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 certification agencies, for a first-timer, it can be very confusing trying to decide which organization to pursue your diving education with.
As a sport, scuba diving doesn’t have one centralized certifying or regulatory agency. Many agencies play a role in educating divers and regulating the sport as a whole. Over the years, these certification agencies have set the bar and developed training procedures and safety protocols as a standard for scuba divers everywhere.
In the beginning stages of your recreational scuba diving training, many divers will find that regardless of the agency, dive courses are relatively similar across the board, with a few minor variations. The more significant differences arise when divers jump to the professional or technical diving level, where 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 to choose from, there are a handful of agencies that have surpassed the masses. These agencies have become so well recognized, that most 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. But before throwing on that scuba tank and diving into the water, it’s worth learning more about these top agencies to decide which one might be best suited to certify you.
The Professional Association of Dive Instructors, or PADI for short, is the largest scuba diving organization in the world. PADI is a for-profit corporation with an international scope, making underwater adventures possible while maintaining a high standard for diver training, safety, and customer service. The PADI scuba diving courses focus on the student’s needs, providing maximum practice and realistic real-world applications.
The Professional Association of Dive Instructors made a splash into the diving world in 1966 by two friends in Illinois. 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 1960s, 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, also known as SSI, 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.
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.
The National Association of Underwater Instructors is a not-for-profit organization known for its 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 a 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 Tillman’s 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.
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. Between PADI, NAUI, and SSI, while each company has a similar vision – to get people in the water scuba diving – each agency goes about its instructing in a slightly different way.
When considering which professional to use, take a look at your long term goals, learning style, instructor preference, and location. These are often key factors that influence a student’s agency choice. And at the end of the day, the most important thing to realize as a beginner diver, or student furthering their knowledge, no matter which organization you end up choosing, make sure you are safe and having FUN!
Dive peeps, what is your number one choice of scuba diving association and why did you select them?
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Sony Alpha a6500 24MP mirrorless camera with a 16-50mm lens, able to shoot 4K movies.
Dive hands-free with a diving flashlight glove. This torch holder has a universal adjustable wrist strap scuba and is made of superior nylon material, which means it’s durable and comfortable to wear.
Ikelite TTL dual flash sync cord attaches two strobe’s to the underwater camera housing.
A 16″ x 16″ sequins blue mermaid decorative throw pillow cover. Perfect for the sofa, chair or bed. The cover does NOT come with a pillow insert.
Black Mares Dragon Scuba Diving BCD
Bare Sports 5mm men’s wetsuit made with elastek full-stretch nylon-2 and neoprene celliant liner infrared technology.
Scuba diving 4ft neon yellow surface marker signal tube with “Diver Below” print
The Sony SEL90M28G FE 90 mm f/2.8-22 Macro G OSS Standard-Prime Lens for E (NEX) Cameras.
Capture amazingly smooth GoPro footage in the air with the GoPro Karma Drone
Compact underwater scuba diving hand reel with a 150ft of white line on the spool
A one-piece dive hanger construction for strength and durability with non-corroding plastic resin. The hanger can support up to 20 pounds.
Ikelite underwater macro lens casing is comprised of an acetyl body with glass front and can hold lenses of 4.37 diameter x 3 inches (111 x 76 mm)
Compact scuba diving finger spool with 150ft of white line and a 4-inch brass double-ended clip
Rechargeable Ikelite NiMH battery pack compatible with Ikelite’s DS125, DS160, and DS161 strobes.
Bare SB System Mens Full Under-layer
Bare drysuit trek boots designed for rocky shore entries, boat decks, and boat ladders
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
Suunto SK-8 wrist compass with bungee straps, faster stabilization, and enhanced readability
The Hydra 5000 WSRU is an all in one photo and dive light with wide, spot, red, and UV modes
13-inch inflatable dive buoy with a 12 by 11-inch scuba diving flag surface marker
Bare 7mm thick elastek dry suit hood
3PC curved armband glow in the dark slate.
An elegant lead-free wine glass with a shark figurine anchored inside. The perfect gift for wine and shark lovers everywhere.
Black scuba diving turtle fins
Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM FLD Large Aperture Standard Zoom Lens for Canon Digital DSLR Camera + 32GB Memory Card + Photo4Less Cleaning Cloth.
Ikelite aluminum digital camera tray with dual handles
Bare 5mm evoke women’s full suit designed by Bare’s all-female design team. The suit has technically, innovative celliant infrared technology which increase circulation, body warmth and performance.
If you’re not quite ready for the expense of big lights, this little video light goes perfectly with any GoPro setup
Aveeno zinc oxide mineral sunscreen with SPF 50. An environmentally-friendly sunscreen that is oil-free, fragrance-free, hypoallergenic and water-resistant.
Diving lens filter kit for GoPro HERO 5/6 which enhances colors for underwater video and photography conditions
Canon Macro Lens EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM – non Image Stabilised
Ikelite Canon EOS 100D Rebel SL1 underwater camera housing in white
GoPro dual battery charger conveniently charges two HERO6 Black, HERO5 Black, or HERO camera batteries simultaneously
Filled with more than 350 images from National Geographic, 100 Dives of a Lifetime provides the ultimate bucket list for ardent scuba divers and aspirational travelers alike.
GoPro HERO6 Black Camera
Ikelite compact ball arm for quick release handle
Reef Safe SPF 30 sunscreen for protection against broad-spectrum UVA and UVB.Water-resistant for 80 minutes of swimming or activity. It contains our potent antioxidant blend of Green Tea, Tulsi, Wakame and Olive Leaf.
The dive guide Bonaire is a comprehensive dive guide for use by divers and snorkelers at all skill levels. It describes more than 100 dive sites along with underwater maps and stunning photographs. This all-inclusive dive guide is your handbook for endless diving and snorkeling enjoyment.
This new second edition of The Great Lakes Diving Guide is the most comprehensive guide ever written about exploring Great Lakes shipwrecks.
Dry glove lock system that accommodates all hand sizes
The Cuticate floating dry box is a waterproof sports container perfect to fit money, ID, cards, keys and more. The case is small, portable, compact, and comes with a lanyard clip hook to take with you as you scuba dive.
SHOOT 6″ Underwater Dome Port for GoPro Hero 6/Hero 5/Hero(2018) Black Camera Diving Lens Hood Housing Photography with Waterproof Case Accessories
AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod and Bag with adjustable-height legs and rubber feet
Capture amazingly smooth shake-free video with the GoPro Karma Grip
Sigma MC-11 mount converter lens adapter (Sigma EF-Mount lens to sony E cameras). Essential photo kit contains Altura photo rapid-fire wrist strap, small lens pouch, cleaning kit, and microfiber lens cleaning cloth.
The waterproof scuba diving egg helps keep valuables dry while in the water. The egg is suitable for storing sunglasses, car keys, money and etc.
The inside diameter is 2.07″ and the inside length is 5.04″.
Bare drysuit drawstring scuba gear bag the perfect alternative for transporting a dry suit to-and-from the dive site
Mini blue scuba diving tank key ring with brass pick tool and o-rings
Reusable scuba diver tea infuser for use on loose teas. Easy to fill, empty clean and dishwasher safe. Tea infuser comes with a silicone raft drip tray.
Fireproof Lipo Charging Safe Bag is a medium size flame retardant bag that safeguards your batteries during charging, transit, and storage.
Size: 20cm X 15cm X 15cm
DUI heavy duty dry suit gloves with yellow liners available in sizes: S, M, L, XL
Flexible Lightweight Portable Tripod for Projector DSLR Cameras and Go Pro
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Ikelite photography strobe DS161 with NiMH rechargeable battery pack
Suunto Vyper Novo wrist scuba diving computer with USB
Black Mares Cruise Roller Tauchen bag, perfect for scuba diving and traveling