Monday, April 23, 2018

Scuba lessons for the beginner should cost more and less as one continues. Don't over pay for Divemaster training.

I recently got a call from a prospective Divemaster student. During the discussion, he asked why dive shops charge so much for their Divemaster and Instructor Programs. He got quotes between $1,500 and even over $2,000... 

For the most part, it's because they can. There really is no reason to charge that much to be a Divemaster. I think there is an industry-wide problem with charging more for professional rankings --  it ultimately turns out less qualified people through those programs and manifests in historically high drop out rates.

I charge more for introductory courses and less for advanced courses because I want people to continue learning and growing without the obstacle of the "entry fee" getting in the way. Additionally, if you're going to pay $1,500 to learn to be a tour guide while earning minimum wage, you should sign up for my Extreme Underwater Ironing course first. If a Divemaster I haven't taught doesn't know how to prevent decompression sickness but my open water student does, I'd rather have you hire my student as your guide!

I believe that one should charge more for introductory courses which would precipitate finding people who want to make diving a regular activity for themselves. When the price of becoming a dive professional ends up costing the diver more than they could realistically afford or want to spend, the determining factor often becomes who can pay for that training rather than the quality of the individual that wants to become one.

I don't know if there would be an influx or disproportionate amount of physicians, lawyers, or IT professionals if the educational expenses were the same as union plumbers, electricians, carpenters, or various technical schools. I definitely know that I have seen more dive professionals that are terrible divers, lack interpersonal skills, and couldn't teach their way out of a paper bag than ones that were innovators, industry pioneers, and trendsetters.

Every field has those that were in the right place at the right time and because they had resources, a primary vocation with a generous salary or political access, get there because they can buy their way in.

That's not to say that instruction shouldn't cost thousands of dollars, but I guess the level of risk and the amount of training that comes from that education and who teaches it will have a place. I paid $2,000 for full cave and $2,000 for trimix, and that's not including the additional expenses needed for the travel, equipment, and ongoing training to get to be proficient in those specialties. Good education should be at a premium and when you can afford the best training that comes at a higher price, it is an investment in oneself especially in the higher risk courses.

Through the years, I've regularly seen scuba diving education that didn't add up to culminate in being an instructor, rather a diver with a wallet full of certification cards. Why should a diver pay for and take a dozen specialties that don't add skills up cumulatively? A Divemaster should be a master of the specialties they've taken by the time they achieve that ranking and not have to relearn the gambit of physics, physiology, dive tables, and decompression theory.

With that said, ITC's don't train instructors how to be good facilitators or educators or to know who Boyle, Charles, and Dalton are. ITC's teach instructors about policies, procedures, paperwork, business practices, and selling equipment (particularly for SSI Instructors). Most jobs I've had including the ones that required degrees, certifications, and licensure were all learned "on the job" and sales techniques and those particular nuances of that organization from within -- usually a mentor if not a training center. Interestingly, I never had to pay to take jobs as a pizza delivery driver, Social Worker, or Investment Banker, but I did to be scuba instructor.

I teach Scuba Diver (Open Water). The specialties I teach are Night, Navigation, Nitrox, Deep, Drysuit, and Search & Recovery. Those can lead to an Advanced Diver rating. Once mastered, adding Rescue Diver, Oxygen Administration, and BLS/CPR & First Aid can lead to Master Diver ranking. That's it... With those specialties and rankings you get a piece if plastic but you aren't responsible for anyone else's life!

However, while I can teach Underwater Archeology and Boat Diving, the student can take it upon themselves to learn those on their own. They shouldn't pay for certification cards in "fluffy specialties" they don't need. 

When a student is ready to become a Divemaster, I'm not training them to award a ranking or add that card to their wallet. Rather, to be the foundation of the diving community and responsible for the lives they interact with and for whom others put their trust in.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Response to Article, "Lack of fitness spells disaster for inexperienced dive duo"

Response to article, "Lack of fitness spells disaster for inexperienced dive duo" 

#scuba #medicalhistoryquestionnaire #medicalreleaseform #refreshercourse #fitness #divetrainingmag #scubamag

The story points out several things that are true however several thing's were missed. While I agree that the diving population is getting older, and I definitely agree this population has increase physical limitations, the real issue is the missing advanced training, ongoing training, long hiatuses, longer breaks between dives AND not modifying the educational process to meet the needs of today's students and today's newest divers!

I believe that this diver's physical limitations contributed to his death, but this could have happened to him anywhere. Because it happened on a dive, the response from his son was inadequate however the diver himself failed in this responsibility as well. If divers don't acknowledge they need additional training and insist on it, who will? Logically you think that instructors and shops will but we know what they're really asking for.

My focus comes to this because as an independent scuba diving instructor I'm seeing more students that look like Glenn. With this, the industry has failed to alter their programs to match who it's current diver is today. Yes, the advanced training might have reduced the time necessary to extracate Glenn from the water, but advanced training shouldn't come as supplement to training rather be included in it. Courses should not be faster, easier, and there should never be an assumption that just because one paid for certification that one gets it.

I get that instructors and shops want to their student's to come back to take additional courses because it's a positive way to generate ongoing revenue, but if the industry is experiencing an 80% dropout rate, shortening the length of instruction and what's included in instruction illustrates how this fails it's customer base. Charge more for certification, make it more robust and thurough, and create a diver, not a card-carrying dropout statistic.

Safety is good business and common sense is a commodity that's way undervalued! I believe that medical evaluations and physicals are an individuals way to judge their physical ability to undertake a physically demanding activity like scuba but if you don't do anything with the outcome of that evaluation, is the diver any better off than not getting one? Think of medical evaluations as a factor in determining whether you should dive at all as well as should you not do certain dives.

More often than not, the medical release is a form that the student has to "get signed off" in order to go diving just like the the diver has to "get certified" in order to go diving. This concept of having to find "the way" to get what you want without the work required for it is contributed only more by a just culture of instant gratification and a demanding population.

I'm going to illustrate this concept by the one following example.

Just the other day I overheard and witnessed a student that had a hiatus of twelve years off, get a half hour of redmedial education and 45 minutes in the pool. In fact, that person was done with their refresher in less time than it took my student to try on rental equipment for his certification dive weekend. As the independent instructor that doesn't work for a dive shop, I am the fly on the wall that sees all!

I later overheard his instructor saying that he looked great in the pool. Since when does "how a diver looks in a pool" an evaluation of what he'll perform in open water? That person's buoyancy might have been more of a comfort factor of the warm, clear, and clean water of THE POOL not to mention that he only had four pounds of weight on his belt.

My rule is, after twelve or more months off from diving, the student needs at least two open water dives with an instructor before updating a logbook or reissuing a certification card. ...and if the shops out there are thinking that several hours of instruction, and several hours in the pool, and two dives is not cost effective, I can do this in a day and charge $350 for this service. Refresher courses are not a means to get back in the water, they should be the process to do so. This process must be complete!

I know of no industry that allows a twelve year hiatus and will allow a person to start up again in an hour and fifteen minutes. Would you let a surgeon operate on you; a bus driver take your kids to school; a welder on a skyscraper; or a auto mechanic to take a twelve year hiatus and feel confident in that person's abilities?

"In no field does certification alone guarantee competence. With long down times between dives, skills will degrade." --Alex Brylske

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Why would a PADI dive shop in the Hawaii NOT accept referrals from any other agency?

What is it in business today that people just lose the desire to connect to others? Scuba is an adventure and exciting and while to some it is their chosen vocation, I feel extraordinarily fortunate to be able to teach people to dive as the way I make a living. There are lot of things that most people don't understand about being a small business owner, and those that do, will get it.

I still can't figure this out! I got a call from a prospective student last week that wanted to complete her education and pool work here (the PNW) with me and then do her cert dives in Hawaii. This is not unusual as many don't want to do cold water dives in the Puget Sound...

When she first called, it sounded like she was going to sign up but she messaged me back saying that this particular shop can't accept a referrals outside of the PADI system. Then, when I gave her PADI's corporate phone number and after she spoke to PADI headquarters, this shop changed their response to, "they choose not to accept referrals outside their system." With as many shops in Hawaii as there are, not losing business is important, but lying or manipulating the customer will eventually backfire.

While I understand that any business can choose to accept or decline business from anyone, it seems particularly unusual that a dive shop would not accept NAUI, SDI, or SSI referral students. While I haven't seen the work that has come from SDI, I have seen the work that came out of SSI. I was an SSI instructor for five years. I never had a student turned away before.

So, if we look at reasons that a shop does not want a non-PADI referral, maybe one of these would be the reason.

(1) Attempting to remain consistent amongst all students. 

Well... Maybe, but every instructor is not a mirror of those from which they learned -- their instructor. So if that's not the case, could consistency of standards be the issue? I don't think so... I teach my students to understand what they've learned so that they can be flexible wherever they go, with whatever equipment they use, and to understand what's required of them even if it's a skill they've never done before.

(2) Afraid that referral students would not ready. 

If anything, my students would be at an advantage as I always do more, teach more, and never cut corners. If a PADI shop wanted to cut corners, eventually they would come across another PADI shop that would catch them. Politics aside and differences between competing agencies is one thing, but keeping skills, techniques, or procedures hidden are pointless as the foundation of every agency's standards are guided by the WRSTC's guidelines.

(3) To make the transition between instructors as easy as possible. 

I'd think that this would be a precarious position to be in. If every instructor performed similarly, it would leave no room for students that needed more work or guidance that was beyond the norm. It would increase the number of drop-outs as well. The industry has about an 80% drop-out rate already, and if PADI issues more certifications, statistically the number of their students dropping out or failing to continue with additional education would also increase.

(4) A credit, bonus, or financial compensation from PADI headquarters for issuing referrals to only other PADI dive shops. 

I'm not sure what the legal ramifications of this kind of practice would be, but I knew when I was a banker, I had to always provide three separate and distinctly independent business referrals (especially when those businesses provided the same services), as to not present those choices to appear to offer favoritism. 

See definitions below:

Collusion is a non-competitive agreement, usually secretive, between two or more persons or businesses to limit open competition, typically by defrauding or gaining an unfair advantage. It can involve an agreement among companies to divide the market, to set prices, to limit production or to share private information. It may also involve bid rigging. The aim of collusion is to increase individual members' profits.

Competition and Antitrust Law:
Competition/antitrust law regulates the conduct and organization of businesses to promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers and in the economic interests of society. Competition laws are strongly enforced in most countries, but a robust compliance program will mitigate a company’s risks. In interactions with competitors, companies should never discuss markets, prices or strategies, and companies should be able to identify red flags.

Conflict of Interest:
A conflict of interest exists when an individual has competing professional obligations or personal or financial interests that have the potential to influence the exercise of her/his duties. Private or personal interests include family and other relatives, personal friends, the clubs and societies to which an individual belongs, private business interests, investments and shareholdings, and any person to whom a favor is owed.

Kickbacks are a form of bribery where one party obtains an undue advantage, and a portion of the undue advantage is “kicked back” to the individual who gave or will give the undue advantage. It differs from other forms of bribery in that it implies a form of collusion between the two parties.

While these concepts ring clearly in a crime novella or in news of a corrupt politician, it seems and awkward pair -- scuba and corruption. This might not be too far from the truth in some capacity as PADI was purchased by a hedge fund in 2015, then again in 2017 for 700 million dollars. They originally had wanted one billion dollars. These numbers represent an incredible investment into a money making enterprise that the hedge fund must feel will continue to produce a return on their investment. Did you know that PADI was thought to be a billion dollar corporation? I never did.

One of the most interesting aspects of the PADI culture are the people that love them without question or those that hate them without mercy. Sadly, while many of the instructors are just trying to put a few extra dollars in their pockets, PADI has been known to throw their instructors under the bus. While there's often three sides to any story, some are incredulous!

An Open Letter of Personal Perspective to the Diving Industry

There is currently a lawsuit underway in federal court in Utah (Tuvell v. Boy Scouts of America, et al., Case 1:12-cv-00128-DB), where a boy lost his life in a PADI Discover Scuba Diving program. Normally, PADI supports its members and vigorously defends litigation. But not this time…
PADI did something strange after the Utah incident: less than two weeks after the accident, without conducting any investigation, without interviewing witnesses or waiting for the authorities to complete their investigation, PADI expelled the instructor, a veteran of the Iraq war, from PADI membership. The agency gave no reason other than that the instructor’s continued membership “was no longer in the best interests of PADI”. When the instructor asked PADI to explain its reasoning or identify which PADI standards he had violated, PADI never even gave him the courtesy of a response.
When the boy’s parents filed litigation, PADI chose to settle the plaintiffs’ case against their organization secretly and attempted to cloak the settlement in confidential agreements. PADI then illegally colluded with the plaintiffs’ attorney to file false pleadings so PADI could remain a party to the case and secretly work against its own member. This was after already settling themselves out of the litigation. When this conduct came to light, PADI was sanctioned by a Federal Judge for its misbehavior. You can access and review this “Document 182” in the case file, which is available to the public at
PADI also took other harmful action in the case. They paid a considerable sum of money to settle the case (the exact amount is noted in the transcript of the April 23, 2014 court hearing where PADI was sanctioned and is also available in the case file on But incredibly, the settlement agreement (that PADI prepared) contains a clause where the parties agreed that PADI’s member was 100% at fault. Then, after the settlement, PADI turned over its instructor member’s incident reports to the plaintiffs without a request or ever informing the member that it was doing so.
You can read the rest of the letter by following the link above.

Lastly, lets take a look at three instructor standards and procedures manuals and any reference they make to referrals. PADI, NAUI, and SDI's are below. I couldn't find SSI's. 

Referral is the process of providing training documentation to another PADI Instructor when a student diver is part-way through a course and wants to finish the course at another location. Referrals expire 12 months from the date of the last training segment. Exception: Advanced Open Water Diver course and Specialty Diver courses have no time limit. Do not withhold a referral as a means of settling personal disputes. Issue a referral if the student diver has met course requirements and any agreed-upon financial arrangements.
General Referral Procedures When referring a student diver: 
1. Complete appropriate documentation as outlined in the course instructor guide and attach a copy of the student diver’s Medical Statement (physician’s clearance), if applicable. 
2. Inform the student diver of the referral expiration (if appropriate) and clearly explain what to expect from the receiving instructor – fees for instruction, pre-assessment, etc. 
When receiving a referred student diver: 
1. Verify the referral documentation. 
2. Before in-water activities, have referred students review, complete and sign a new:
• Release of Liability/Assumption of Risk/Non-agency Acknowledgment Form – General Training • PADI Standard Safe Diving Practices Statement of Understanding • PADI Medical Statement (RSTC Medical form). If a “yes” response in the Divers Medical Questionnaire section is different from the original form provided by the student diver, written clearance to dive from a physician is prerequisite to in-water activities.
3. In preparation for the dive and before beginning open water dive skills, assess the diver’s skills and comfort level in-water and generally assess dive knowledge. If the diver exhibits lack of dive readiness, remediate before training progresses. 
4. If you complete the final open water training session, ensure that all course requirements are met (including watermanship) and submit a PIC (envelope or online) or appropriate application to your PADI Office.

[PADI to Non-PADI]
Referrals from Other Organizations 
When receiving a referred diver from another training organization for course completion, follow the Referral Procedures in the General Standards and Procedures Guide. 
To assess the referred diver’s knowledge and skills, administer the Open Water Diver Online Quick Review, ReActivate Quick Review or Open Water Diver Course final exam, and conduct a confined water dive that reviews Open Water Diver course skills in preparation for open water training dives.

• Dive Verifications. The NAUI Instructor who registers a student for certification is to ensure that the diver has had the supervised open water training and experience as required for the particular course. The certifying instructor who cannot conduct any required open water dive is obliged to ensure another active-status NAUI Instructor conducts the dive or utilize the Universal Referral Program requirements.
• Evaluations. An active-status NAUI Instructor, or other agency instructor in accordance with the Universal Referral Program requirements, must directly supervise the evaluation of students for the record in open water training (directly supervised qualified assistants can conduct skill evaluations to gain experience).

Open Water Global Referral Procedures SDI Instructor to any Active SDI Instructor Procedure:
1. A SDI Instructor sends a student that has completed the academic and confined water portion of the SDI Open Water Scuba Diver course to a second SDI Instructor to complete the open water requirements with a Global Referral Form.
2. Once the student has completed the open water requirements, the SDI Open Water Scuba Diver Instructor signs off that the skills listed on the back of the referral form have been completed.
3. The student takes the signed form back to the original SDI Confined Water Instructor to have their card issued.
4. The SDI Open Water Scuba Diver Instructor completes the SDI Student Registration Form with the names of both instructors and sends it to SDI Headquarters to have the certification card issued with both instructor names on the card. The SDI Instructor may also use the online registration system, or in-store card printing system if available.
SDI Instructor to any Active Instructor Procedure:
1. A SDI Open Water Scuba Diver Instructor sends a student that has completed the academic and confined water portion of the open water course to any other active instructor from any dive training agency to complete the open water requirements with Global Referral Form.
2. The open water instructor signs off that the skills listed on the back of the referral form have been completed.
3. The student takes the signed form back to the original SDI Confined Water Instructor to have their card issued.
4. The SDI Confined Water instructor completes the SDI student registration form with the names of both instructors and sends it to SDI Headquarters to have the certification card issued with both instructor names on the card.
5. The SDI Instructor may also use the online registration system, or in-store card printing system if available.
Any Instructor to an Active SDI Instructor Procedure:
1. The SDI Instructor must teach the student how a personal dive computer works and have them wear a personal dive computer during the open water dives.
2. The SDI Instructor MUST make sure the student completes all the skills required in the SDI Open Water Scuba Diver standards; a short list is found on the back of the Global Referral Form.
3. Upon successful completion of the skills, the SDI Open Water Scuba Diver Instructor completes and sends the SDI Student Registration form to SDI Headquarters to process the certification card where both the confined and open water instructor name will appear on the card.
4. The SDI Instructor may also use the online registration system, or in-store card printing system if available.
5. SDI also requires the SDI Open Water Scuba Diver Instructor to make a copy of the referral letter that accompanied the student and file it with the student training record. 
6. SDI recommends that if a student comes with a Universal Referral Form, they not only issue a SDI certification card but also sign the Universal Referral Form and give it back to the student so they may go back to their original instructor. 

NAUI AND SDI'S PROGRAMS BASICALLY SAY, "WE TRAINED THE DIVER WELL; HAVE A GREAT TIME ON YOUR VACATION; SEE YOU WHEN YOU GET BACK!" Do you see anything wrong with the way one of these agency's treats students coming to them from another agency?

Thursday, April 5, 2018

RESPONSE TO ARTICLE: "Gateshead scuba diver's death was tragic accident, coroner rules | The Northern Echo"

Gateshead scuba diver's death was tragic accident, coroner rules | The Northern Echo

It appears that he had an inflator stick... So, how is it that an "experienced diver" doesn't disconnect the LP inflator hose right away, yet my students are taught this before they enter the pool! "Day one skills" are the essence of becoming an experienced diver not the number of dives you have or the Mount Everest of dives, "The Andrea Doria"

While it's sad that a diver lost his life, equipment malfunctions are very rare. Inflators are notorious for being neglected by divers when cleaning their own gear as well as during equipment servicing -- especially on rental gear!

Even when teaching drysuit courses, disconnecting the inflator hose comes off before attempting to remedy any other issues.

While there is always speculation and controversy when a diver dies, the lessons we learn from them very often fall back to lessons we should pay more attention to -- if you are ever taught them at all... 

Watch my full explanation of equipment set up poolside. This is what the student learns before even getting into the water:

Watch the section that discusses the inflator, a stuck inflator button, and disconnecting the LP hose:

Sailfin Sculpin are one of my favorite fish in the Puget Sound...

#scuba #sailfinsculpin #sculpin #pugetsound #nightdive #sunrisemotel