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SCUBA is a fun, relaxing, educational, interesting, and -- if approached properly -- safe activity, it is nonetheless a sport that has risks. SCUBA diving is in fact an extreme sport that can injure or even kill very quickly, and in some very nasty ways. What we are doing is entering an alien environment that is normally hostile to human life. We cannot breathe in water without some kind of mechanical assistance. These are facts and the details should be covered in every Open Water (OW) class. All too often in today's society, however, people do not want to take the time to properly prepare and get the education to safely take on new tasks. Some agencies appear to have responded to this by developing training programs that turn out high numbers of certified divers in shorter time frames, necessitating the reduction of time spent on what I consider to be some necessary basic skills. While this has resulted in great numbers of new divers entering the water, it has not resulted in many of those divers staying in the water. New divers are often given just enough training to enable them to dive in the most benign conditions under close supervision. Even then, there are still those who find out their initial training was just not adequate. It is at this point that they either make the decision to get more training or they leave the sport. The latter happens all too often. The former, when it does happen, does not always occur for the right reasons. Students should return to training to expand their diving and learn new skills; they should not have to return for new training just to be able to enjoy the sport safely. To require students to come back for basic information is something I find very troubling, and in some cases, has actually cost divers their lives. A lack of rescue instruction has resulted in a number of diver deaths when buddies did not know how to drop weights, support a diver at the surface, or even stay in contact with their buddy. This is another area frequently talked about, but all too often not actually put into practice. The concept of always diving with a buddy and just what that means in the "real world" is often given too little attention. Unfortunately, it is impossible to foresee every conceivable situation that can arise, but there are many basic issues that can be covered. The following chapters will hopefully address much of what is being overlooked or delayed in many programs as they exist today. It is my hope that this information also finds its way into the hands of those who have not yet begun the training process. I have included a chapter on how to select an instructor based on the quality of instruction and the content of the course. In some cases, these classes may cost more than the less comprehensive courses also available, but usually they do not. In fact, when you consider the additional skills and education gained from a more comprehensive course, you will find that you have received much more value for each dollar spent. In addition, you gain priceless benefits in the form of greater confidence, enjoyment, skills, and -- most importantly -- safety. Enjoy and dive safe.
About the Author
James Lapenta was first certified as an Open Water Diver in 2004. He has numerous specialties from several agencies and earned his Instructor certification with the YMCA Scuba program in 2008. This subsequently became Scuba Educators International and he made the transition to it in October of 2008 and formed UDM Aquatic Services to offer instruction, and since 2011, equipment. He received his CMAS 2 Star Instructor Rating in August of 2010. Jim has logged dives in conditions ranging from warm, clear water in the Florida Keys, Bonaire and Puerto Rico, and Technical Dives to the cold depths of Lake Erie and the St. Lawrence River. A fan and proponent of local diving, he has explored numerous lakes and quarries in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. As of 2013, he has certified or assisted in the certification of over 170 students from Junior Open Water to Dive Master. He specializes in working with younger people and others needing extra attention for any reason. Jim has authored a course in Underwater Navigation for SEI Diving, and has developed a new Advanced Open Water course that has drawn students from hundreds of miles away. He is also a co-author and editor of a course in Search and Recovery and entry level Public Safety Diving. In 2011 his book SCUBA: A Practical Guide for the New Diver was officially released. It now has readers in 20 countries on six continents. Making him an internationally known author in the Scuba Diving community. Most recently in 2012 he added to his instructor ratings by doing a crossover to SDI/TDI (Scuba Diving International/Technical Diving International) to offer classes and specialties in Deep, Wreck, Night/Limited Visibility, Computer Nitrox, and TDI Nitrox and TDI Intro to Tech classes. He is also a fully authorized HOG Equipment Service Clinic Instructor.