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Sunday, 14 July 2013

Scuba Diving- A Beginner's Guide

Thinking back over my years as a diving instructor in Cyprus, I began to think about the number of Divers that have come through the doors and the mis-understandings and cons I have seen over the years.

The problem is, that unless you know better, you do not generally know what to expect with a Beginner's Diving course, such as PADI Open Water, BSAC Ocean Diver etc but there are a few things that you should get  with any of these courses.

Access to Diver Materials

divers should have diving course materialsUsually in each Diving course that you take, the chosen Agency produces a manual containing all the
relevant Diver theory you will need to pass the course and build a solid knowledge base for future training and Diving.

PADI insist that each diver have their own manuals for each course, enabling the diver to have a reference to any of the information from said course in the future, which is a very good idea because, as a beginner, trying to cram all that information into 4 days means only a fraction of it will be retained and a lot of it will probably be forgotten quite quickly.

With the advent of online learning, manuals can now be replaced with an online code, which allows you to do the knowledge portion of the courses on-line. Fantastic for some but, I still like to have the solid manual in my hands and it is always best to check whether it will be cost efective for you. I have found the online training usually works out to be more expensive and you don't have the benefit of your instructor there with you to answer questions you might have along the way.

By the time you get to see your instructors, you will have forgotten what those questions were!!

Skills Sessions and Open Water Dives

Each agency breaks down the Diving Courses into Open Water Dives and Confined Pool Sessions. An easy way to check what you should be doing on the Courses is to check out the Agency's own website and it will describe the components of the courses.

So, for example, the PADI Open Water Course has 5 Knowledge Development Sessions, 5 Confined Water Skills Sessions and a minimum of 4 Open Water Dives.

BSAC Ocean Diver has some theory and knowledge development, 5 Confined Water Skills Sessions and 5 Open Water Dives.

No portion of the course should be signed off until the diver is comfortable and competent at that level. Remember that these courses are supposed to take a minimum of 4 days and trying to squeeze it into 2 or 3 is not going to produce high quality divers that can look after themselves in the water.

At Scuba Tech Diving Centre, we try to give our student divers even more time for diving by incorporating an extra Open Water Dive after each skill session. This is beneficial to the Diver, as you can only improve at Scuba when you spend more time in the water. However, I stress this is an additional dive and does not count as one of the 4 mandatory Open Water Course Dives. Do not allow the Dive Centre to combine your Skills Sessions with these compulsory Dives, as it is breaking standards and, as a trainee, you will not benefit from less time in the water!

A Proper Certification Card



 I think back to around seven years ago and a Diver walked into the Dive Centre here in Cyprus as an Open Water Diver wishing to Dive Zenobia.

We explained that you must be a minimum of Advanced Open Water for us to take you on Zenobia and he expressed an interest in taking the Advanced Course.

On production of his certification cards, it appeared he didn't have any. Having done his training in Mexico, all he was given was a sheet of A4 paper stating "This Diver is certified to Open Water Training Level with the Diving Agencies; PADI, SSI, Naui, BSAC and CMAS" with an illegible instructor number at the bottom.

The gentleman in question was obviously devastated as he had paid a lot of money for something that wsn't real. He had even gone out and bought all his own equipment.

Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot we could do to help other than re-train and get him a proper certification card.

In resort, you should receive a Temporary Personal Identification Card (PIC) on completion of your training either in paper format from the dive centre or via email direct from the agency. These temporary cards last approximately 90 days, which should be plenty of time for your actual plastic card to come through the post to you.

If you do not receive the actual card, contact your instructor, who will be able to contact the Dive Agency direct to sort everything out.

Your certification card will usually have your picture on it too.

Supervision Ratios

Most Diving Agencies set ratios for the number of Student Divers that one instructor can teach at any given time. The maximum is usually 4 students per instructor but more students can join the group if the instructor has a Certified Diving Assistant.

Think about the quality of the training you will receive if you Learn to Scuba Dive in a big group like this. Sometimes, maybe it is better to pay a little more and get one to one training or just be in a small group of 2 divers to one instructor. Surely, this is better value for money!

So, there you have my guidelines for a Beginner's Diving Course. Regardless of which agency you decide to learn Scuba with, bear these tips in mind and know what you should be getting for your money and your Diver Training can be the best investment you will make.