The Experience of a Crossover from PADI to SSI!
Switching from dive organization can be very beneficial for a dive instructor or dive center. It can bring challenges that may work out great or the other way around. The story of a crossover of a dive center explained!
There are over hundred recreational SCUBA certification agencies in the world. PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and SSI (Scuba Schools International) are the biggest, by far. Both are members of the World Recreational Scuba Training Council and the European Underwater Federation, among others. This means that there is a minimum level of quality and safety standards (like ISO standards) in the SCUBA instruction.
Selecting a dive organization can be pretty easy for your entry level certification. When you want to make a living out of it you need to take more into consideration for your students/customers and yourself. In this guest post Rob Haff, owner of Sea Dwellers Dive Center in the Florida Keys (USA), explains about his successful switch from PADI to SSI.
Exceeding PADI Standards
Sea Dwellers Dive Center has always taken great pride in our Scuba Instruction, and we have always had a desire to "offer more". This was first manifested in our PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Open Water Course far back in the 90's when we decided to get a special exemption from PADI to "exceed standards" by offering 2 additional dives with our course. This was always popular, and put us in demand.
Key Largo is, however, a "destination", and as the years went by people seemed to have less and less time for vacations, so many in the area, including us, got away from this idea some and tried to make it easier to get the course done is less time. It got to the point where folks could come down and do the course in the Keys in as few as 2 days! This is simply just not doing anybody any favors. Yes, it saves people time, but the divers were not getting a fair shake at becoming a solid scuba diver, in our opinion.
Changing from Teaching PADI to SSI Courses
Then, some years ago, along comes SSI (Scuba Schools International), with their attitude of "offering more" for students of all levels. SSI goes a step further by encouraging more diving, more pool time. It is part of their philosophy. SSI also offers some additional skills to teach our students, above and beyond just those that are required. Sea Dwellers Dive Center looked hard at how and what we were teaching, and decided SSI is really perfect for us in particular, and we made the commitment to take "offering more" to a new level.
The biggest move we made was to take the Open Water Certification Course, which could be done in 2 days, and make it a 4 day course, offering twice the pool time of most courses in the area, and offering 6 Open Water Dives on our reefs and wrecks, 2 more dives than the minimum. Admittedly, it was a bit scary, since many folks seemed to be on a tight vacation schedule.
Well guess what? As it's turned out our Course has never been more popular. Most folks want more time learning how to dive, and are willing to spend the time to do it! The result is we are turning out more qualified, happier new scuba divers. And also importantly, the divers are more committed to scuba diving when they are better divers, and we see them back more frequently. From a business standpoint, we've also noticed that they are more likely to purchase equipment when they spend more time in the water, because they are happier and more enthusiastic about the sport!
Teaching SSI Courses has more benefits
We are still teaching PADI courses as well, but our primary dive organization is SSI. Switching our primary organization to SSI also did a couple of other things:
1) Online student materials: Students do not have to pay SSI directly when they want to register for the online theory of a course. (PADI directly collects fees from our students when they register for the theory online). SSI offers the online student materials for free. This helps make registering an easier experience, and enables us to offer a more economical course for our customers. Also SSI offers a state of the art online experience for our students.
2) Open Water skills: SSI incorporates several new skills into their Open Water Course that helps students become better divers mainly in the realm of buoyancy, which is one of the areas some students find a bit more challenging . These skills are done "on the fly" while a students is touring our reefs during a course and divers find them very valuable and fun!
About Rob Haff, owner Sea Dwellers Dive Center
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo is a full service facility providing Key Largo diving in the Florida Keys since 1974.
Check out this video of Rob explaining the "Sea Dweller Philosophy" on teaching people diving and read more about it here!
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo is also an official “Blue Star Operator”. According to NOAA, “Blue Star is a program established by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to reduce the impact of divers and snorkelers on the coral reef ecosystem of the Florida Keys. It is a voluntary recognition program saluting charter boat operators who promote responsible and sustainable diving and snorkeling practices, helping keep the reef healthy for generations to come.”
Visit their website for more information about diving Key Largo: Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo
Thank you Rob for sharing your personal experience and opinion!
"It's dive o'clock somewhere!"
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