What skills will I practice in my PADI Open Water Course?

Opening Doors

The PADI Open Water Diver course is the most popular scuba diving course out there. It is a milestone for all certified recreational and technical divers as the course that opens the door to the scuba diving world. It is built of 3 main parts, theoretical study to teach you what you need to know to become a diver, pool sessions to safely practice practical skills you must master in order to be a safe and capable diver, and open water dives which let you implement those same skills in a proper diving environment. Let’s talk about some of the most important skills of the course and what you can expect to experience during your Open Water Diver course with Dive Ninjas.

Mobula Rays in Baja California Sur, Mexico
Diving GBR w/David Girsh 2018


The most important skill, and for some, the most difficult to master is controlling your buoyancy while diving. Buoyancy is our floatability in the water, it is the relation between our weight and the amount of water we displace (our size/the space we occupy) while diving. If our weight is high compared to our size we will sink, and if we are light compared to our size we will float. Understanding this is key to being able to control where we are in the water column. What does it mean to ‘control your buoyancy’? Why should we aspire to master this skill? While under the water buoyancy is everything. Good buoyancy will help in emergencies, like when you need to get to the surface and stay floating. It will help protect the environment from harm, for example preventing kicking the coral or ‘landing’ on them. It will help protect us divers from harm, such as brushing over a fire coral or getting cut by the old metal of a ship wreck. It will make swimming easier, as we don’t have to fight to stay at the same depth all the time, but can neutrally float and just kick ourselves forward. It is also the most amazing feeling to float around, defying gravity, like walking on the moon.

During the course we will practice buoyancy all the time, starting from our first skill practice in the pool. You will learn to use the scuba equipment to make yourself float on the surface, sink to the bottom of the pool and to become neutrally buoyant and simply hover. While we will keep practicing buoyancy control throughout all immersions, we will practice 3 buoyancy-specific skills: Fin pivot, rising and falling using our breath alone. This will show you how you can control your buoyancy.  The other 2 skills are Hovering skills. First you will practice achieving neutral buoyancy and hovering at a certain depth by using the air from your tank. Then you will also learn to do the same, but using the air you exhale from your lungs.
After completing your Open Water course, you can join a Peak Performance Buoyancy course, or one of our personalized Ninja Buoyancy workshops to really fine tune your skills, like a true Dive Ninja.

Diving GBR w/David Girsh 2018

Swimming and trim

Swimming under the water goes hand in hand with buoyancy. There are many ways to swim underwater, but not all of them are efficient and safe. The perfect way for you to swim depends on your physical abilities, the type of fins you will use and sometimes the diving conditions. We will start working on swimming techniques in the pool, but most of the progress will be seen during our ocean dives, where we will get to swim with beautiful fish and look at the amazing reefs. 

We will work on staying horizontal while swimming. There are 2 main reasons for that – first, when swimming, you advance in the opposite direction of where your feet are pointing to. So, if you are upright in the water, you will be swimming towards the surface (which we only want to do if we want to reach the surface). The second reason is to protect the environment underneath us. If we swim with our fins below our body, we will kick whatever is in the vicinity of our fins, stir up the sand and ‘choke’ the coral with sand/silt or hit the corals without noticing. We will also work on your trim, and make sure you are properly positioning your gear, attaching anything that needs to be attached and being as hydrodynamic as possible while diving. This will help protect the gear you will use, reduce the water resistance thus making it easier to swim, and protect the underwater environment from getting hit by any loose hoses and instruments. So we could keep enjoying the incredible underwater environment.


In total, there are 5 mask skills every student has to master. But actually, they are all the same skill – how to clear water out of your mask. Water in our mask is not a big deal, but it makes it harder to see and can be a bit uncomfortable. Sometimes you might want to have a bit of water in there if your mask is fogging up. But if not, just clear it and enjoy the views. Some students find this skill a bit hard, mainly for its mental aspects. You’ll see – after you do it once, you can do it anytime.
Mask clearing course skills are: Partially Flood your mask with just a little bit of water, and then clear it by blowing through your nose and tilting your head up, all while sealing the top part of your mask. This will cause the water to rush out of the lower part of your mask and leave it clear. Easy peasy! You will have to do the same exact thing 4 more times, with slight variations, in different sessions of the course. So you will see that in any situation, if water enters your mask, you can deal with it with no problems. When you are comfortable with partially flooding and clearing your mask, we will Fully Flood the mask and clear it. After some time, when you are feeling ready, you will Remove & Replace the mask and clear it again. Next, we’ll ask you to take your mask off, Breath Without a Mask for a minute, and put it back on, then clear. Lastly, remove the mask and perform a 15 meter/50 ft No Mask Swim, put the mask back on and clear it. We will have as much time as we need to feel comfortable and throughout the whole time, your instructor will be right next to you, holding on to your arm/shoulder, so you can close your eyes to not let water touch them if it makes you more comfortable.

Diving with manta rays in Baja California Sur, Mexico
Scuba diving with reef manta rays in the Maldives

Staying Safe

Knowing how to deal with emergencies under the water is one of the most important skills you can have as a diver. After becoming an Open Water diver there are many options to learn more about diving emergencies, like the Rescue course or the Search and Recovery Specialty course. But in this course, you will learn about the potential emergencies you might face as a certified diver. We will look at things like what to do if we accidentally run out of air and teach you to avoid this situation by being mindful of your air consumption and the amount of air you have left in your tank during every dive, as well as how to deal with cramps or if we lose our dive buddy. While these situations are quite rare, it’s always better to be safe then sorry.

One of the most pressing emergency situations that can happen while diving is when a diver runs out of air in their tank. There are 2 possible situations you will have to deal with – when you are Out Of Air and are near your dive buddy. In this situation you will ask your buddy to share their air with you, so the both of you can make a safe ascent while breathing from the same tank. This is made very easy by using our standard dive equipment, which has 2 regulators for breathing; our primary and our octopus/alternate regulator. All you have to do is inform your dive buddy you are out of air, take their alternate air source, pop it into your mouth, breath like you normally would and make a slow ascent to the surface together. The second situation is when you are far from your buddy and need to ascend without the assistance of another diver. If you are caught in a situation like this you will have to perform a Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent, or in short CESA. You shouldn’t ever get caught in a situation like this if you practice safe diving skills and check you air. But, we will practice this skill in the pool and in the ocean to be extra safe, so you know how to handle the situation calmly and as safely as possible. As the name of this skill implies, you must ascend to the surface while swimming in a controlled manner. But keep in mind that you have no air to breath while ascending. That means it has to be a quick, yet safe ascent. But there are rules: you cannot hold your breath. To deal with this challenge, we will work on ascending while exhaling slowly, so any excess air can escape from our body without causing any problems. We’ll also work on what to do once on the surface. This is a skill that many of our students say sounds a bit scarier then it really is once they’ve tried it.
These situations are easy to avoid, by simply checking you air frequently and communicating with your dive buddies. From the very first time we get in the water, we will work on checking our air and making sure everyone can finish their dive safely.

Reef mantas circle a cleaning station in the Maldives

Having Fun

In the end, almost all divers in the world became divers because they love the underwater world and because diving is fun! During the course, you will not only learn about safety and the gear, but mostly about enjoying the experience and getting familiar with the beautiful eco-system which covers most of our planet. In every immersion you will feel the wonder of a weightless world, a world most people never get to see. When diving in the ocean, fish and life is all around, and amazing sights can be seen on every dive. We will talk about the environment and animals in the ocean, learn about the fish we see and experience some incredible encounters. Each of our Open Water dives will be divided into 2 parts; we will start with demonstrating a few skills we practiced in the pool, and then go exploring our mesmerizing dive sites. We might encounter California sea lions at Land’s End, schools of Mobula rays at Pelican Rock or elusive sea horses at North Wall. There’s so much to see and experience in the ocean, more than any of us can imagine! Let go check it out!

The Open Water Diver course is undoubtedly the most important course in any divers’ life. It builds the basis for all future skill development and gives you the ability and confidence to go diving almost anywhere in the world. At Dive Ninja Expeditions we take pride of what we do and of our students. So you can be sure you’ll get the best dive training and experience! Our instructors are flexible and are happy to adapt to your needs as a student, and teach you in the best way possible.
Want to become a diver? Contact us to speak with an instructor. Or, book your Open Water course today!

Reef mantas circle a cleaning station in the Maldives

Frrediving Mobula expedition Dive Nina WExpeditions in Baja California Sur


Nature and outdoors is what I love most. Animals, plants and terrain. Always seeking adventures, exploration and learning something new. Love being a Ninja Instructor and Expedition Guide and showing people the beauties of the world. 
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