Getting certified is about obtaining a certification from a diving school that’s recognized and is staffed with authorized dive instructors. Basically you take and pass a series of courses and then are deemed certified. It’s a pretty simple process. However, deciding if you want to do it and if so how, that requires a little more thought.
There are two predominant diver certification-training organizations. One is called PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and the other is NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors). They’ve both been around for several decades and both have good reputations.
In the year 1960, NAUI completed it’s first Instructor Certification course. They were founded in 1959. The initial group of instructors went on to train many generations of new divers and thus built the critical mass of the organization. NAUI has had many celebrities on its Board, including the famed Jacques Cousteau and Lloyd Bridges of the TV show Sea Hunt.
The key is not the number of celebrities NAUI has or has had on its Board. Instead it’s the quality of the diver certification training offered. Like often times happens in larger organizations, quality if rumored to be mostly good with a few exceptions. By and large, highly trained and experienced divers staff these schools. Instructors typically have thousands of hours of underwater dive experience.
In addition to dive experience, NAUI dive instructors are required to attend and pass a large number of professional classes. These classes cover all types of diving from sport to recreational to technical, you name it. The physics and physiology of diving, safety and equipment usage are just of few of the topics covered in these classes.
Dive instruction comes in the form of classroom theory, self-study and practicals (as in pools and or open water). Courses are offered for every level of skill and experience from rank novice to seasoned professional. This included advanced technical scuba diving like the U.S. Navy SEALS get.
Only NAUI certified instructors are allowed to advertise themselves as being “certified and qualified dive instructors.” That’s important to know so that you can make sure you are getting a genuine NAUI certified instructor and not just someone who is self proclaiming themselves to be such.
Everything we’ve said here about NAUI courses and instructors also applies to PADI certified courses and instructors. As a matter of fact, PADI certified instructors teach the vast majority of recreational and or novice divers. PADI issues about one million certificates per year.
If you are going to take diver training classes of any kind, make sure they are taught by NAUI or PADI certified scuba diving instructors.
Anyone can get in the water. No laws against that. However, some dive shops won’t fill your tanks unless you show them your certification. It’s a wise procedure designed to help keep down the number of people who attempt underwater scuba diving without the proper training. Scuba diving can be very dangerous and is not to be done without the proper training and equipment.
It’s important that you think carefully about whether or not you can be safe while scuba diving without proper instruction. Scuba diving can be risky, even in smaller bodies of water like lakes, or even pools. Nitrogen narcosis, decompression sickness (aka the bends) and possibly even unfriendly undersea creatures with sharp teeth, are all risks for scuba divers. All of these risks are much greater if you don’t get good scuba diving instruction.
At the very least, as a rookie diver, make sure you have an experienced dive buddy who can help you understand and navigate the most serious risks in order to avoid injury and or possibly even death. None of us are born knowing that we are not supposed to ascend from 50-foot dives at a rate of not faster than 30 feet per minute.
Don’t be stupid with your life. Diving is no joke, it’s serious business and it can kill you. Act accordingly. Get good instruction and learn how to scuba dive safely. Get certified and enjoy years of fun and adventure scuba diving.