SCUBA Standards Changes: Get Over It

New SCUBA divers are bad SCUBA divers,
so we don’t want ’em.

A typical catch-22, but one I hear on popular SCUBA forums and being discussed on the DEMA floor, especially in regards to PADI’s alleged “loose standards”.

“I Teach Above Standards”

I hear this all the time. I’ve even heard it, then observed below-standards behavior in a classroom, pool or open water setting. Due to this, I tend to blow off the concept of Standards because the real issue is it has become too objective. I feel I teach above standards as do most SCUBA instructors, but no one is auditing unless there is an accident.

“SCUBA Diving has Become Too Easy”

I personally disagree with this statement. If you read your instructor manual (at least the PADI one), the standards are what I would consider the basic, life-sustaining skills. Mastery is fairly well defined. Now it’s my job to enforce both the standards and mastery.

The truth in our industry is the majority of divers are getting trained to go somewhere tropical where they will be in low-ratio settings with dive professionals. Knowing the basics to survive should be good enough for most.

In my area, conditions are bad. Visibility is terrible, currents are strong and it’s cold. Therefore, I train to my local standards. If I just did the bare minimum, I would not be training my divers at the basic, life-sustaining level I think is important.

Continuing Education Learning Curve

When I teach continuing education, my learning curve is steep. I want to certify people in a way that makes them safe and helps them earn their certification. I stress to them, however, that they are not great divers yet. My Advanced classes are more strenuous than many I’ve observed. My Rescue classes are grueling. By the time I’m working on a student as a Divemaster, their dive skills are great and it’s time to work on leadership.

My Personal Story

I got into diving so I could dive with my family on summer vacations. It was fun. Fun enough that I’m now working on becoming a Course Director.

Had my Open Water SCUBA class not been fun, but instead was conducted by an ex-Navy dive instructor who wants to throw nets over students in the pool and black out masks, I probably wouldn’t have continued on.

The RSTC & Me

The Recreational SCUBA Training Council determines many of the standards. The RSTC is made up of multiple SCUBA certification agencies, not just PADI. I will continue to take the standards described to me and align them with my local diving conditions to continue to create good, safe divers. As they determine skills to be unnecessary (such as buddy breathing), I will take that into consideration in my classes.

Lower Standards are Actually Evolving Standards

In the past, we didn’t have dive computers, split/hinged fins, underwater cell phones or any of the technological advancements we enjoy today. Diving has become safer and easier, so I’m in favor of passing that along to our students and customers to create new divers.

What are your thoughts: have standards simply evolved or gone too low?

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