One of the most frequent questions I encounter from new and prospective scuba divers are what certifications they should get and who should certify them. As a PADI Divemaster (correction: SDI DM as of 2013), I’m a bit biased towards my own certifying agency, but I keep an open mind and ask a few questions back before delivering an answer. However, these are my most common responses, and maybe they can help you out or a potential/new diver you know!
“Who should I go to to get certified?”:
Well, as much as various agencies will advertise, argue and fight in and amongst themselves about who provides the most thorough or accessible or hardest levels of training, you’ll learn the same basic skills from all of them. In my general experience, the only real difference when it comes to training groups comes from their focus for training; recreational or technical diving.
- PADI, NAUI, BSAC, ACUC, SSI, SDI, and to a lesser degree, CMAS, focus primarily on recreational diving between 0 and 40m in depth using air or nitrox (40% max), and things that you can do at those depths.
- TDI, GUE and their relations are focused on moving you from “normal” recreational diving and into the realms of Technical Diving. Whether used for cave exploration or ultra deep dives, technical diving often involves using rebreathers or multiple tanks of air, nitrox and trimix (all mixed for specific depths and uses).
All of that said, for a new recreational diver, your certification will be recognized internationally and by other organizations. A GUE or CMAS diver can dive with a PADI or BSAC shop. Just remember to bring your logbook and be prepared to be told that some dives may be outside of your experience or training level.
“What certifications and specializations should I get after Open Water?”
This is the question that I dread the most really, because everyone wants something different out of their underwater experience. As a rule of thumb, I generally advise the following course load:
- Advanced Open Water (or the equivalent thereof): it will give you a good set of skills that will come up off and on as a diver, and show dive operators that you have an interest in being a better diver.
- Deep, Night and NitrOx(enriched air) specialties (or the equivalents thereof): Deep increases your maximum legal depth to 40m (from 20m in Open Water Diver and 30m in Advanced Open Water Diver); Night opens up the other half of the day to you and will add more chances for unique sights and encounters; and NitrOx (enriched air) certification will make doing multiple dives over multiple days a safer prospective plan.
Of course, after completing your dive training, you’ll be excited and pumped up and probably more than a little bit giddy that you’re now a diver. This is usually when the urge to buy gear, make extensive plans and think about your future as an underwater adventurer occurs. The key afterwards is to think about how much and where you’ll be diving. If you only intend to be a holiday diver, get the certifications that you’ll need for the dives you want to do and keep the gear purchases to the minimum. If diving looks like its going to play a big part in your future plans of recreation or as a professional calling, plan it out and start trawling eBay, online dive equipment suppliers and your local dive shops for gear.
Back on topic, that’s my advice for new divers and those thinking of becoming divers. Good Luck and Good Diving!