Most instructors, or PADI IDC candidates, have few worries regarding teaching the regulator recovery skill. They have performed it many times, and most people would consider it to be one of the ‘easier’ skills to teach. However, with the shift in teaching methodology more towards neutral buoyancy teaching, we just have to be a little careful of meeting the stated performance requirements for this skill when teaching in confined water:
To teach this skill correctly in confined water, we must ensure that the regulator has been recovered from ‘behind the shoulder‘. With the old-style teaching, when the students were on their knees, this was quite easy to achieve with either the sweep method or the reach method of recovery. However, nowadays, when teaching the skill in a more horizontal position, we have to be careful that the recovery was deemed to be ‘from behind the shoulder‘. In a horizontal ‘diving position’, the regulator will naturally fall below the shoulder, and if we just use the sweep method of recovery, our students will not meet the performance requirement.
In this horizontal position – on fin-tips or in mid-water – we must use the reach method of recovery, so that the hand reaches behind the shoulder to recover the regulator. We can also teach the sweep method, so the students learn more and will know two different techniques for recovering their regulator, but the reach method is needed to meet the course performance requirements in confined water.
To teach this method in Confined Water Dive #1, we must first help the students attain neutral buoyancy and a horizontal position. One way of doing this is to add little bits of air to their BCDs as you coax them into the correct breathing pattern for diving (read more about this in a previous blog – here). Once in this horizontal/neutral state, we then continue with the skills from CW#1, including the regulator recovery skill.
During an Open Water Course, I would still teach the sweep method of recovery first, as it is perhaps a little easier. With the confidence gained from this, we can then move on to the reach method of recovery too, and then we will meet the confined water performance requirements. Later on in Confined Water Dive #5, we can then re-practise both methods during the mini-dive, whilst swimming around the pool neutrally buoyant.
When we then move to open water, our students can choose to recover the regulator by either method, as PADI Standards do not stipulate that the regulator must be recovered from behind the shoulder in open water (only in confined water). Personally, I prefer to have the students complete this skill on Open Water Dive #1 whilst swimming along, as they did in Confined Water Dive #5.
Teaching this skill in this manner will help your students be better, more confident divers. By employing this teaching technique, we have not only met the PADI performance requirements, but we have also taught two different recovery methods, and focused on maintaining and improving the buoyancy of our entry-level students – make neutral buoyancy a habit, rather than a skill..
During our PADI IDCs on Koh Lanta, Thailand, we focus on neutral buoyancy teaching, and teaching our students to be good instructors, not just to pass an exam. If you are looking to become a PADI Instructor soon, send us an email if you have any further questions about teaching neutrally buoyant skills. Likewise, if you are already a PADI MSDT, you could join us for your PADI IDC Staff Course and also get an insight into joining the ranks of instructors who teach skills whilst neutrally buoyant…
One of my favourite PADI Specialties to teach is the Digital Underwater Photography Specialty. It can be great fun, but also usually you get to see a big improvement in your students’ photography skills.
The course requires two open water dives, the first of which can be conducted in confined water. Completing this first dive, and the first knowledge review, would also allow you to certify your students to DUP Level 1. I prefer to teach the full Specialty – two knowledge reviews and two open water dives – and certify my students as DUP Level 2 Divers. I also conduct a confined water dive. I aim to schedule this course over two full days:
Day 1: Classroom session in the morning and confined water session in the afternoon
Day 2: Two open water dives
On the first day, I spend the morning in the classroom. We review the students’ knowledge reviews, and get to know the camera they will be using on land first – both in and out of the housing. During the knowledge development session I make sure my students understand all the main concepts – shutter speed, aperture, white balance, depth of field, ISO, scene modes – and make sure they know how to make these adjustments on their camera both in and out of the housing.
In the afternoon of the first day we hit the pool and put everything we learned in the classroom into practise in this relaxed setting, where we can take our time and practise changing our camera settings, and getting good shots. I take a few objects into the pool so the students can practise focus, white balance, and depth of field. I try to find some everyday objects with a few different colours – including red – too to help practise adjusting white balance, and to see how the different scene modes show the different colours. Whilst in the pool, I also emphasise, and practise, taking photos with good buoyancy control, and without touching the bottom.
On the second day of the course, we head to open water to put everything in to practise with some cool marine life too. I also take the coloured objects to the ocean to practise white balance adjustments at different depths during the first dive too.
We also spend time finding some cool creatures that are conducive to practising photography. I focus on creatures that don’t move very far, or very quickly, like nudibranchs, morays, lionfish, clownfish etc., so the students can practise the PADI S.E.A. method…
At Go Pro In Paradise we are trying to push more and more towards neutrally buoyant skills during our PADI IDC programmes. We are trying to stay off the knees, and teaching more on fin-tips or in mid-water. The dive environment is becoming ever more fragile, and we need to train the future generation of divers to be even more environmentally aware, and with even better buoyancy skills than in the past. There is no need to spend any time on the knees during diver training – we should promote proper weighting and positioning in the water right from the first moment new divers get their heads under the water.
It starts with Confined Water Dive #1 of the Open Water Course. During our IDCs, the first time we take our IDC Candidates in the pool we conduct a CW Dive #1 workshop, and teach our candidates the importance of not over-weighting their future students, and how to get them neutrally buoyant before proceeding with the rest of the skills in CW Dive #1. We achieve this by teaching the ‘Breathing Underwater’ skill as an introduction to the fin pivot (as described in a previous post). All other skills in confined water can then be performed on fin-tips.
We also then conduct a neutrally buoyant skill circuit, with all skills demonstrated on fin-tips – staying off the knees.
After this skill circuit, we then conduct a Confined Water Dive #5 workshop, where we teach our IDC candidates how to help their Open Water students to make the transition from performing skills on their fin-tips to now performing them mid-water whilst swimming around the pool neutrally buoyant. We also highlight the importance of correct weighting and the value of practising swimming in shallow water without touching the bottom or breaking the surface – demonstrating good trim and horizontal body position.
For the rest of the IDC, we then expect our candidates to perform all their teaching presentations in this manner. Hopefully we can do our bit to inspire the next generation of PADI dive instructors to teach better buoyancy, trim, and environmental awareness in their future Open Water Courses…
If you would like to know more about our PADI IDC programmes, please feel free to visit our website, or to send us an email…
As a new instructor, the Navigation Adventure Dive can seem a little daunting – there’s lots to do, but we also want to save some time to swim around and explore the dive site too. It’s a dive we conduct often – it is a compulsory core dive on the Advanced Open Water Course. We obviously need to make sure all our students meet performance requirements, but we also want to work efficiently to allow that time for exploring the dive site and practising actual diving !
The first thing to consider when planning a Navigation Adventure Dive is when and where you will conduct this dive. I would never plan to conduct this dive as the first dive of an Advanced Open Water Course, I would prefer to see my divers in the water first. Ideally, I like to conduct Peak Performance Buoyancy as the first dive of an AOWC, and certainly before the Navigation Dive. Another thing to bear in mind is depth and site selection. It’s preferable to conduct the Navigation Dive on a shallow site, with relatively open sandy areas. Also, a site with little or no current is ideal. Aiming for a shallower site is another reason not to plan this as the first dive of the course. I prefer to plan my Navigation Dives as either second or third dives of the course – it’s also not a nice dive to finish the course with for the students.
Now let’s have a look at the performance requirements – what the students must achieve…
Okay, so we need to get ourselves organised before we tackle those performance requirements. We need to get our instructional equipment together first. Our students should each have a compass, as per PADI standards, for every Adventure Dive. But for me, we also need a reel/spool – that’s how I measure the 30 metres for skill #2, and I also then use it as a baseline, and a way of measuring performance requirements, for the other skills. I have a reel and a spool, and I have marked them both off for distances every five metres. I also made sure when I bought my reel and my spool that I selected ones with orange lines, rather than the more common white. The orange line is much easier to see (when using a dSMB, or conducting wreck penetration, as well as when laying it on the floor for Navigation skills). I then marked my lines every five metres as below:
Once I have laid this line out, carefully avoiding damaging any aquatic life, I am ready to start the skills with my students. If there is a slight current, I will try to set the line perpendicular to it. Skill #1 will be combined with all the other skills and monitored throughout the dive. Skill #2 is pretty straight forward, but the trick is to avoid this turning into a race along the line. I am very careful how I brief this skill – I brief that the 30m swim should be at a normal dive pace, and that I will set the speed by swimming in front of the students, emphasising that they should not overtake me. I instruct the students to count their own kick cycles, and I time the swim. The number of kicks and time can then be noted on the Adventure Dive Data Carrier slates. I perform this skill twice – once in each direction to ascertain an average. This is especially important if there is a slight current.
The next skill is the natural navigation swim, returning within 15m from the start point. This is a skill that needs to be briefed well too. We need to emphasise what features to look for in the reef formations/topography, and also to point out that often things will look different when returning in the opposite direction. I brief my students to look back at a reference point as they pass it to get an idea of how it will look on the return leg. I also brief the importance of slow relaxed swimming – the normal dive pace – and tell them how many kick cycles I would like them to complete before turning around. I start this skill from the centre point of my 30m baseline – the 15 metre mark. I now have 15 metres of line either side of the start, so I can very easily see if the students have met the performance requirement, which is to return within 15 metres of their start point.
Skill #4 is then combined with skill #5. Correct positioning/handling of a compass to swim a reciprocal heading. I also remind the students they can also incorporate some natural navigation techniques as used in the previous skill into this exercise – especially if there is a little current. For the skill #4 element of this reciprocal heading swim, I do emphasise that the compass must be level, and that the lubber line must be pointing in the desired direction of travel, but I do not insist they hold the compass in the manner pictured below during the entire exercise – because nobody dives like this, ever – it just needs to be held correctly when checking the heading/direction !
Rather than insist on the above position, I brief students to use natural navigation in conjunction with the compass – keeping the compass level, point it ahead, and pick out a natural feature in line with the lubber line, then when they reach that feature, they can again hold the compass level with the lubber line in the correct direction and pick another natural feature – this is a more natural, ‘realistic’ way to navigate with a compass. This is also a much better technique if there is any current – if people just stare at the compass in a current they may not notice they are being pushed off course. Also bear in mind that nowadays people may be using a digital compass on their dive computer, so you might need to cover how to calibrate and use that version of a compass. Again, we need to cover how many kick cycles before turning in the briefing. I also start this skill from the same 15 metre mark on my baseline, so I can check that they meet the performance requirement of returning to within six metres of the starting point – I have a mark on my baseline five metres either side of the starting point…
With both skill #3 and skill #4, if conditions are good enough, and my divers are also competent enough, I can send two buddy teams off simultaneously if I have four students. I assign one member of each buddy team the task of navigating with the compass (setting the heading by pointing the lubber line in the correct direction and rotating the bezel so the north arrow is between the two index markers), whilst the other will be counting their own kick cycles and tapping the shoulder of the buddy to signal time to turn around. To turn around, the buddy member with the compass just needs to turn their body until the south arrow is in between the two index markers.
Before I allow a buddy team to begin the swim, I position myself directly in front of them, blocking their path, until I am happy they have set the compass correctly, then I move to the side and let them begin. Once buddy team #1 has started, I position myself directly in front of the second buddy team until I am happy their compass is also set correctly before I allow then to swim. Once the second buddy team have started, quite often the first buddy team is arriving back, and I can have them swap roles and repeat the skill. This helps me work more efficiently and have time to explore the dive site once all skills are completed:
Once everybody has performed each role for the reciprocal heading compass swim, the final skill is the square pattern. For this, I also get the two buddy teams swimming in different directions at the same time (conditions and competency allowing) to work efficiently:
Again, I start from the 15 metre mark of my line and use the marks on my line to gauge whether they have met the performance requirements of returning to within eight metres of the starting point. I prefer to use the Suunto SK8 compasses for this dive too, as they have all four cardinal points on the face, and not just a north arrow. This makes this square pattern, and the search patterns in the Rescue Diver and Search & Recovery Specialty, much easier too. Again, for the first heading, the students need to point the lubber line in the right direction and turn the bezel until the two index markers are over the north arrow. Now, when they come to make the first 90 degree turn, for a turn to the right, they do not need to touch the bezel, they just need to turn the body until the east arrow is between the two index markers, and on the next turn, the south arrow between the two markers. For a left turn, they would turn the body until the west arrow is between the index markers.
I ask the students to set the first side of the square to follow the direction of my baseline (as in the picture above). This means their final leg of the square will be back towards the line, so again I can see how close to the start point they finish. And once more, when the buddy teams return, I get them to swap roles and repeat the skill.
Another key to making this dive run smoothly and efficiently underwater is to practise these skills on land before the dive. I like to do this with a towel over the students’ heads, so all they can see is the compass, and to learn to trust it (and me!).
And that is basically how I try to run the Navigation Adventure Dive. As I mentioned above, sometimes conditions or student skill level means I need to adapt my approach a little. But this is the Advanced Course, and the students, as certified divers, should be good enough to swim a short distance away from the instructor, and allowing them that little extra freedom will also help them become more confident divers…
If you have any questions about how I run my Navigation Adventure Dives, or would like to take an Underwater Navigator Specialty Instructor Training Course to see it first hand, please feel free to email and ask for more information…
The PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) is an intensive programme, usually lasting around twelve days. There is a lot of new information and knowledge to take in during this time-frame, and your course will be a lot easier if you are not also trying to re-learn things that you should already know as a PADI Divemaster.
Your IDC training will be much more relaxed, and the IE will be much easier, if you are comfortable with dive theory and a few other things before you arrive. You will spend time during the IDC going through this, and completing more dive theory exams, but there will also be a lot more information for you to take in, and most nights you will have teaching presentations to prepare after a full day in the classroom. I like to give my candidates a set of dive theory exams on the first day of the IDC, and I would expect everyone to be able to pass with a minimum score of 75% in each of the five subjects – Physics, Physiology, Equipment, Dive Skills & The Environment, and The RDP & Decompression Theory.
When people book for an IDC with Go Pro In Paradise, we send a link to the students with materials to study before arriving – dive theory study notes, practise exams, knot tying videos, RDP revision questions etc.. A few of these study tools are also available to download from the Go Pro In Paradise website. We also have a few videos to help understand the dive theory on our YouTube channel.
As a Divemaster, you should also be comfortable with the following knots:
It will also be beneficial if you are also familiar with the ‘reef knot’, or ‘square knot’, – as this is sometimes the result of a sheet bend going wrong, and you need to be able to recognise this error.
The more comfortable you are with all this information before you arrive, the more you will be able to focus and the new information and spending your evenings preparing your teaching presentations for the next day. If you also need to spend your evenings trying to figure out how to calculate minimum surface intervals, or trying to remember the difference between convection and conduction, then you will be a lot more stressed during your training.
When you book an IDC with us, we will start helping you prepare straight away. We don’t just wait until you arrive and then try to cover all this during twelve days. Our IDCs are nice and relaxed when the students have revised the information that we send them at the time of booking.