do a few technical aspects of a dive. You will be practising mainly buoyancy control and breathing. After this it’s just getting comfortable and possibly communicating with the divemaster to ensure you understand signalling. 

STW Top Tip

The trick here is to remember what you learnt and have some fun with it. You will also practice sharing air with your buddy and taking your mask off underwater. This last one terrifies every new diver that hears it but it’s not so bad and your eyes are closed, so no tears! You will be instructed to take off the mask and remain stationary for a few moments but it feels like ages the first time! Then you slip the mask back on, tilt your head back and expel the water, nice and easy! 

You then are instructed to conduct a few basic movements, such as sitting and remaining stationary. Everyone looks silly when they attempt to sit down and end up upside down but that’s the fun. If you could do this naturally, you’d be a fish! 

Whilst the coursework gives you a theoretical understanding. Nothing will give you the true feeling of breathing underwater until you get down there. Don’t worry too much, your divemaster will be watching you like a hawk and in all honestly, you won’t move around too much.

Trying Out the Equipment for the First Time

The first time you put on the gear and start sinking will feel very alien and it may feel unnatural. But, there’s nothing to worry about, you are in a pool for a reason. The first time I got in the pool, I sank three feet to the bottom. Resounding myself to the fact that this was the end and I was going to be found three weeks later getting nibbled by crabs like that women in JAWS. Until my divemaster gestured to remind me that I could, in fact, breath. 

The takeaway here is that the first time it will feel weird and the equipment is heavy and rather unfashionable. But don’t worry, be happy and you will come up smiling and itching to get out into the blue.

Waiting on the reef bed
  1. Day Three – Ocean Dives

After finishing all the coursework and completing the training dive, the real fun begins. Your new skills will be put to the test and you will accomplish four dives over the next few days. The theory you’ve learnt and the practical knowledge you have will be used to see you through four Ocean dives. 

These dives are shallow and the areas chosen are very beginner-friendly so there is nothing to worry about. Your divemaster will check your understanding of signals but there is no ‘new’ information here. Just practising what you already know. Don’t also forget to have fun!

The First Ocean Dive

This is your first-ever Ocean dive and no feeling will ever come close. The first time you look up from the Ocean floor and see the sunlight glistening through the water will stay with you forever, enjoy it! 

After your four dives are completed the dreaded test will take place and you are now a Padi Open water diver for the rest of your life. You need to score 75% or higher in order to pass this. This sounds like a lot, but most people pass easily and after wonder why they were so nervous. The test is designed to ensure you are a safe diver and know what to do in various situations. It is not designed to stop you from diving. Padi want you to pass

Hand signals are a big part of the course

How to Pass the Padi Exam

In order to pass the Padi Exam, you will need to have a good understanding of the textbook that you are given on your first day. There are questions located at the end of each chapter based on the information in the textbook as well as the videos you watched in the first few days. 

Padi loves a video lesson and a lot of the information is important and needs to be remembered. A lot of new divers struggle to concrete on these, especially if you were diving and sat in the sun all day then have to watch a 30-minute video, but pay attention! 

Taking the Practical Test

The practical test, taken in the pool has a few criteria that need to be met. You need to tread water for ten minutes and be able to swim 200 metres. Which makes sense as you will be spending a lot of time in the Ocean. 

Having said this, I know many divers that are not the strongest of swimmers. You don’t need to be semi-aquatic. Just strong enough to cover yourself if you surface on a dive and the boat has to come from a few hundred meters away to pick you up. 

You also will be tested on your knowledge of pre-dive checks, such as checking your equipment works properly and is in good order. After this, you will need to prove you can comfortably handle your equipment in the water. This will be tested in ways such as taking your BCD off underwater. Clearing your mask and manually inflating your BCD. You will also be taking your regulator out and recovering it from behind you.

Diver & Bannerfish

Padi Safety Checks

 Finally, will be a few safety checks such as using your free-flowing regulator. This is more of a formality and is unlikely to happen on a real dive, but it still helps to know. Lastly, your instructor will ask you to take your fins off and put them back on. I feel this depends on more if the instructor is having a good time though.

Your buoyancy will also be developed by striking a few poses when you are a few metres below.

The buddha pose is used for the most part and you will be holding a very zen pose for 30 seconds. Namaste! The divemaster will also check your buoyancy by asking you to hang vertically in the water column then pivoting into a horizontal hang. 

This will take a few tries to get perfect as it feels unnatural at first and people tend to overcompensate for the lack of control by kicking, arms flapping, you name it! This tends to exasperate the situation and makes it worse. 

STW Top Tip

For the Buddha pose and vertical/horizontal hang part of the course, everyone lines up and the instructor demonstrates the poses. These poses are taught in order to ensure you can remain at the correct buoyancy. They also check you do not pose a danger to other divers and aquatic organisms. Some coral takes hundreds of years to grow a few inches and a kick from a well-placed fin can irreparably damage them and yourself. 

When it’s your turn to strut your stuff on the underwater catwalk remember to be calm and relax. Many divers rise a few feet when pivoting then overcompensate, kick their fins and end up at the surface, on the bottom, back to front, you name it.

The best advice we can give is to keep your breathing controlled and use ‘small movements’ to remain in control. Think a few seconds ahead of your movements and you will be the master of the Ocean in no time!


Listening to the instructor

How Much Does a Padi Open Water Certification Cost?

The Padi Open water course can be taken in thousands of dive centres all over the world. Obviously getting your Padi Open water in Europe will be much more expensive than getting in South East Asia or South America.

The course can also be grouped with things such as accommodation. Where a dive centre will give you accommodation at a reduced rate if you purchase your open water with them. Such dive centres range from dorm beds to luxury dive centres with private rooms and fewer people per divemaster. In Europe, the average cost of a Padi Open water certification is £300-£400. But this is dependent where you are diving. Getting your Padi Open water in Switzerland will be much more expensive than in Thailand!

Padi Prices Away From Europe

Prices away from Europe tend to be lower, with South East Asia favourites such as Koh Tao being some of the cheapest diving anywhere in the world. With prices from around £200 in offseason. 

The last thing to mention is that the cheapest prices do not necessarily mean this is the best deal. Some dive centres charge higher rates. But the quality of the teaching is much higher than if you are in a group of 10 and have to quickly finish your course as the next group of divers are waiting. 

We also have found quieter dive centres mean instructors are less stressed and can give more time in helping new divers develop. Instructors are human too and can only give so much. Picking one with fewer students to worry about means you’ll be getting a happy instructor. Happy instructor = Happy students! 

After PADI Open Water, you can dive to a depth of 18M

What Do I Need for a Padi Open Water Course?

We have heard this question many times before so we have compiled this shortlist to make your first diving experience as stress-free as possible. 

1.This is country/ weather dependent but the proper clothing is essential. In hot climates, you should be okay with less clothing. But sometimes a hat to keep you out of the sun will help. Diving, especially at first is very tiring and no one wants sunstroke on the way back to the dive centre. 

On the other side, even in hot countries, the journey back to shore can be cold after coming out of the water. Take something to wrap around you.

2.This was mentioned at the start of the article, but we’ve included it for good measure, take a pen! Answering the exam questions. Doing the coursework and filling in your logbook will all need you to write and sometimes there are too many divers and not enough pens. 

Plus, you don’t have to wait at the end of the day for the pen to be passed around eight divers to fill in your logbook. You can be resting with your feet up thinking about that Barracuda you saw 20 mins ago! 

Other Things to Take On Your Open Water Test

3.Take a bag (or a dry-bag) if you have one, things can go walkabout when they are left on tables and in the corner of the room. Finally, when you’re wearing 20 kilos of equipment on a boat and have to put your sunglasses away. You will not be able to move freely and will be unsteady on your feet, especially if your wearing fins! Take a bag to stow away any gear you need when out at sea, so you don’t lose anything! 

4. I wish this one wasn’t on the list, but I see a lot of people without water. This is okay if you’re at the dive centre as they will probably have tea/coffee facilities. But if you are sat on a boat after being in saltwater/ full sun all day. You will be dehydrated and at some point need a drink. Take a bottle of water and ward off those ill feelings. 

If you can, use an eco-friendly bottle, we divers aren’t big fans of plastic! Especially if it goes over the side of the boat. 

5.A towel is usually a good idea. Everyone is guilty of not having one, but some divemasters aren’t big fans of a diver sat inside their dive shop dripping on the floor. When not in use, you can use it as a cape. You can also use it to get the salt out of your eyes.


Surface Signalling

How Long Does a Padi Open Water Course Last?

The quickest way to get PADI certified is to complete the course in four days. With the first day being your ‘paper’ day and the second being the pool introduction. The final two days will be taken up with your four ‘real’ dives out in the ocean.

That means you can be diving up to a depth of 18M/60 feet. However, many people choose to take a longer course of five-six days. In order to feel more comfortable and not get so tired on those last few dives. When we did our Padi open water many years ago, I almost fell asleep watching one of the last videos! The sun and sea really take it out of you! 

Lastly, there is no ‘correct’ answer to how long it should take. Some new divers can only make time for a few hours a week, which is cool! It’ll just take you a few weeks to pass compared to a few days. The course and information are identical, it just depends on you! 


Chilling with clownfish on the reef

Where Can I Go Diving With Padi Open Water?

Now that you are certified to dive with a buddy to a depth of 18m/60 feet. You probably want to put your new skills to the test and start diving with the humpbacks in Tonga or the sharks in the Galapagos, am I right? 

Now that you are certified you have a few options. The first is to notch up a few dives on the old dive belt or you could take it a dive deeper and take the plunge with a Padi Advanced Open Water Course. Thinking about doing it? Read about it here.

After you have done all of this, passed your Padi exam and certification you are an official Padi Open water diver and the Ocean awaits! This is the first step in a journey that could take you all over the world and could lead you potentially anywhere. But most probably somewhere underwater, see you down there! 

Should I Get a Padi Open Water Certification?

To begin scuba diving is to truly immerse yourself in a world that is unimaginably different from the one we are all used too above the water. You will see nature in all her glory and as well seeing awesome aquatic landscapes as well as the animals that call the Ocean their home. 

You may even want to take the Padi journey a step further and become a Dive Master. So you can teach others your skills and dive every day. Ultimately, every Padi Diver has different reasons for starting this journey but everyone gains a deeper appreciation for the Ocean and Planet Earth. 

  • Did you enjoy this article? Drop us a line and talk to us about your Padi Open Water.

See you down below STW! 


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