Divers who are new to GUE training or already hold a level 1 certification wonder what is really going on a level 2 training. What is the difference compared to a level 1 class? What skills, procedures will they be taught?
For solid divers who have sufficient experience on level 1 dives, actually the leap from 1 to 2 is not so overwhelming in terms of new skills or procedures. Of course the more complex dives on the 2nd level require a finesse and efficiency in previously learned skills to a level where they are automatic. Just as divers need to develop in the beginning for example how they would donate gas while still being stable in the water without thinking about it, the same goes for example to drop a line marker before an intersection, on level 2 dives this needs to be very clean, on time, well prepared and fluently coordinated by all team members. Such essential skills are a minimum requirement on a 2nd level training, that all students can perform it with the highest efficiancy without even thinking about it much. New tasks, equipment parts are almost immediately introduced during training, so the students really need to focus on that, not on something they should have practiced in and after their level 1 training. However the main difference lies elsewhere.
The core difference between level 1 and 2 GUE training is the concept of the thinking diver. Many not so well informed individuals complained about GUE’s training philosophy, taking only a look at our standardized approach, that we are developing „robots” instead of divers. Actually the opposite is true, and the best way to prove this is a level 2 training with GUE. To some degree it is true, that basic skills needs to be practiced, repeated the same way many times so we can train efficient divers, but even on a Fundamentals level „mindless” diving is of course something we want to completely eliminate. Maybe on entry level classes the thinking diver concept is not so obvious as we really try to teach foundational knowledge and skill, which really needs to be repeated quite some times until it is solid, but in reality from this little bit more strict approach in the beginning, divers will benefit greatly later on higher level classes. Of course as with any higher level of diving, the more freedom divers get in terms of usable gases, depth, penetration distance, navigation, etc., the associated complexity and risks of the dive increase proportionally to that as well. Which means divers need to stay very focused all the time and if there is a problem (or more) the solution to that might not be so obvious or „black and white” as it was on the previous level due to the more complex dives. At this moment we really need those thinking divers in our team, who can agree on a mutually good decision with a clean communication. The problem solution here is moving a little bit to a grey area. There can be more good decisions we should just always ask ourselves: what happened? Where will this solution lead us? What kind of reserves we still have intact? There is also no big secret in the fact that problems on higher levels are more likely to occur: tighter more silty passages in caves, decompression problems with longer and/or deeper dives, more cylinders, etc.
From all of the above mentioned aspects of level 2 training, just to be a solid diver with good diving skills might not be enough to succeed. If we have aspiration as divers to reach higher level of GUE training, we should not just think about and develop our foundational or level 1 diving skills, we should strive to be a better diver in terms of thinking too. Now the question is: How can I be a better thinking diver? How can I think better? This sounds very strange…, doesn’t it? It is very hard to answer too, but probably the answer lies in exprience. The more real dives people do, not just going down to the nearest swimming pool making valve-drills, the more realistic problems during dives might surface which will challange the diver to look for a good solution and think! A good way to prepare is a high situational awareness and above all anticipation! The instructors at this level also start to use a different teaching approach towards students so they "force" them to think more. The simple method of doing this is just that they will ask much more questions from students as compared to previous levels. My instructor always told me: if you want to impress me while I present simulated failures to you underwater show me how bored you are in solving them! Staying calm, in control, stop, think for a moment and than act; showes really a capable GUE level 2 diver who is not just acting blindly, but really makes educated decisions in an efficient way. After all of this, we cannot wait to see what the level 3 classes will hold, which are currently under re-development.