Recreational diver training
Recreational diver training is the process of developing knowledge and understanding of the basic principles, and the skills and procedures for the use of scuba equipment so that the diver is able to dive for recreational purposes with acceptable risk using the type of equipment and in similar conditions to those experienced during training.
Not only is the underwater environment hazardous but the diving equipment itself can be dangerous. There are problems that divers must learn to avoid and manage when they do occur. Divers need repeated practice and a gradual increase in challenge to develop and internalise the skills needed to control the equipment, to respond effective if they encounter difficulties, and to build confidence in their equipment and themselves. Diver practical training starts with simple but essential procedures, and builds on them until complex procedures can be managed effectively. This may be broken up into several short training programmes, with certification issued for each stage, or combined into a few more substantial programmes with certification issued when all the skills have been mastered.
Many diver training organizations exist, throughout the world, offering diver training leading to certification: the issuing of a "diving certification card," also known as a "C-card," or qualification card. This diving certification model originated at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1952 after two divers died while using university-owned equipment and the SIO instituted a system where a card was issued after training as evidence of competence. Diving instructors affiliated to a diving certification agency may work independently or through a university, a dive club, a dive school or a dive shop. They will offer courses that should meet, or exceed, the standards of the certification organization that will certify the divers attending the course. The International Organization for Standardization has approved six recreational diving standards that may be implemented worldwide, and some of the standards developed by the (United States) RSTC are consistent with the applicable ISO Standards:
The initial open water training for a person who is medically fit to dive and a reasonably competent swimmer is relatively short. Many dive shops in popular holiday locations offer courses intended to teach a novice to dive in a few days, which can be combined with diving on the vacation. Other instructors and dive schools will provide more thorough training, which generally takes longer. Dive operators, dive shops, and cylinder filling stations may refuse to allow uncertified people to dive with them, hire diving equipment or have their diving cylinders filled. This may be an agency standard, company policy, or specified by legislation.
Types of training
Most recreational diver training is for certification purposes, but a significant amount is for non-certification purposes such as introductory scuba experience, refresher training, and regional orientation. Mainstream recreational diver training starts with an entry-level course, focused on the skills of operating the equipment safely, which is intended to be followed by further training focused on the environment and other skills, but many recreational divers never progress further than their entry level certification, and may not dive often enough to maintain the basic skills learned on the course. Refresher courses are offered by many diving schools to remedy this possible loss of competence due to lack of practice.
The entry-level course is for certification of competence to dive in open water to a limited depth and not incurring a decompression obligation requiring decompression stops, so that the diver can make a direct ascent to the surface at any time at an acceptable level of risk. Entry level training does not generally require the diver to be competent to rescue another diver, though some training in sharing breathing gas is standard, and divers are expected to dive in the company of a dive buddy of equivalent certification.
In principle a refresher course could be a checkout at any certification level, and could cover either or both skills and knowledge, but in practice the most common refresher courses are offered for the divers most likely to need one, which are entry level divers with little experience and a long gap since their last dive. Both PADI and SSI offer and recommend standardised refresher courses for these divers as a safer way of getting back into the water after a long break. They almost always include a confined water skill practice session, and may include an open water dive. Some schools expect the diver to revise the theory as well. This would typically be on-line, but there may be a live discussion and feedback session.
Further training is focused on skills associated with the environment and equipment (specialty courses), safety and mutual assistance (Rescue diver), dive planning, dive group leadership (Dive leader) and training other divers (Diving instructor). Some training providers require or encourage the diver to gain experience at their current level between training programmes, others are willing to enroll the diver on the next course as soon as they are available to start.
Dive leadership training
Recreational diving instructor training
Technical diving training
Technical diving is legally a type of recreational diving, but generally requires significantly greater competence to manage the higher risks of the environment, equipment and physiological challenges chosen by the technical diver. Errors and malfunctions that may be merely inconvenient in shallow open-water recreational dives within the no-decompression limits, may be rapidly fatal in overhead or deep, staged decompression dives. The necessary level of understanding of the principles, hazards and possible consequences, and the skills and procedures for managing the equipment and foreseeable contingencies is commensurately greater.
Many diver training organizations exist, throughout the world, offering diver training leading to certification: the issuing of a "diver certification card," also known as a "C-card," or qualification card. This diver certification model originated at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1952 after two divers died while using university-owned equipment and the SIO instituted a system where a card was issued after training as evidence of competence.
Diving instructors affiliated to a diving certification agency may work independently or through a university, a dive club, a dive school or a dive shop. They will offer courses that should meet, or exceed, the standards of the certification organization that will certify the divers attending the course.
Duration of training
Recreational diver training courses range from minor specialties which require one classroom session and an open water dive, and which may be completed in a day, to complex specialties which may take several days to weeks, and require several classroom sessions, confined water skills training and practice, and a substantial number of open-water dives, followed by rigorous assessment of knowledge and skills. Details on the approximate duration of training can be found on the websites of most certification agencies, but accurate schedules are generally only available from the specific school or instructor who will present that course, as this will depend on the local conditions and other constraints.
The initial open water training for a person who is medically fit to dive and a reasonably competent swimmer is relatively short. Many dive shops in popular holiday locations offer courses intended to teach a novice to dive in a few days, which can be combined with diving on the vacation. Other instructors and dive schools will provide more thorough training, which generally takes longer.
Location of training lessons
Initial training typically takes place in three environments:
- Classroom - where material is presented and reviewed. This may be partially or wholly substituted by on-line learning, which may include on-line assessment.
- Confined water (Swimming pool or equivalent natural body of water) - where skills are taught by demonstration and initially practiced.
- Open water - where the learner demonstrates and refines the skills he or she has learned in an environment reasonably similar to the expected actual diving environment, and gains some experience of realistic conditions in a typical diving environment.
The usual sequence for learning most diving skills is to be taught the theory in the classroom, be shown the skills and practice them in a swimming pool or sheltered and shallow open water using the minimum equipment, then practice again in open water under supervision in full equipment and only then use the skill on real dives. Typically, early open water training takes place in a local body of water such as a lake, a flooded quarry or a sheltered and shallow part of the sea. Advanced training mostly takes place at depths and locations similar to the diver's normal diving environment.
Most entry-level training is similar across the diver training agencies, although some may emphasize certain topics earlier in the program, such as the inclusion of diver rescue in syllabuses such as CMAS 1* and NAUI, and its absence from other equivalent courses such as PADI Open Water Diver.
Many of the skills listed below are not included in entry level training, and where they are it may be only a subset of the range of skills in that category.
- Basic diving theory:
- Basic water skills:
- Basic open circuit scuba equipment skills:
- Preparing the scuba equipment
- Pre-dive checks:
- Water entries and exits with scuba gear
- Breathing from scuba equipment
- Buoyancy control, trim and stability using weights, the buoyancy compensator and the lungs
- Underwater mobility and maneuvering
- Ascents and descents
- Diving mask clearing
- Demand valve clearing and recovery
- Air sharing
- Emergency ascents
- Basic rebreather diving skills:
- Preparing the Rebreather
- Buoyancy control using the Rebreather
- Ascents and descents
- Diving mask clearing and mouthpiece draining
- Bailing out to an alternative breathing gas supply
- Bail-out ascent
- Diluent flush
- Dive planning skills:
- Dive monitoring and management skills:
- Diver rescue techniques:
- Technical diving techniques:
- Using Nitrox as a bottom gas
- Using Nitrox as a decompression gas
- Planning accelerated decompression stops
- Normoxic Trimix as a bottom gas
- Hypoxic Trimix as a bottom gas
- Special interest knowledge and skills:
- Dive group leading skills:
- Logistical skills:
- Instructor skills:
Scuba training for younger people
PADI allows 10-year-olds to do the full Open Water Diver course. They are called "Junior Open Water" divers. There are restrictions on their depth and group size when diving. Also they must dive with their parents or a professional. When they reach the age of 12 they can dive with a qualified adult. Over 15 they are considered capable of diving with others of the same age or above.
BSAC allows 12-year-olds to do the full entry level diving course - the Ocean Diver course. This qualification has no restrictions for the young diver, but individual branches of BSAC are free to set their own minimum age for branch membership.
International standards equivalence
The International Organization for Standardization has approved six recreational diving standards that may be implemented worldwide (January 2007).
The listed standards developed by the (United States) RSTC are consistent with the applicable ISO Standards:
|(USA) RSTC Standard||ISO Standard||Alternative ISO Title|
|Introductory Scuba Experience||No equivalent|
|No equivalent||Level One Diver||Supervised Diver|
|Open Water Diver||Level Two Diver||Autonomous Diver|
|Dive Supervisor||Level Three Diver||Dive Leader|
|Assistant Instructor||Level 1 Instructor|
|Scuba Instructor||Level 2 Instructor|
|Instructor Trainer||No equivalent|
|No equivalent||Service Provider|
- List of diver certification organizations – Agencies which issue certification for competence in diving skills
- PADI (2010). PADI Instructor Manual. Rancho Santa Margarita, CA: USA: PADI.
- "C.M.A.S. Diver Training Program" (PDF). Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques. 2005-01-18. pp. 4, 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 1 T 10 and 1 P 6 cover rescue.
- Staff (2011). "1.2 Training Philosophy". General Training Standards, Policies, and Procedures. Version 6.2. Global Underwater Explorers.
- Manual for Diving Safety (PDF) (11th ed.). San Diego: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California. 2005. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-26.
- "Scripps Institution of Oceanography Diver Certification". SIO. 2011. Archived from the original on 2012-04-26. Retrieved 2011-12-13.
- Staff, WRSTC (2013) ISO approves 6 Diving Standards "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-03. Retrieved 2013-09-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) retrieved 28 September 2013
- "Recreational diving Act, 1979" (in Hebrew). Knesset. 1979. Retrieved 16 November 2016 – via WikiSource.
- Knight, Marcus. "Why You Should Take a Scuba Refresher Course". Scuba Diver Life. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
- "Refresher Course". calypsoushaka.co.za. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
- NAUI. "Scuba Diver Course". NAUI. Retrieved 26 December 2011.
- NAUI (2010). NAUI Standards and Procedures. Tampa, FL, USA: NAUI.
- "Snorkel Grade Training". BSAC. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
- Staff. "Standards for Training Organisations/System". EUF Certification International. Retrieved 28 September 2013.