What to Expect When Getting Your Open Water Certification

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Looking to get your open water certification for scuba diving? Wondering what to expect when getting your open water certification for scuba diving? Well, we’re here to walk you through what to expect so you know what you’re getting into before selecting a dive shop and jumping in the water.

We got our open water certification in June 2017 in Koh Tao, Thailand. Not really knowing anything about diving in Asia (other than it’s chhheeaap) we thought “why not get certified?” so with that thought, we began the process.

Side Note: This may not be the exact structure of the days. Each dive shop is different but for the most part, you will find our experience to be the same or similar to where you will dive.

Day 1: Course Work

First things first, you need to do a bit of course work before any dive shop is going to let you get in the water.

As part of our PADI certification, we were required to do several hours or course work. What do you learn in the course work?

All things about the equipment, safety and what to do in certain situations underwater.

Our dive shop we were certified with, Scuba Shack, let us take the videos back to our hotel and do them there.

You watch about 8 videos and then do a quiz at the end of each video.

Day 2: Certification Test & Diving

Morning – Testing:

The next day, we met at the Dive Shop in the morning where we went over the quizzes we took the day before.

At Scuba Shack, they had a small classroom that fit about 15 people. Two Dive Instructors went over the quizzes, question by question, ensuring everyone understood the correct answers.

For us, we liked this. It made us feel really good about the shop we were about to get in the water with. They wanted to make sure we were prepared as best as we could be.

Once we got through the quizzes, we took our PADI certification test.

The test is basically a longer and combined version of the quizzes you took, so make sure you pay attention!

After you take your test, the dive instructor passes you or makes you take it again until you pass 🙂

Afternoon – Diving:

Once you pass, your dive instructor takes you to get your dive gear.

They give you a wet suit, BCD, fins and mask. We loaded into a truck and headed towards the harbor. F

rom here, we grabbed our gear and set off for our first dive site.

Once at our site, our instructor taught us how to get our gear ready and how to do a safety check. He had a fun acronym that helped us remember the safety check.

BWRAF = Big White Rabbits Are Fluffy or translated into a safety check BCD, Weights, Releases, Air, Fins.

Once we were secure and ready to go, our instructor showed us how to enter the water (rolling backwards in or jumping off the boat).

For us, the boat was high off the water, so we did a jump entry. In the water and ready to rock, our instructor took us to the shallows and so began our first in-water diving tests.

We knelt in the water and practiced breathing, flooding our masks with water, taking our masks off and putting them back on underwater, turning our tanks off and practicing what happens when we run out of air underwater, dive signals and taking our regulators out of our mouths and putting them back in underwater.

This is the part that caused us the most anxiety. I (Lauren) almost couldn’t pass the “taking your mask off underwater” part of the lesson but with the help from Jesse, my sister and our instructor, I was able to overcome an irrational fear and complete our first basic skills test.


So to those of you reading – please, remember to stay calm and you can do this!! Mind over matter, ya hear!

The rest of the day, we practiced similar skills but at two deeper levels – 10 feet and then 20 feet.

We also took some time to actually swim around underwater. After the first day in water, we are feeling good and ready for tomorrow!

Day 3: Diving

Early morning wakeup call and we are at our first dive site by 6:30/7:00am. Now, not all dive shops may have you get up early but if they do, be excited about it! You are getting to a dive site before all the other shops arrive.

This day, you dive twice.

The last dive is the deepest you go/are able to go with your open water certification and that is 20 meters or 60ft.

The first dive is an actual dive. You enter the water and begin your descent to the ocean floor. We practiced a few skills from yesterday, went over dive signals and learned how to descend and ascend on a line.

This dive lasted around 35-40 minutes. We resurfaced, changed our tanks and went to the next dive site.

Alright, this is our last dive before we get certified! We enter the water and do a great dive around beautiful reefs and amazing fish.

We learn how to navigate underwater using a compass and additional dive signals. The last part of the dive is the last part of the course. You need to learn how to do an emergency ascent to the surface.

We all held onto a rope in the water, with our dive instructor holding onto us, we drop our weights and swim to the surface at a calm but quick rate while we exert our air.

This last lesson was mandatory. It taught us what we should do in last resort situation when we run out of air.

Safely making it to the surface, the dive instructor and myself fist bump and let out yells – I AM OPEN WATER CERTIFIED!! YEAAAH!!

You board the boat and head back to the shop to get officially registered with PADI and get your diving card and diving book.

Once that is done, you are officially an open water certified scuba diver 🙂

Welcome to the club ladies and gents – it’s a great club to be in.


What To Pack For A Scuba Diving Day Trip

7 Tips on How To Choose A Great Dive Shop

Your Guide To Open Water Scuba Diving in Southeast Asia


For more travel tips, guides and awesome travel shots, be sure to poke around our site, follow us on Instagram @wanderingstusPinterest and on Facebook. Oh, and if you have any questions, let us know in the comment section. We’re happy to answer. Or, just leave us a positive note!

Happy Travels,

– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)

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