We do Training Differently

By training differently we ensure your success. As a new diver, that’s what you’d expect every instructor and dive shop to work to make you the best diver possible, but unfortunately that’s rarely the case. Most dive training is designed to get you in and out the door as quickly as possible, while the shop (read: retailer) sells you as much as they can.

The reason that they do this is they know you it’s unlikely that they’ll ever see you after your initial course. Their classes are big, 10 to 14 students isn’t unusual, and run as quickly as possible, because you are viewed as a resource for the business. They are trying to extract the maximum value (your money) from that resource with the least investment possible (big classes and training that will only hover around the minimum standards).

How do we do training differently?

Much more than the average course, our entry level class is designed to make you much more comfortable than the average diver. You will learn more and at the end of the course, you’ll have skills normally reserved for students taking advanced classes. This equates to more fun in the water!

Our Open Water Scuba Diver class longer and more rigorous than what you’ll experience with others. We do this with purpose and intent. We won’t let you walk away from our classes uncomfortable and minimally trained. In fact, if you don’t look and feel great in the pool, we aren’t going to send you on. We will keep working with you until you are relaxed and confident in the pool. In open water, you are going into a hostile environment with life support equipment (a mammal breathing underwater) so rigorous training is good for you! Our longer classes allow new divers to acquire the skills and experience to be comfortable and confident in the water, rather than feeling stressed, rushed, and intimidated. Because we keep our classes small, with a maximum of three students in the water, we have time to help you, and work with you.

Of course, if you want to pay less, you can take courses with up to 14 students, but consider the video above. In it there is a demonstration of the first skill every new diver learns; how to clear water out of their mask. The video, which is of course edited to make sure no time is wasted, it takes about 30 seconds for the demonstration and one mask clearing. In reality, it can take an individual student a couple of tries to get this right, but let’s assume it takes 1 minute for the instructor to get everyone’s attention and one minute for each student to perform the skill. In a class of 3 students, we have spent 4 minutes on that skill. In a class of 14, we’ve spent a quarter of an hour where most of the time, you sat around waiting for the other students to get done.

Now imagine that everyone in one of our classes has a problem with this skill and we have to spend 5 minutes working with them – 16 minutes of pool time is used. If you’re in the big class, well frankly I’ve taught those classes in the past and there’s no time to work with you. Maybe an assistant can help you while I move the rest of the class on to the next skill, maybe you’ll catch up, maybe you won’t, but even if I spent the time with three students in a 14 student class, we’d have spent a half-hour in the water working on that skill. If you are a student in that class without a problem, you’ve spent one minute of practice and 29 minutes of waiting around. That isn’t optimal for you. By training differently, we make sure you you get the attention you need.

In a gigantic class, if you have a problem, the instructor can’t take time to work with you. There are about 28 skills that open water courses teach, so in a big class, time is of the essence. If I have to teach 14 people 28 skills in 4 to 6 hours, you can do the math to see that as an instructor I’m going to have to leave some students behind. On the other hand, in a class of two or three, I have all the time I need to work with you to remediate any issues you might have.

In a big class, the instructor has to have a lot of control of the students to ensure they are safe. That means that students are expected to kneel on the bottom of the pool an wait their turn to do skills. By contrast, our small classes mean we can start working on “advanced skills” (they really are basic skills, but most agencies and instructors can’t teach them in a basic class, hence the name) right away. We tech you skills in neutral buoyancy and horizontal trim. What does that mean to you? Probably not a lot right now, so let’s look at that in more detail.

Training Differently – Neutral Buoyancy and Trim

When you think of scuba diving, what do you imagine? A lot of people think about swimming with fish or sea turtles on a reef, or maybe checking out the outside of a sunken ship.

Diver with fish and coral - Training differently means you start out this way
Diver with fish and coral

That is how scuba diving is done by well trained and experienced divers. Those divers learn to hover in the water where they aren’t moving up or down (unless they want to!) and to swim along horizontally, like a fish does. Unfortunately, most divers aren’t taught this in their entry level classes! Most divers learn to dive like the photo below.

Kneeling divers. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jumar T. Balacy/Released)

The problem with this is, clear, this is not how you should dive. However, when students are taught with this incorrect positioning the law of primacy takes over and they start to dive like they did in the pool.

You don’t have to go far on youtube to find examples. The diver below is clearing his mask just like he was trained, except now he’s kneeling in mid-water.

That video is full of examples of what not to do, but none of it is the divers’ fault. They’re just doing what they were trained to do (dive wrong)! Advanced divers don’t dive this way, so why should you? We train you to dive like an advanced diver from the moment you enter the water. That way you don’t have to unlearn bad habits, or develop new habits as you advance your skills. Instead of wasting time in advanced classes, you’ll have more time to add additional skills.

Now here’s a video of a couple of our students during their open water training:

It is pretty easy to see the difference.

The Viking Dives “Training Differently” Process

Our training process has four parts, Electronic Learning (eLearning) on the TDI/SDI site, Classroom lecture, Confined Water (Pool) Skills Training, and Open Water Dives.


The eLearning process is simple and effective. You’ll log in, and start reviewing the class material. Every module has some reading and videos like the first video in this post interspersed to keep things interesting. At the end of the module, you’ll have a quiz to ensure you understood the material. At the end of the course, you’ll take a comprehensive final exam. All the materials are yours, they don’t expire so you have the ability to go back and refresh yourself when you need to.

Classroom – Training Differently

Classroom sessions generally start in the mornings on our “pool weekends.” Because the eLearning is so good, we aren’t going over the basics in class, we are adding to what you have learned. We include advanced topics like frog kicking, Surface Consumption Rate (SCR) calculations and rock bottom gas calculations, just to name a few. Our classroom training easily puts you in the top 1% of education for open water divers. There are scuba instructors who don’t know or couldn’t do what you’ll have learned by the end of our classroom sessions.

Confined Water/Pool Time – Training Differently

Our afternoons are spent working on skills in the pool. These are long days, so plan to sleep well! 2 pool sessions of 4 hours of in water time is generally enough to get you feeling really comfortable and relaxed in the water, but if you need more time, that’s always available. By the time you leave the pool, you’ll have demonstrated mastery of all your skills and we will proceed to open water. You will learn to hover like a fish, and lots of other “extra” things that others don’t have the time or inclination to include in their courses.

Open Water

In open water (that’s usually the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa) you’ll demonstrate some of the skills that you learned in the pool. But like everything we do, we do more than the minimum. All open water courses have to do a minimum of 4 dives. As you can probably guess, that’s what everyone else does, but not Viking Dives. With us, you’ll dive a minimum of 5 dives in your class (and we add 1 additional dive to all other classes you take too!). That means you get more time to adjust to diving on your own. We usually finish with skills by your second or third dive, so you get to “just dive” with us at the end of the course. That’s what training differently means!

Wrapping it up

In summary, you get much more than an average scuba course when you take a class with Viking Dives. You learn to dive, but on top of that we incorporate skills that others teach in specialties such as Peak Performance Buoyancy, and Rescue diver. This doesn’t make the course tougher, but it does make diving more fun! Going into an underwater environment wearing life support equipment can be a bit unnerving, so the more we can do to increase your comfort, the more you will be able to enjoy yourself.