With the release of the newly revised PADI IDC curriculum late last year, now is the time to update your skills and knowledge. If you are an active IDC Staff Instructor – assisting on IDCs or teaching Assistant Instructor courses – you will need to be updated before you can teach the revised curriculum…
The launch of the revised IDC was highly anticipated, and having taught a couple of courses in the new format, the new materials and changes are being very well received by students and staff alike. The new materials are great, and the move towards a more digitalised IDC fits with the modern world, where technology is key. The new digital IDC Crew Pak also now means it’s much easier to get the materials to students in advance, so they can start their preparations immediately. As an IDC Staff Instructor, you will need to be familiar with these new materials before staffing an IDC or teaching a revised AI course.The new materials are now downloadable to the new PADI Training App or usable via the new online eLearning platform. There is a digital IDC Crew Pak for the IDC candidates, and a separate digital pack for the staff – Instructor Development Materials. Both are already available in a myriad of languages:
One of the first tasks when completing a PADI IDC Staff instructor Update will be to familiarise you with both sets of the new materials. We will investigate how the new IDC Lesson Guides have evolved, and the way they sit within the framework of the revisions. The staff presentations during the new IDC are a little different than before – we now have an emphasis on helping the candidates to ‘think like an instructor’ through a series of staff-led workshops. There’s much more teamwork and more group discussions to foster this approach, so after the IE, the IDC candidates will be even more prepared to hit the ground running with their own student divers.
We will then take a close look at the new standards changes that have arrived with the new curriculum. The Watermanship requirements have now changed, as have the requirements for the skill circuit, amongst others. The skill circuit now boasts a few new skills, such as Emergency Weight Drop and Loose Cylinder Band. Also, to add more emphasis on neutral buoyancy, in order to score a 5.0, two skills must now be demonstrated whilst neutrally buoyant – Regulator Recovery and Mask Remove & Replace. At Lanta Diver, we prefer to complete the entire skill circuit whilst neutrally buoyant to exceed the standards, and to encourage fully neutral teaching in the future.
The evaluation criteria for the candidate presentations has also undergone a few adjustments and changes. Firstly, for the in-water presentations, we have a new slate. Just one. The old Confined Water Evaluation Slate and the Open Water Evaluation Slate have now been combined into one convenient slate called the Confined And Open Water Evaluation Slate. We can now score either style of presentation on the same slate. The new curriculum also allows for candidates to teach certain skills without a certified assistant, and some of the open water presentations now require demonstrations. We will also see the evolution of the student slates. The student lesson preparation slates have also been combined into one slate.
The evaluation criteria for the knowledge development presentations have also been revised. We will spend some time talking through the new scoring system, and making sure all the changes are understood. There is also a revised ‘How To Prepare A Teaching Presentation’ video, and then you will be ready to deliver a role-model Knowledge Development presentation of your own.
After a couple of days going through all the revisions, you will then be authorised to conduct Instructor Development training within the remit of the new curriculum. You will be able to independently certify Assistant Instructors and also be qualified to assist Course Directors and staff IDC which follow the revised format.
If you are interested in updating you PADI IDCS credentials, or indeed in becoming an IDC Staff Instructor, please feel free to send us an email to find out more – email@example.com
We can conduct IDC Staff Instructor Updates at any time. If you are a PADI MSDT, and are looking to become a PADI IDC Staff Instructor, then the best way is to join us a few days before a full IDC begins so you can put your new knowledge to immediate effect by then following the course, Our next PADI IDC is scheduled to begin on 23rd September…
The no-mask swim skill from Confined Water Dive #4 of the PADI Open Water Course is a skill that often appears during the PADI IDC and the Instructor Exams (IE). There are a few different ways to teach this skill, and the main differences are regarding the organisation of the skill – how to set it up and conduct it underwater. The mechanics of the skill are relatively simple, yet students may be a little anxious before attempting this skill for the first time.
The performance requirements for this skill state a certain distance must be covered during the swim to successfully complete the skill. The first thing to think about when organising this skill then, is to ensure the full 15 metres will be covered. If you are teaching in a pool, then this is very easy to do once you know the dimensions of the pool. However, if you are teaching in confined open water, from a beach, then you may need to measure the distance using a reel or tape measure. A tape measure is obviously already marked out with the distances, but if you are using a reel, you may need to add some distance markers yourself.
I prefer to use a reel, as it is more convenient because it is already a part of my dive equipment, and is easier to stow when not in use. Along the length of my 40m line, I have used a permanent marker to add a mark every 5 metres – as below:
These markings are not just useful for the no-mask swim skill, but for many other skills and dives within the PADI system (e.g. Navigation Adventure Dive, wreck penetration).
Once we are happy that we have a means of ensuring the full 15 metres will be completed, we can think about the other aspects of the organisation of this skill. First, let’s see what PADI’s Guide To Teaching suggests:
The final sentence in the above excerpt from the Guide To Teaching is an important factor to consider when deciding how to organise this skill. I find it more beneficial for the students if they work in buddy teams and take turns guiding each other over the 15 metres, rather than the instructor guiding the students. This strengthens the understanding of the buddy team, makes the skill more realistic as training for the event of a lost mask during a dive, and is extra practice at swimming whilst neutrally buoyant.
During the briefing for this skill, I will let the students know that I will demonstrate the skill with the Divemaster first, and that the students will then perform the skill as buddy teams, switching roles after one buddy team member has completed the skill satisfactorily. The student with their mask in place can guide the student without the mask by swimming alongside, and holding the other student’s first stage with one hand, and their wrist out in front of them with the other hand. Having physical contact with the buddy’s wrist during the skill helps the students stay relaxed, especially if they will close their eyes during the practice. I will also inform them that I will be swimming alongside the buddy team, on the side of the diver without a mask. If I only have one student, then I would take the role of guide as the student performed the skill.
I will also tell the students during the briefing that when they are happy with their neutral buoyancy, they can then flood and remove their mask to perform the skill, and that they should then pass the mask to me. I then hold onto each student’s mask whilst they swim the distance. It is not a requirement to take the masks from the students, but I find it helps with the realism and conduct of the skill. In real life, if they lost a mask, it would not be in their hands. Also, if the instructor has the mask, the student cannot replace the mask too early, before the full 15 metres has been covered. This method also removes the issues of students dropping their masks during the exercise. During an IDC or an IE, this method of teaching has then eliminated two of the problems that a Course Director or PADI Examiner can assign during this skill – your anticipation and actions have prevented problems.
Once I am happy that the student has mastered the skill, and completed the full 15 metres comfortably, then I can signal this to them with a tap on the shoulder, and I can place the mask back in the student’s hand – ready to be replaced and cleared to complete the skill. The same two students would then switch roles, and complete the skill again…
If you have any questions regarding this skill, or any others, please feel free to email and ask us for our advice. Also, if you are looking to complete a PADI Divemaster or IDC programme, please email and ask for further information about our courses in beautiful Koh Lanta, Thailand – firstname.lastname@example.org
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…
The thought of visiting Thailand conjures up images of white-sand beaches, swaying palm trees, delicious food, and fantastic diving. And the west coast of Thailand offers the best diving in the region, with regular manta ray and whale shark encounters…
Koh Lanta is situated in the middle of Thailand’s west coast – a short drive from the international airport at nearby Krabi Town. Its warm, clear waters and stunning beaches make it a great choice as a holiday destination, and with such great diving, it’s a top diving destination in the region – arguably Thailand’s best land-based diving.
Suitable for all diving levels, Koh Lanta offers a nice variety of dive sites, and has something for everyone to enjoy – shallow, colourful reefs; deep drop-offs; small critters; large pelagics; and a couple of wrecks. Let’s have a look at the dive sites on offer:
Hin Daeng / Hin Muang
The twin-pinnacles situated to the south of Koh Lanta are perhaps the biggest draw for experienced divers. Famed as Thailand’s best wall dive, Hin Daeng (and neighbouring Hin Muang), provide divers in the area with great chances of watching numerous manta rays circling the cleaning stations on the shallow parts of the reefs. The two dive sites take their names from the abundance of soft corals covering the rocks – ‘hin’ is the Thai word for ‘rock’, ‘daeng’ translates as ‘red’, and ‘muang’ means ‘purple’.
The two sites are just a couple of hundred metres apart, and a dive trip here usually includes one dive at each site. Hin Muang is a submerged, elongated pinnacle, with the shallowest section just below the surface, and the sea-bed a little deeper than sixty metres. Hin Daeng resembles an underwater mountain, again rising from around sixty metres, with its summit protruding a few metres above the surface. The pinnacles offer oases of life in the middle of the open ocean, and can present lucky divers with some great marine life encounters, both big and small.
The name of this cluster of islands translates to ‘five islands’, and they offer a number of different dive sites at one location with varying topography. Koh Ha #1 is famed for its chimney – a vertical swim-through suitable for experienced divers – that is often teeming with fishes and life. the chimney is a nice way to end the dive as it takes you up to five or six metres – perfect to start your safety stop.
In the middle of islands #2, #3, and #4 is the lagoon area (as seen in the photo above). this is great dive site for students and experienced divers a like. Divers can start in the middle of the lagoon, at a depth of around six metres, and then follow the sandy slopes between the islands down to a maximum of thirty metres. The outside of the islands are covering with a rainbow of soft corals, and are home to many cool and amazing creatures.
Koh Ha Yai – the biggest island of the group – is another stunning dive with the chance for experienced divers to enter ‘the cathedral’. A natural hollow within the island that allows divers a unique experience – surfacing inside an island !
The two Bida islands – Bida Nok & Bida Nai – are two limestone rocks jutting out of the water to the south of the Phi Phi islands. Both sites are covered in beautiful soft corals, and are home to a myriad of varying species of marine life. Diving at the Bidas is a great spot for shark enthusiasts, with regular sightings of leopard and black-tipped reef sharks, and also the occasional appearance by the world’s biggest fish – the whale shark.
The Bidas are also a great place for the smaller critters. A nice relaxed swim along the reef usually allows divers to find nudibranchs, ornate ghost pipefish, seahorses, and cuttlefish hiding beneath the sweeping school of yellow snapper that frequents the reefs.
A trip to the Bidas from Lanta usually involves the first dive at Koh Bida Nok, and the second dive at the slightly shallower Koh Bida Nai. If you are on a three-dive trip, then the chances are you will do a third dive at the nearby Hin Bida – a submerged dive site on the way back to Koh Lanta, and a favourite resting place for the leopard sharks.
The HTMS Kled Kaew is a former naval gunship in the Royal Thai Navy. The Kled Kaew was built in 1948 for the Norwegian Royal Navy, being launched initially as the RnoMS Norfrost. Eight years later it was acquired and renamed by the Royal Thai Navy. In 2014, she was brought to her final resting place near Koh Phi Phi Ley and purposefully sank. The wreck sits in around 26 metres of water, with the shallowest section of the wreck reaching about 14 metres. As is so often the case with wrecks, the ex-naval launch provides shelter to many different species of marine life, and has large schools of fish circling just above the structure.
The 47-metre long wreck is a nice easy wreck, with some occasional current at certain times. She’ s a great wreck to dive as part of your PADI Advanced Open Water Course, or a perfect dive for Nitrox, with the reduced nitrogen levels affording a longer bottom time on the decks.
All the above dive sites are easily accessible from Koh Lanta. Lanta Diver offers regular trips to these sites on one of its three dive-boats. If you would like to know more about the dive sites and the trips from Koh Lanta, please email Lanta Diver – email@example.com.
Always dreamed of living on a tropical island ? Sunshine everyday ? The commute to work a stroll down the beach ? Then maybe life as a PADI dive professional is for you…
At Lanta Diver we offer PADI Divemaster training in a stunning location, with great diving, at a PADI CDC training facility. All the professional-level PADI training is run by an experienced Platinum Course Director with a wealth of experience and knowledge to pass on.
Koh Lanta is a small, idyllic tropical island on the west coast of Thailand. It offers divers the best land-based diving in Thailand, with regular sightings of both whale sharks and manta rays. The smaller marine life is plentiful too – seahorses, harlequin shrimp, ghost pipefish and nudibranchs are commonly seen on all dive sites too.
The PADI Divemaster course is the gateway to a life as a professional scuba diver, and gives you a passport to great diving destinations all over our blue planet. During the course you will learn how to guide dives and how to function as an assistant to PADI Instructors. After qualification, you will be able to start working in the dive industry, guiding divers around dive sites, and showing them the rich marine life that Koh Lanta has to offer.
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…
Using a delayed SMB is a skill many dive professionals take for granted – as they have used them so often. Many forget that first attempt at using one, which often doesn’t go as planned. Ask an instructor who teaches the Divemaster course regularly – they often see the struggles of that first try. There are also many options for using one. The chances are that if you ask ten dive professionals about their preferences for using/stowing a delayed SMB, you will get ten differing answers…
Firstly, let’s clear up the difference between an ‘SMB’ and a ‘dSMB’. ‘SMB’ stands for surface marker buoy, also commonly known as ‘the safety sausage’. The difference between the two is, basically, where they are inflated – an ‘SMB’ is inflated at the surface, or permanently inflated, whereas a ‘dSMB’ (delayed surface marker buoy) is inflated underwater towards the end of a dive. An SMB can either be towed for the whole dive, or just used at the surface to signalling the boat if you are a little further away than you thought.
Personally, I much prefer to use a dSMB at the end of every dive. I like to have a marker on the surface to keep boat traffic away as I ascend with my students, and am not fond of towing an SMB for the whole dive (I don’t dive in areas where this is required by law).
The PADI Delayed SMB Diver Distinctive Specialty is designed for instructors to teach their students how to safely master this skill. The aim is for us to talk through the different options and try a few different techniques, and the student can decide which they prefer. We can show them the different methods of inflation – alternate air source, oral, exhaled bubbles, LPI – and also the difference between a reel and a spool (and the different designs of both). We can also discuss and show the option for deploying a dSMB without a reel or line too, and the advantages of an orange line over a white one. I like to mark distances on my lines too so students can see their depth when reeling in and show them how that works. This is also useful when teaching wreck or navigation dives/Specialties.
The students then get to practise this skill under controlled conditions with instructor supervision. We talk them through the different options during the knowledge development first, and could even do a confined water dive to practise first too. During the open water dives the students get to first try the skill in a stationary position, and then from mid-water on dive two. The more different options they can try, the better. Once deployed, the students then have to swim with the dSMB and make a controlled ascent, reeling the line in. After a safety stop, a final ascent to the surface is made, and the dSMB is stowed for the next dive once back on the boat.
The correct and safe use of a dSMB is an extremely valuable skill for every diver. It’s a great course to teach, and students get great satisfaction when they master the skill. As a dSMB Specialty Instructor you can also offer dive one of the Specialty as an Adventure Dive during your Advanced Open Water Courses – another reason for obtaining this Specialty Instructor rating. I would recommend adding it on to your PADI IDC course, or including it in your MSDT Prep programme…
If you’d like more information about this, or any other, PADI Specialty, feel free to send me an email and ask for further details…
At Go Pro In Paradise we are trying to push more and more towards neutrally buoyant skills during our PADI IDC programmes at PADI CDC Lanta Diver on Koh Lanta, Thailand. 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…
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. The conditions will determine length of each side of the square – if the conditions are good enough, I will have the students use the same amount of kick-cycles as it took them to complete the 30 metre swim earlier (This is PADI’s recommended size for the square), but if conditions are less favourable, I may shorten this to suit (as in the example picture above).
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 Fish ID Specialty is for me one of the most misunderstood of all PADI Specialties. Often (wrongly) sneered at by Instructors, and much maligned by dive professionals. The point to remember is that this Specialty is not for dive professionals, but for new or novice divers. And when taught properly, this target audience will gain much from taking this course.
Every Divemaster and Instructor should be able to identify the majority of the common fish/marine life in their local area. But remember the point is for them to pass that information on to new divers.
It’s also not just a case of taking a fish slate underwater and pointing to a fish then showing the new diver a picture of it on the slate with the name. The idea is that we teach the new diver how they can learn to identify fish for themselves. Perhaps they will be diving in the future without a dive professional.
When I teach this Specialty, I teach people to focus on family groups first, and then, when back on the boat, to get the books out and find the exact species. With this approach, divers don’t need to start at page one, and flick through every page of the book until they find the picture they are looking at. Rather, they know straight away to start with the angelfish section, for example, then can look for the nuances in colouration to find the exact species, perhaps with the aid of the picture/notes they made on their slate during the dive. This is how the Specialty should be taught. And a new diver will enjoy this and gain a lot of knowledge and enjoyment from this, and more importantly, will want to keep diving to discover new species and creatures.
The contents page of this book includes outlines of the shapes of major fish families and is perfect to use during your dive briefings. Then after the dive, your students can look here first, and then know which section of the book to head to next to try to identify the species they saw and drew during the dive.
During the dives, I like to focus on the common reef fish in my area. I am not looking to identify the ornate ghost pipefish, or the frogfish, but am paying more attention to different types of butterflyfish, angelfish, and anemonefish. I let, and encourage, my students to draw whichever fish they like, but I will also point out a few that I want them to pay close attention to – some that are difficult to identify for a beginner. I usually get them to draw longfin bannerfish and moorish idols, and a couple of different types of anemonefish, to see if they can spot the slight differences.
I think this is a great Specialty for Instructors to be able to teach and offer their students, especially after the Open Water Course. If you would like to know more about teaching this Specialty, feel free to send me an email, and see when I am next running a Specialty Instructor Training Course. Or if you are a PADI Divemaster, join us for an IDC and add this rating on at the end of the programme.