Diving or Sub-Aqua is a thrilling, challenging and relaxing sport. It is also one that requires patience to learn, a degree of self-awareness and the ability to gain confidence and skills relevant to the environment in which you are placing yourself.
When buying or choosing diver education there are some fundamental issues to which you should focus your attention:
It’s Not About Cost – Its about value for money
Whilst generally, costs for dive courses tend not to vary that much within geographic areas, the quality of training and its flexibility does. Dive/scuba schools have profit margins like any other business. You need to ensure you fully understand a like for like offer. For example; a price matched or “cheaper” PADI Open Water Course may seem easier on the wallet however, what level of experience do your instructors have? What flexibility exists for pool sessions and open water schedules? What is their insurance cover? Are they telling you the truth in relation to their diving experience and crucially, are they someone from whom you can learn?
As a new diver you are putting yourself in an environment that presents significant challenges. Here in the UK, you’re diving in an environment that has factors beyond those in sunnier climates. Your instructor must be able to demonstrate significant experience of the waters in which not only you plan to learn, but also in water that you plan to dive in.
It isn’t sufficient to learn based purely on Standards of the certifying agency. The experience, insight, mistakes and achievements of your instructor and their team allow PADI/BSAC or other agency standards to be achieved in a context of “look, I did this, I’ve seen this” type teaching.
Some divers require mentoring. Mentoring is needed from an instructional point of view simply to ensure the diver has the opportunity to explore and survive the environment they’re in. You may not know at the start that you need mentoring, you may never know. But if you do, you will also realise that mentoring is critical to enable you to enjoy the sport. Look at your instructor(s) and ask yourself whether you wish to be able to do what they do.
Dive centres/schools can claim what they wish in relation to their acheivements, their staff, their experience and output. However you’ll never know for sure whether this information is true or not, simply because the information is not publically available.
There are however a range of checks that you can do, specifically in relation to your PADI instructor/school/dive centre that can give you an insight to the track record of your instructional team…
1) Ask them to show you their certification count. It’s an easy thing for the instructor to do, they can log on to their PADI (or other agency) profile and look up their experience of teaching.
2) Ask for their instructor number prior to booking your course. By using their number, for example mine is 632622, you can Pro Check them and see what level of instructor they are and whether or not they are authorised to teach. PADI in particular are very good at this.
3) Ask for a copy of their insurance certificate. If not, ask to view it. In the UK this is a legal requirement. In other countries their requirements vary,
An Instructor without a Dive Centre is an Odd Thing
To prolong your diving involvement and offer you a continuous ability to dive, learn and explore the underwater world, look for a full offering of support. PADI have a range of dive centre/school accreditations, the highest of which is a PADI 5 Star IDC (which Dive Rutland Limited - trading as Dive Rutland is) or CDC centre.
An instructor, operating without the backup of a dive centre status is offering you training only.
As a dive centre, you gain access to equipment expertise, ability to purchase at often good discounted rates, experience and mentoring through dive clubs and dive buddies and in the case of IDC/CDC centres, the ability to grow your diving in an environment that has been quality approved by the worlds leading dive organisation.
Diver education is a choice and an opportunity. As a recreational activity diving is fun and safe and along with any approved and appropriately qualified instructional support, you can enjoy the sport and gain the challenges you may wish.
Likewise, it is also an activity that has areas of risk. Trust your risk education and awareness in the hands of people who know what they’re doing.