This is the time of year that my course schedule for the summer really begins to gel. The holidays are over, winter has set in, people start thinking about the dive season and what they would like to accomplish this year. Some divers set their sights on getting additional training and taking their diving to a new level.
Once a person decides to participate in a course with me, the first question is usually “What should I do before class?” Let’s talk about class prep a little bit. We can divide it up into five areas: scheduling, academic, equipment, in-water competency, and administrative items.
Before you can prepare for a class, you have to schedule the class. You should schedule your course dates as far in advance as is practical. If you want to do a class in July, don’t wait until June 30 to try to schedule it. My training calendar usually fills over the winter. The same is true for most other technical diving instructors I know. Scheduling well in advance helps you get the best choice of dates and allows you adequate time for the other phases of preparation.
Let’s talk about academic preparation. When you think about it, we don’t have a lot of face-to-face time together given the amount, and importance, of material we have to cover. After all, we’re talking about life support training here folks. The work you put in before we meet will only make our time together more beneficial and meaningful. Once you have signed up for a class with me, I will send you an access code for the appropriate TDI eLearning course(s). You should complete the eLearning module(s) before we meet. Make a list of questions you have so you can bring them up in class. I don’t mind if you e-mail or text questions to me as you read through the material. Preparing well before the class means I don’t have to spend time covering topics you understand, allowing us to spend more time on concepts you may need help with, or more time in the water.
Equipment plays a big role in technical diving, especially if you’re just transitioning from recreational diving to technical diving (as in the Adv. Nitrox/Deco Procedures course). I always provide students with a list of required equipment well in advance of the course. You should look it over and make sure you have everything. If you need to buy a new piece of equipment, it’s a good idea to contact me and ask for recommendations. It’s no fun to show up to a class with your brand new Acme DecoMaster 3000 dive computer and find out it doesn’t do what you need it to do. Make sure your equipment is in good working order before the start of class. When you pack your gear for the course dives, make sure you have everything you need. Don’t let your course experience get off on the wrong foot by forgetting something or dealing with a leaky drysuit.
In-water competency, otherwise known as diving, is the most fun part of any scuba course, but can also be the most challenging. What should your competency level be when entering the course? If you can already perform all the course requirements perfectly, then you may not get much out of the course. If on the other hand, your first course dive is also your first dive in a dry suit, first dive in doubles and first dive in cold water, then you’ve set yourself up for a rough time. You should have at least some basic competency with the equipment keeping you alive. If you’re just getting into technical diving, practice diving in a dry suit and doubles. Try to get your buoyancy and trim sorted out as best you can. Have your dive buddies watch you and critique you. Better yet, get someone to video you so can see how you look in the water.
Lastly, we have administrative items. If you’re enrolled in a technical diving course, you’ve obviously already taken a number of scuba courses and should be familiar with the standard forms used in every scuba course, namely the liability release and the medical information form. I have students fill out the liability release on the first day of class. The medical form, on the other hand, should be dealt with long before the course meets. As you are probably aware, the form lists lots of medical conditions. If any apply to you, you need a physician’s signature on the form in order to participate in the class. As soon as you sign up for a course, I will e-mail the form to you so you have ample time to get an appointment to see your doctor if needed. It is imperative you show up to the course with a (correctly) completed medical form. If your medical history requires you to get a doctor’s approval, and you show up without it, you’re out of luck. You cannot participate in class without a properly completed medical form.
Other paperwork you should bring to class are your dive log and photocopies of relevant c-cards that I can keep for my files. What are “relevant c-cards?” They are the certifications that are prerequisites for the course you are taking. For instance, you need to be certified as an Advanced Diver and Nitrox Diver in order to take the Advanced Nitrox/Decompression Procedures course, so I need copies of those two certifications. I will certainly take copies of other c-cards if you want to give them to me, but I need copies of the prerequisite certifications at the very least.
In closing, let me give a couple final tips. As you prepare for class, ask questions. If you are confused about something, don’t suffer in silence, ask! Come to class with an open mind, ready to learn. You may learn things that seem to contradict what you’ve learned in previous courses. Don’t dismiss new techniques because “This is the way I’ve always done it.” You are here to learn and try new things. Learning something new can be stressful. Some degree of stress is inevitable, but try to remember to relax. Remaining calm and relaxed will make the skill easier to accomplish and you’ll have a more enjoyable class experience. Hopefully, these tips will help you get ready for your course and you’ll have a rewarding, challenging, and even enjoyable experience!