Entry Level Dive Training
Learning to dive is on many people’s wish lists. If ever the time was right, that time is now! Enter the exhilarating underwater world with its enthralling marine life, pulsating colours and new experiences. Learning to dive will open up new places and friendships you would have otherwise missed out on!
So how do you decide which learning method is best for you and which training agency to choose? In the 90s and Noughties the Professional Association of Diving Instructors was so popular in recreational diving that students used to say “I’m going to get my PADI”. PADI are still the leading worldwide diver training agency, with over 29 million certifications awarded by 2020. Today there is a plethora of agencies with different learning criteria and prices available. One may work for you better than another for a variety of reasons: perhaps your nearest dive shop is an SSI training centre or you have joined the university sub aqua club affiliated to BSAC. Here at Mike’s Dive Store we like to keep an open mind and we understand that in a diverse world there is room for all agencies.
If you are a novice, there are a variety of ways you can begin your dive adventure. Most training agencies offer a similar profile of courses.
- Discover Scuba Diving – if you are not sure whether you would like to do a full scuba diving course you can get a taster with a DSD. It starts with a thorough briefing from a diving professional who uses a special flipchart to walk you through the basics of scuba. You will then get properly fitted into some scuba equipment and go into a shallow pool or confined water to experience breathing underwater. When comfortable, your instructor will have you practice a few basic skills to get familiar with your equipment and safe diving practices. The experience is topped off with a fun shallow dive in an open water environment allowing you to get to grips with the basic concepts of buoyancy and pressure. If you love it, you can carry on to complete a full open water course.
- E-Learning – e-learning is popular because people learn at different paces. Many people benefit from learning in a group and having discussions, while some prefer a quieter study environment where they can do their own research in bite-size chunks. If you a) have time on your hands prior to a course or holiday or b) want to avoid classroom time while in the tropics, then e-learning is for you! You can complete the Knowledge Development parts of your Open Water course online via an access code prior to even meeting your instructor. This will inevitably reduce the number of hours required when in resort. Mike's Dive Store doesn't conduct full SCUBA training courses but you can begin your education with a wide range of e-learning options for both entry level and continuing education PADI courses. All you'll need to do is find a dive centre to complete the practical part of your training. You can also begin e-learning training for free with SSI and RAID
- Referral – Completing the Knowledge Development and Confined Water skill dives at your local dive centre, frees you up for more diving when you arrive overseas! You will have just the 4 open water dives to enjoy upon arrival which should take 2 days. That effectively leaves you with 2 additional free days that otherwise would have been spent in the classroom and pool. Referrals are also helpful if you have difficulty completing a course due to illness or problems in mastering skills. The referral normally lasts for 12 months and you can complete it elsewhere later.
- Full Open Water course – the camaraderie of a group of people with a common goal is infectious! You will spend around 4 days with the same team: overcoming problems together, experiencing excitement, fear and wonder together. You will be looking out for these people underwater without even realising that you are becoming a caring and helpful buddy. The full course is great for those doing the course alone as you will build some firm friendships which will probably last a lifetime.
The training agencies
Who are PADI?
PADI is the world’s leading scuba diver training organisation with more than 6,600 Dive Centres and Resorts, and 137,000 individual diving professionals around the world. The PADI System of diver education is based on progressive training that introduces skills, safety-related information and local environmental knowledge to student divers in stages using proven educational principles. PADI courses are student-centred and provide maximum practice and realistic application.
PADI is worldwide with service offices and distribution centres in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States with translations of PADI materials available in at least 26 languages.
Who are SSI?
Scuba Schools International have been in business since 1970. Rather than recruiting instructors directly (like PADI) they have a schools network that recruits instructors to work under them. They are then responsible for ensuring that the instructors are kept current with new procedures and industry updates.
SSI are probably the second biggest training agency behind PADI. They have materials printed in over 30 languages and have a presence in over 110 countries. They also offer freediving, open circuit technical and closed circuit rebreather courses. They qualify for a Global ISO Certification and are therefore recognised wherever you want to dive across the world.
The SSI Open Water course includes an online academic program, 6 confined water sessions and 4 open water dives, allowing you to dive to a maximum depth of 18 metres.
Who are DiveRAID?
RAID began in 2006. Their initials stand for Rebreather Association of International Divers and they were initially a dedicated technical diving agency. In 2014 they decided to expand into the realms of both recreational and freediving. When an agency is best known for technical diving you can guarantee that their grass roots courses are going to instil some top notch buoyancy skills into their divers! RAID’s slogan is "Dive Training in a Class of its Own" and they pride themselves on having courses written by experts in their fields.
DiveRAID only offers digital learning, as their contribution to save our already suffering planet. For the Open Water 20 course the theory is very thorough. A minimum of four hours of confined water training is required for this course and 3 hours open water time. You can learn in any equipment configuration including with a long hose (popular with technical divers), a twinset or sidemount. Buoyancy skills focus on real-life horizontal positioning. RAID programs are approved by the European Underwater Federation (EUF) and they are compliant with the EU ISO Standards.
Who are BSAC?
The UK’s largest training agency, BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club) was founded in 1953. The club is based around the concept of social get-togethers that involve diving activities, whether that be skills training or club outings. A yearly club membership of around £32 gives you access to (but is not limited to) training, rental equipment, access to air fills and boats, year-round diving opportunities in addition to discounts with tour operators. BSAC stresses that it is a community of like-minded individuals and offers advice on a multitude of dive related issues. They also have well established environmental projects and campaigns such as Respect Our Wrecks.
BSAC’s entry level course is called Ocean Diver. It consists of six theory modules, a minimum of five sessions in a pool or sheltered water, and at least four open-water dives. The course will equip you with the core skills to dive to a maximum depth of 20 metres in open water. It can be completed in any of the 1000+ BSAC branches across Britain and overseas.
Who are SDI?
Like RAID, SDI stemmed from the world’s largest technical diving training agency - TDI (Technical Diving International) back in 1999. They pride themselves on the fact that this branch was created by professional educators, who knew what it took to educate qualified divers at all levels. They put the emphasis on in-water training. SDI programs are approved by the European Underwater Federation (EUF) and the International Organization Standardization (ISO). They have 26 Regional Offices servicing more than 100 countries.
SDI’s Open Water Scuba Diver course has some impressive course materials that feature detailed graphics and illustrations. Topics include the aquatic environment, physics and physiology, equipment, dive planning and navigation. You can choose to complete it either online or at your local dive centre. This is followed by in-water skill development training where the student will master 18 skills (with sub skills) and 4 open water training dives. SDI require students to be taught with modern dive computers from the offset.
Who are GUE?
GUE (Global Underwater Explorers) are a nonprofit organisation dedicated to diving Education, Conservation and Exploration. They class their diver training programs as “highly refined” which is due to the elite explorers, conservationists and scientific researchers who have created them. GUE is probably best known for its open circuit cave and technical diving courses which were developed to support global exploration projects.
What separates GUE entry level programs from other agencies is the skill practice which emphasises the importance of neutral buoyancy, balance and trim from the off. All critical skill mastery is done maintaining this position. To enrol in the GUE Recreational Diver 1 program you must be physically and mentally fit as well as a non-smoker. You will have a rigorous 40 training hours which runs over 5-6 days, comprising of classroom lectures, 10 confined water sessions and 6 open water dives. Training materials are available online. This course is innovative as it includes the study of nitrox diving and gas analysis. The student may learn in a double tank configuration and will be provided with a long hose as standard.
Becoming a GUE instructor is a long road and is governed by a yearly requalification assessment not adopted by other training agencies. The zero to hero approach is frowned upon! With GUE you know your instructor is going to be one of the best there is.
Whichever agency you decide to enrol with to begin your diving adventure, make sure you have a positive experience. It is your passport to 70% more of the world where you will encounter reefs, wrecks, fascinating marine life and new friends along the way. Learning can be challenging but once certified, you will kick yourself for not doing it sooner! Here at Mikes, we are here to support you by answering any questions you may have and with with our collection of kit for the New Diver.