As I am doing my IDC shortly I am reviewing the 24 skills that must be demonstrated on an Open Water Course. This is so that I have them clearly defined in my head and I know how to do them flawlessly. Here are the skills from Session 1.
1. Equipment Assembly
This is where you show how to put the kit together. Make sure that you check everything. Start with the cylinder – check the cylinder markings and o-rings, make sure that the cylinder has been hydrostatically tested recently.
Then demonstrate how to put on the BCD. Remember that the top of the valve should be at the top of the BCD and facing the BCD. The shoulders of the BCD should be parallel to the cylinder and valve. When tightening the cam-band make sure that you fasten it tightly. Students and experienced divers still have difficulty doing this.
Then attach the first stage. There are two different types of first stage: A-clamp or DIN. I use DIN so I always have to make sure that I have the dive shops that I use have them so that I am not left having to rent a set of regs. The regs go on the right. Attach the first stage carefully and don’t forget the LPI. Once everything is connected it is time to turn them on.
Make sure that the SPG is held against something glass-first. This is in case there is a failure in the SPG and the glass explodes. So do not point it at anyone or look at it. Some people hold it against the cylinder or the ground. I have seen some people hold it inside the BCD against the cylinder, this to me seems silly because if it does fail and the glass shatters it will damage your BCD – why risk it. Hold the SPG against the cylinder (only) or the floor to avoid any problems.
Once the cylinder is turned on, open all the way and then turn back a half turn, check the SPG. Check how much air you have in the cylinder, 200 bar / 3000 psi is considered full. Now check the regulators. Purge them. Check the smell and taste of the air. Check that the regulators breath well and that the SPG needle doesn’t move when you breath. Check that the LPI inflates the BCD. Check that the dump valves work.
Once you have checked that everything works. Turn the cylinder off, purge a regulator and then lay the cylinder down.
2. Pre-dive safety check
This should be done before every dive with your buddy. PADI uses the mnemonic BWRAF – Begin With Review And Friend
Begin = BCD – Check function of BCD. Press the inflator and deflator buttons to that BCD inflates and deflates with the air. Test the oral inflator. Operate all the air dumps to check that air can be dumped quickly. Ensure that straps (shoulder straps, cummerbund) can have no slack, and be lying flat.
With = Weights – If a weight belt be worn, check that the belt be secure, and the strap be arranged so that it can be released with the right hand of the diver. Ensure that weights on the belt be not likely to shift during movement, and be suitable for the diver. If a weight harness is worn, or the BCD possesses an integrated-weights system, test system for adequate operation. As some BCDs have integrated weights its important to ensure that the buddy be familiar with the weight system of the diver being checked, and be able to operate them in an emergency.
Review = Releases – Locate and check that all of your buddy’s releases be properly secured and you know how to undo them in an emergency. This includes their Velcro waist band and at least two shoulder clips. Many BCDs also have a chest and stomach clip. It’s a good idea to touch each clip as you check it and even count each one out loud as you do so. Remember to check the tank strap and clip. You can do this by placing one hand on the bottom of the tank and the other on the first stage regulator and trying to move the tank up and down to see if the strap moves.
And = Air – Open air valve on tank. Most divers then close the tank a quarter to half a turn for an added element of safety. Breathe the air through the regulators to ensure that it be fresh and dry: impure air is extremely dangerous underwater, but can usually be recognized through an unpleasant, often oily, taste or smell. Test operation of primary and secondary regulators. Both should breathe comfortably, and not ‘free-flow’ when purged. Check hoses for damage. Ensure that the secondary regulator (the ‘octopus’) be attached in the triangle between the chin and the base of the ribs, and can be released easily: this ensures easy access for a buddy in the event of an emergency.
Friend = Final Check – Conduct a final check of the diver. Ensure that hoses are clipped to the diver neatly, and be in the correct configuration. Make sure the diver have fins and a mask, and any other accessories (cameras, reels, knife, compass, torch etc.) needed for the dive. Check that these be secured to the diver, or else placed in a spot where they can be handed down once the diver be in the water. Correct anything else that need doing.
3. Deep-water Entry
Once you have kitted up and performed a pre-dive safety check it’s time to enter the water. Make sure your mask is on. Partially inflate your BCD so that you have established positive buoyancy. Put your regulator in your mouth. Check the area that you are about to step into, make sure that there is nothing below that you could hit or hurt yourself on. Secure the mask and regulator with your left hand, secure the weight belt with your right hand. Look forward and take a giant step (not a jump) into the water. Once in the water inflate the BCD and signal that you are ok.
4. Proper weighting buoyancy check
Make sure the regulator is in your mouth. To perform this skill properly you take a normal breath and hold it. Fully deflate the BCD. You should float at eye-level. Pro-tip: as you are normally over weighted just deflate until you are at eye-level, that way you don’t sink like a stone. To descend just fully exhale (you might need to slyly operate the dump value to expedite your descent).
5. Snorkel and regulator exchange
This is something that is performed at the surface before you descend. Hold the regulator in your right hand (keeping it pointing down) and the snorkel in your left. While breathing through the snorkel take a breath in, remove the snorkel and remember to blow bubbles. Take the regulator and place it in your mouth. Clear the regulator and breath normally. Now swap back to the snorkel. Take a normal breath in and remove the regulator (remember to point it down) and blow bubbles. With your left hand put the snorkel in your mouth. Blow forcefully through the snorkel to clear it of water and then breath normally.
Here are some videos demonstrating the skills