So many courses, so many choices, so many centres, so little time! Where to start?
Scuba Diving is a great experience, (coming from a PADI Instructor this is slightly biased but if you are reading this then you probably at least half agree!) it allows us to go underwater and explore the hidden depths of the world’s oceans. Scuba diving is exhilarating, exciting, fun, amazing and relaxing, to name just a few of the words that my students have used after their first pool experience. We have the ability to go where possibly nobody has been before! Whether that is a particular coral reef in the Caribbean, a lonely piece of a shipwreck off the coast of Malta, or the seaweed and lobsters in the English Channel, there is always something to see!
When it comes to choosing a course, you need to ask yourself if it is of value to you. If you never intend to dive in the UK or cold water then perhaps the Dry Suit course isn’t the best way to spend your money. However if you find yourself running out of air, feeling tired and the equipment is uncomfortable, then perhaps the Peak Performance Buoyancy course is a better investment.
If you’ve just completed your PADI Open Water Course and are looking for ways to improve, then I suggest just going for a dive, even if it’s just in the swimming pool, and speaking to an instructor to find out what you’re not sure of. You’ll be amazed how all the skills we asked you to practice in the pool actually come in handy! (I promise we never get you to do something just for the sake of getting you to do it…there is value behind each and every skill you’ve done). The skills you do during an open water dive, for the Advanced Open Water Diver, Rescue, Wreck or Deep Diver courses are varied in their expectations and what instructors call ‘Performance Requirements’. By the time you get to the qualifying dives for your Open Water Course you will have completed everything in the pool already, and your instructor should have signed your log book to show completion of all ‘Confined Water’ modules. When you do the dives in open water you are just showing the instructor that you are competent (it’s also an informal requirement of mine that you have fun!) We can’t combine the requirements for lots of different courses into one dive – just because we are on a boat, at night, in a drift current, diving to 30m on a wreck doesn’t mean you can be a certified Boat, Night, Drift, Deep and Wreck Diver all in one go! However we may have multiple students doing different courses throughout the weekend which gives you an idea of what the various courses entail.
Having dived extensively in numerous places around the world, I’ve been lucky to experience many dive centres and resorts. When it comes to choosing a dive centre, for me, the most important question I ask myself is ‘Do I feel safe?’ I want to know that there are current safety procedures, the dive boat carries an oxygen system and that proper diver accounting procedures are adhered to. Obviously it is unlikely that an accident will occur, however no different than the PADI Rescue Diver course teaches us skills that we hope not to use, I want to know that the dive centre is prepared for an emergency and to look after me. Ultimately, I want to think that they have my best interests in mind.
A behind-the-scenes look at how we plan training dives
When we look at planning courses over a weekend training session at Stoney Cove, the instructor team has to take a lot of different factors into account. The dive site conditions, such as visibility and temperature, the students ability and experience levels, the range of courses we are running and staff availability to name just a few things.
In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive states that a dive team must have a minimum of 3 people; the instructor/dive leader, a safety diver and dedicated surface support personnel. This means that you should always have a minimum of 2 staff in the water with you and somebody who is staying dry to log you in and out of the water. At DiveMania, due to the amount of staff we have, you will often see that ratios are even better than this! Students are limited to completing 3 training dives per day which is why we can’t complete your 4 Open Water Course dives on just the Saturday. Instructors don’t have this limitation but be aware – we are just as worn out as you by the end of the weekend. It quite often works out that instructors will be teaching more than one course over the two days and may end up doing 4 dives each day – but we always have student safety in mind. (You won’t see me doing 4 deep dives! The last one of the day will always be shallow.) Our weekends are always really popular for students completing their Open Water certification and also for returning customers doing specialty courses. If you attend one of our training weekends, make sure you have a chat with other students to find out what they are doing!
Our large instructor team has many years’ experience teaching a wide range of courses. Having started off with just 3 instructors, a Divemaster and a rescue diver to provide surface cover, we now have a team of 17! This consists of 10 instructors (some pictured above at one of our training weekends) – Martin, Paul, Barry, Karl, Graham, Charlotte, Pedja, Clive, Rebecca and I, an Assistant instructor – Jamie and very soon Kieran and Steve, plus Divemaster Nirusha and soon Charlie and Libbe will be added to our professional ranks and we have more candidates starting soon. Lesley, in charge of keeping us on schedule an ensuring we stay safe, is in charge of surface cover.
If you are reading this as an existing DiveMania customer, I hope you have valued all the courses you’ve done with us. We have definitely enjoyed teaching them! If you are reading this and haven’t yet completed a course or signed up for anything, I invite you to contact us to have a chat about how we can help with your diving needs or check out our Facebook Page for more information.