When you choose to become a diver, you’ll need to pick a dive organization. PADI, NAUI, and SSI are just the beginning of the acronyms. In fact there are over 50 scuba agencies to choose from.
A good general rule is to pick one of the big ones. That way your certification will allow you to dive anywhere in the world.
Most people choose a dive organization based on what their friend recommends or the one that is located nearest their home. The biggest thing to realize is that all respected dive organizations are similar. They all have multiple certifications, teach dive theory, spend time in pools, instruct basic skills, use similar scuba equipment and they all want to teach you to dive.
What you need to realize is that your training is only as solid as the effort you put into it. Having a solid foundation of both dive knowledge and skills is the key to safe diving. What are you going to do if your mask fills with water at 20 meters? How do you recover your regulator after your dive buddy kicks it out of your mouth? Did you know that you go a bit loopy when you dive too deep because of nitrogen accumulation? How long do you have to wait to fly after diving so you don’t die? These are all things that you need to know.
If you stick with PADI, SSI, or NAUI you’ll be setting yourself up for success. These respected organizations have global appeal. It is equally important to pick your dive instructor. If you trust and enjoy your dive instructor, you’re going to learn and retain more information. A dive instructor that can teach you neutral buoyancy or proper equipment set up is great.
But a dive instructor that can do all this and make sure you have fun and know how to be safe is even better.
So how do you get a great dive instructor? Your best bet is getting a recommendation from someone you trust. Or if you’re cruising the sand beaches on Roatan, go and meet instructors at several dive shops. If you like an instructor’s teaching style, stick with him or her. As long as you learn the information and get certified, your certification will last a lifetime. If you learn with SSI and you end up at the Great Barrier Reef at a PADI dive shop, they are going to let you dive with them. It only makes a difference at the professional level. A PADI professional will almost always need to work at a PADI shop.
Of course there are some differences between dive training organizations. The biggest and most respected dive organizations are PADI, SSI, NAUI, but there are a boatload of others.
PADI is the largest dive organization. It trains tons of people worldwide and has dive shops in nearly every corner of the globe. They are a for profit company that does a stellar job marketing their product. Thus their motto, “The Way The World Learns To Dive.” NAUI is a non-profit company that truly focuses on the educational part of diving. They live by the philosophy of “Dive Safety Through Education.”
SSI has locations in over 110 countries and is respected internationally. Their mentality is “comfort through repetition.”
It all comes down to the fact that they teach the same skills in the classroom and underwater, but the philosophies are a bit different. Find the one you’re comfortable with, have fun, and be sure to learn the information.