PADI, BSAC or SSI - which way should I certify?

Starting your Scuba Diving Journey

Starting out in scuba diving is both exciting and a little bit daunting.  You are entering a world of strange equipment, practices and weird words; but it's a world that you will very quickly come to love.

When you are looking to start scuba diving you will be faced with an array of information - some of it useful and some of it not so useful.

Scuba diving is an investment in your future that can bring you years, if not decades, of enjoyment, exploration, adventure and fun - not to mention a great excuse to book some brilliant holidays!

We often say that when it comes to learning to scuba dive your only regret will be that you didn't do it years ago.

But where do you start in terms of your journey… and the natural question; which scuba diving agency is the best?

There was a time when PADI was really the only name in town when it came to dive certification. The likes of BSAC and NAUI may have been first, but the PADI PR and marketing machine meant that the brand rose to become the biggest and most recognised in the world.

Certainly when we first started out PADI was the only name we had heard of - but that is a little while ago!

Today PADI is still the largest certifying agency and certifies more than half the world's scuba divers. PADI claims to certify something like three quarters of all scuba divers each year in the USA alone. 

But does it matter?  - PADI, BSAC, SSI, CMAS, NAUI, SDI (we like initials in the scuba diving profession - and there are a lot more - take a look if you don’t believe us!!!!)? Is one ‘better’ than the others… should you have a preference?

In our opinion, no.  Not that we can see.

If you log onto any diving forum or scuba diving Facebook page you’re going to find the odd post that is engaged in ‘agency bashing’.  This is when the brigade of ‘my agency is better than yours’ or ‘I saw an [insert agency name] diver/instructor doing xyz’ live and hunt. They get really boring really quickly and we suggest you ignore them.

Is PADI the largest association.  Yes.  Is it the best?  How long do you have?

The reality is that all of the mainstream scuba organisations conform to the same broad standards.  These standards have evolved over the years and have coalesced to a point where they have become standardised globally - the World Recreational Scuba Training Council looks after that aspect.

Scuba diving is like any other aspect of life.  You will find the good, the bad and the indifferent;  sometimes a blend of all three.

Learning to scuba dive - what do you need to know?

Whilst there might be good, bad and indifferent dive centres and instructors - almost all are extremely hot when it comes to safety. Tuition standards might fluctuate, but scuba diving boasts an extremely impressive safety record.

Scuba dive within your certification limits and you'll find that accidents and incidents are extremely rare. 

So how should you approach your very first trip into the world of scuba?

The key with choosing your diving instructor and/or dive centre is pretty much the same as choosing a hotel… does it provide an environment that you want to spend time in and that you can enjoy?

First of all choose your location rather than the dive centre.  If you are learning at home then it needs to be convenient for you, if you are looking to learn while on holiday, choose the holiday location first. Naturally it helps if it’s near some water!  

Top Tip - think about water temperature - how toastie do you want to be?

Our other top tips:

  • Do your research - you don’t blindly plump for a random hotel and keep your fingers crossed so don’t assume that all scuba dive centres and instructors are suitable for you
  • Ask questions (Naturally not all of the below will be relevant but you get the idea!):
    • How big are the classes?
    • How far away are the dive sites?
    • Do they pick up and drop off?
    • Is there a female instructor (and if so is she available?)
    • Do they teach children?
    • Do they shore dive or boat dive?  
    • What is the insurance cover?
    • What languages can they teach in?
  • How old is/are the scuba diving instructor(s) - If you are of an older vintage then you might be more comfortable with someone who doesn’t look like your grandchildren's babysitter.  As with any thing that involves tuition, you need to be diving with someone you can mentally ‘respect’ as a teacher.
  • Don’t go cheap - scuba diving is an investment in your future - it is something that can literally bring your decades of enjoyment.  Pursue value, not cost. 

Finding the location that suits you and the diving instructor you like is far more important than the logo on the card you'll receive. 

You - you are the key!

Your instructor is important but never as important as you.

Your attitude and approach is vital to how much you will enjoy your scuba diving. Your certification is simply the start of your journey and evidence that you are technically competent enough to stay alive under the water and that understand how to use the equipment.

You then decide if you will become a good scuba diver - the type of scuba diver that others point to and say “that person knows their stuff”.

To to sum up...

Enjoy your diving and chase instructors not agencies.  Decide where you want to go and then do your research - the logo on your card is not as important as your attitude and approach.

You will either be a great, competent and happy diver, or you won't;  the logo on your card has no bearing on that... your instructor has an important bearing, you have a huge bearing.

So which Scuba Diving agency is best?   That one!


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