10 Things I wish I would have known before starting my PADI Open Water course

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10 Things I wish I would have known before starting my PADI Open Water course

Are you thinking about becoming a certified diver, because it’s always been your dream to explore the underwater world? And now you don’t know where to start with your research, because there are so many questions in your head and you don’t really know what to expect?

What to expect when you do a diving course?

A few years ago I was in the exact same position and couldn’t really find all the answers to my questions in one place. Fast forward to now, and with a several years of teaching diving courses, I’ve compiled this useful list of all the things I wish I would have known before I started my diving journey…

1 – Do your research!

The PADI Open Water Diver course is the same all over the world, right? Well, not quite, so you should be doing a bit of research before signing up for your course.

While all PADI instructors have to stick to the same set of standards when they teach you how to dive, you will find that there is a huge difference with what happens beyond the ‘minimum requirements’. A reputable dive centre should appreciate that everyone’s learning curve is different and should definitely not rush you through any diving programs.

With a bit of research online you should easily be able to separate the wheat from the chaff – and if you still don’t know which questions to ask, keep on reading through this blog post.

2 – Relax

A lot of research has been done to ensure the PADI Open Water Course is suitable for beginners. Still, it’s completely normal to be nervous (“Wait, what? I’m supposed to breathe underwater?”), so do yourself a favour and talk about your concerns with your dive centre and instructor!

You’ll find that a good instructor is patient, listens to all your questions and gives you all the time you need to practice and master all diving skills at your own pace.


3 – Ask questions

Do not hesitate to ask questions – before, during and after your diving course! And please don’t be embarrassed, because you didn’t understand something right away or you think your question is stupid. Seriously, we’ve heard a lot of questions over the years, so chances are that someone else has already asked the same question, too. (And on that note yes, ladies, it’s absolutely ok to ask if you can go diving with your period. And no, even then you don’t have to be afraid of sharks…)

4 – Give yourself enough time

Koh Tao is most popular for its diving, but you will soon notice that there are so many other things to do on our tiny little island. Quite often our students pack their holiday schedules way too tight and end up feeling rushed and not getting the experience they were hoping for. I would recommend to plan in at least a day each before and after the diving course to relax and explore the island, too. And who knows, maybe you like it so much that you sign up for your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course right away – trust me, this is exactly what happened to me almost 8 years ago now…


This obviously doesn’t only apply to Koh Tao but to any other holiday destination. When booking your travels, you should also remember not to fly 24 hours after diving.

5 – Go for a swim!

If you are a natural Mermaid or are currently training for the next Iron Man, then you can skip this point and continue with number 6.

If you feel that it’s been a while since you last took a plunge and your swimming skills are a bit rusty, you might want to consider visiting your local swimming pool before taking your diving lessons. Now don’t worry, you do not have to be a professional swimmer, probably not even a strong swimmer, but it is very important that you feel safe and comfortable in the water.

6 – Get your paperwork in order

Before starting with the course, you will have to fill in some registration paperwork. If you have all your documents in order up front, there will be no surprises when you sign up:

  • Medical form – Your dive centre needs to make sure that you are fit to dive. There is a standard medical questionnaire which you will have to fill in and if you have to answer yes to any of the questions you will have to be checked out by a physician. This is something that usually should be done before your trip and by a specialist or your GP who his familiar with your medical history.
  • Insurance – Many travel insurance policies include diving, however some don’t. You should read the terms and conditions to find out what your policy covers and keep your insurance information on hand for the check in process. (Don’t worry if your policy doesn’t include diving, your dive centre should be able to register you for a short term cover, but this is something that you should double check in advance.)
  • Emergency Contact details & passport number – This is a standard procedure and every dive centre will require this information from you.

7 – Packing list

Your dive centre will tell you if you need to bring anything specific with you, but there are a few additional things that you might want to consider putting on your packing list for the upcoming trip:

  • Reef friendly sunscreen – Research has shown that the damaging effect of sunscreen on our coral reefs is immense. If you’re fortunate enough to be learning in a tropical location you should think about an alternative way of protecting your skin from the harmful UV rays. There are reef friendly sunscreen options available these days or you could invest in a rash guard that you can wear underneath (or instead of) your wetsuit to help protect your skin.
  • Contact lenses – Many divers use contact lenses on a regular basis and if you are used to doing water sports (swimming, surfing, etc.) with contact lenses in, you should have absolutely no problem wearing them while diving. Every now and then it still happens that you might lose one, so it is a good idea to bring a few inexpensive daily lenses as spare.
  • Swimwear – Basically, you can wear any type of swimwear under your diving wetsuit, however anything ‘bulky’ like board shorts might be a bit tricky to fit underneath. For the girls, bear in mind that strapless bandeau bikini tops might not the best idea either… Trust me, I’m speaking of personal experience here!
  • Sarong/towel – A sarong or small sports towel will come in quite handy to dry off/wrap up after your dives.

8 – Don’t buy any SCUBA gear just yet

Yes, I know how tempting it is to buy all those shiny diving toys, but you should definitely hold back – at least for now. You might end up buying something that is simply not suitable for the conditions you are planning to dive in.

For many parts of your equipment (like your mask for example) the right fit is absolutely crucial – not just for your comfort, but also for your safety. In your dive destination, you will find a lot of ‘try before you buy’ options which will allow you to test a few different pieces of equipment during your dives, before spending any money on them.

9 – Start a new bucket list

Once you become a certified diver, you can pretty much throw all your travel plans over board! (No pun intended…)


Diving can be seriously addictive and there are so many new places to explore and things under water to discover that all of the sudden you will start dreaming of visiting places you might have never even heard of before…

10 – Do not hesitate

When I asked my colleagues what they wish someone would have told them before they did their Open Water course, the most common answer was: I wish I would have done it earlier!

Yes, of course, there are a few requirements you need to fulfill before you can sign up for your diving course (you need to be at least 10 years old, know how to swim and pass the medical questionnaire) – but beyond that there are not a lot of reasons why you shouldn’t at least give it a try! You can thank me later…


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