According to the website, it's 30 dives. I can't see the instructor manual since I'm not a tec 40 instructor. PADI's pretty anal about making training information square up like that, so I'd be shocked if it wasn't 30 dives.
It's not common, but it is fun to do in open water. I did it at my instructor exam in open water to adjust something on my BCD and induced a mild panic in the candidate acting as the instructor. She couldn't figure out if I was the "problem student" that she was supposed to be on the lookout...
Yes, a single piece harness.
I imagine that I'll end up with a TDI instructor, but I don't really care. If I had to do a single piece harness, I could do it I think, but I'd prefer to train the way I am going to dive afterwards.
I'd love to find an instructor in Mexico that would work for...
Quality of instruction: very high
Good command of the English language.
Destinations that have warm water and air in Jan/Feb.
Destinations where Southwest flies.
Not having to change to a DIR configuration for training.
I think that's it...
They are saying that they have to demonstrate it during DM or instructor training.
There's no requirement that they do it during OW, but, the new standard for Advanced Buoyancy Control requires that the student perform all the skills from OW while neutrally buoyant. I expect neutral...
I'm not saying that adventure isn't a subset of the specialty (and I read all the training bulletins you mentioned). What I'm saying is, the instructor manual says that the only specialty course that one can take, and then apply to the AOW course is AWARE. I agree that this makes no sense, but...