If you’re interested in becoming a scuba diver or expanding your dive training you’ve probably already done your research and stumbled across the wide variety of dive training agencies. Given that there are over 150 different agencies, for a first timer it can be very confusing trying to decide which organization to go with.
As a sport, scuba diving doesn’t have one centralized certifying or regulatory agency. Many agencies that play a role in providing training to divers and regulating the sport as a whole. Over the years, these agencies have set the bar and developed training procedures and safety protocols as a standard for divers everywhere.
In the early stages of your recreational scuba diving training you will find that regardless of the agency, dive courses are more or less identical across the board. If you make the jump to the professional level, a whole new world will open up. You will quickly learn that some agencies do not recognize each other’s qualifications.
Important Note: While selecting a diving agency is an essential step in getting your dive certification, nothing is more important than having an instructor with experience, a good attitude and a keen mind for safety, even if this means going for your alternate choice of agency. The course will only be as good as the instructor who teaches it!
Of the alphabet soup of dive agencies, there is only a handful that has surpassed the masses. They have become so well recognized that almost all dive outlets and dive shops use these agencies for certification. Everybody who is anybody in the scuba diving world knows of or has heard of the three largest certification agencies PADI, SSI or NAUI. Before you throw on that scuba tank and dive into the water, it’s worth learning more about these top agencies to figure out which one is best suited to certify you.
“The way the world learns to dive”
The Professional Association of Dive Instructors is the largest scuba diving organization in the world. This for-profit corporation with an international scope makes underwater adventures possible while maintaining a high standard for diver training, safety, and customer service. The PADI courses focus on the student’s needs, providing maximum practice and realistic real-world applications.
PADI’s scuba diving lifestyle is represented by the “4 E Philosophy”:
The Professional Association of Dive Instructors made a splash into the diving world in 1966 when it was dreamed up by two friends in Illinois who were concerned about the scuba diving standards upheld by certification agencies. Scuba equipment salesman John Cronin and his friend Ralph Erickson, a swimming instructor and educator, developed PADI hoping to give future divers a chance to enjoy the underwater world by instilling solid, instructionally relevant training that would lead to more confident and recurring divers.
Early on, PADI grew slowly starting in restaurants and even the basement of Mr. Cronin’s home. PADI’s first milestone arrived in 1967 when the association introduced the first recreational diving certification requirements, the first advanced scuba diver course, and the first specialty diver program. In the late 1960’s, the organization was still a struggling entity with only 400 members.
It took 20 years of hard work but finally by the late 1980’s PADI’s vision had grown into the leading scuba diver training organization in the world.
Scuba Schools International is a retail-based organization. They are leaders in not only scuba diving but freediving, snorkeling and swimming as well. Bringing people together through communication and cooperation, SSI is a trusted name in the diving world that attributes their success to their high standards and focused methodology.
SSI is a strong believer in the scuba diving diamond:
Scuba Schools International is a watersport organization that was first started in 1970 by Robert Clark. After its establishment, SSI became the first scuba organization to present a full training program including video. In the 40 years that followed SSI’s creation, the company expanded and was acquired by Doug McNeese and Robert Stoss, two high profile people in the diving industry and then by MARES in 2014.
Now SSI is represented in more than 110 countries with over 2,800 International locations and has materials printed in more than 30 languages.
“Dive Safety Through Education”
The National Association of Underwater Instructors is a non-for-profit organization known for their exceptional training standards for recreational and tech diving. A company that prides itself on the educational aspect of diving, well-known organizations such as; Disneyland, NASA and the US Navy Seals have used NAUI for their dive training programs.
The National Association of Underwater Instructors was brought to life by the perseverance of Al Tillman. While he worked as sports director for the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreations, Mr. Tillman established a well-crafted training program geared towards certifying scuba and skin divers through the county.
In 1955, Al Tillmans dream grew into the world’s first civilian diver training agency as he and a fellow peer from Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Conrad Limbaugh, held the first Underwater Certification Course (1U1CC). From there, thanks to the growing number of scuba certification request, Al and Conrad began granting Provisional Certificates to dive instructors across the L.A country.
As the interest and participation in the sport of recreational diving grew, in 1959 the National Diving Patrol was renamed the National Association of Underwater Instructors or NAUI as we know it today.
PADI, NAUI or SSI? Deciding on which agency to go with can certainly be a daunting task, and every certified diver will have their own opinion on which agency is best. While each company has a similar vision, each one also goes about their instructing in a slightly different way. The most important thing to realize as a beginner diver or student furthering their knowledge, no matter which organization you end up choosing, the most important thing is to make sure you have FUN!
Dive peeps, what is your number one choice of diving association and why?
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