Which Training Agency to Use for Recreational diving

We often get asked which diver training agency is the best?

To answer this we must first understand the difference between recreational and technical diving.

Recreational diving or sport diving is a type of diving that uses SCUBA equipment for the purpose of leisure and enjoyment. In some diving circles, the term ‘recreation diving’ is used to differentiate itself from ‘technical diving’, a more demanding aspect of the sport which requires greater levels of training, experience and equipment.

Not only is the underwater environment potentially hazardous but diving without adequate training can be dangerous, especially in the case of when an unexpected problem arises. Divers need to practice and gradually increase their skills to potential challenges by building their confidence in their equipment and themselves.

Most commercial operators and dive clubs serving divers insist that each diver is able to show them their ‘certification’ for the type of diving intends to do. Dive operators, dive shops and compressor operators should refuse to allow uncertified people to dive, hire diving equipment or have their diving cylinders filled.

Standard Equipment

  • Diving mask or full face diving mask and snorkel
  • Swim fins or scuba fins
  • Drysuit, wetsuit or regular swimsuit, depending on the water temperature
  • BCD
  • Diving weighting system or weight belt
  • Diving regulator
  • Contents gauge or SPG
  • Dive computer or depth gauge and timer
  • Sureface marker buoy or other surface detection aid

Training Levels

There is a certain amount of disquiet over the level of training and experience necessary to qualify as a diver. Under most entry level programs (SEI, SDI, PADI, BSAC, NAUI, SSI and PDIC), divers can complete a certification with as few as four ‘open water’ dives. Such a qualification allows divers to rent equipment, receive air-fills, and dive without any higher supervision to depth restrictions of typically 18 metres (60 feet) with a buddy.

Here are the main training agencies that offer diving courses:


The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) is the world’s largest recreational diving membership and diver training organization founded in 1966.

PADI’s philosophy is to get people doing actual dives as soon as they are ready, unlike other training agencies who can spend vast amounts of time in the classroom and pool.


PADI courses range from entry levels (such as ‘Scuba Diver’ and ‘Open Water Diver’) to ‘Master scuba diver’ and a range of instructor certifications. Under their PADI TecRec brand, PADI also offers various technical diving courses, including decompression diving, trimix diving and gas blending.

They typical path for PADI divers is:

Discover Scuba > Open Water Diver (18m) > Advanced Open Water (30m) > Emergency First Response > Rescue Diver and Specialty Courses > Master Scuba Diver and / or Divemaster

At Oyster Diving we believe that teaching the PADI system gives our customers more options for when they travel around the world. The open water referral course enables students to complete the theory and pool skills in the UK and the open water dives while on holiday. With more PADI dive centres around the world then any other training agency gives our customers more choice.


Scuba Diving International (SDI) is a Scuba training and certification agency. It is the recreational arm of Technical Diving International, the world’s largest technical diver training organization.

Entry Level Courses

These courses are meant for people interested in talking the first steps towards Scuba diving

  • Future buddies program – A course designed to provide children between the ages of 8 & 9 an introduction to scuba diving in a controlled environment under the direct supervision of an instructor. Once the future buddy turns 10 they can enrol on the SDI junior open water dive course
  • Scuba Discovery Program – An introductory program to scuba diving, for people how are not sure they want to proceed with a full scuba course and certification
  • Open Water Scuba Diver Course – Entry level certification to scuba diving
  • Skin Diver Course – A skin diving course


The National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) is a non-profit association of Scuba instructions. It was officially CE and ISO certified in May 2007 in all three diver levels and both instructor levels.


NAUI was the first recreational training agency to sanction Nitrox training in 1992. It published standards for teaching technical diving in 1997, a practice that had been growing among NAUI members for several years. Training is provided ranging from Skin Diver through instructor course director, with dozen of specialty courses. Thousands of members instructors, affiliated stores, resorts and service centres are located in countries around the world.


Scuba School International (SSI) is an organization that teaches the skills involved in scuba diving, free-diving, supports dive businesses and resorts. SSI has well over 2,500 authorized dealers, 35 regional centres, and offices all over the world.


SSI offers internationally recognized scuba training programs for all levels – starting with Snorkeling and entry level diving courses up to Instructor certifies. The most common programs are: SSI Open Water Divers (OWD), Advanced Open Water Diver (AOWD), more than 30 difference specialty courses. Dive leader training programs start with the Dive Control Specialty followed by Open Water Instructor and above.

SSI’s training program for children aged 8-12 years is called Scuba Rangers


British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) has been recognized since 1954 by the Sports Council as the national governing body of recreational diving in the United Kingdom.

BSAC is unusual for a diver training agency in the most BSAC instructors are amateurs operating in diving clubs as opposed to professionals operating in diving school.

Given that UK waters are relatively cold and have restricted visibility, BSAC training is regarded by its members as more comprehensive than some. Specifically it places emphasis on rescue training very early in the program. BSAC also maintains links with other organisations, such as NACSAC.


The BSAC has offered two separate training schemes since the 1950s – The diver training program (DTP) for scuba diving and the Snorkeler training program (STP) for snorkeling.


BSAC currently has five diver qualifications. These are:

  • Ocean Diver – Basic skills, non-decompression diving (depth limit of 20m)
  • Sports Diver – Rescue, navigation, nitrox and decompression diving (depth limit of 35m)
  • Dive Leader – Dive leading, dive planning, management and rescue management (depth limit of 50m)
  • Advanced Diver – Fully trained diver capable of leading a group of divers in normal club activities
  • First Class Diver – Trained to lead a group of dives carrying out a project. This is nationally examined with a two-day practical test

Scuba diving for younger people

Most training agencies have a minimum age for diving and often restrict younger children to snorkeling. BSAC allows 6-year-olds to train for the ‘Dolphin Snorkeler’ grade.

From the age of 8 years old PADI has a ‘Seal team program’ and SSI have ‘Scuba rangers’ which teaches diving in shallow swimming pools.

PADI allows 10-year-olds to do the full Open Water Diver course. They call called ‘Junior Open Water’ divers. There are restrictions on their depth and group size when diving. Also they must dive with their parents or with a professional. When they reach the age of 12 they can dive with a qualified adult. Over 15 they are considered capable of diving with others of the same age or others.

BSAC allows 12-year-olds to do the full entry level diving course – The Ocean Diver course. This qualification has no restrictions for the young diver, but individual branches of BSAC are free to set their own minimum ago for branch membership.

Which diver training agency should I choose?

Most diving centres accept each others certifications and you can easily cross over. For residents in the UK who tend to go on holiday regularly then we would recommend the PADI system as they are a truly global organisation. There is nothing wrong with the other agencies and it just depends on your personal requirements.

We teach the following PADI courses at Oyster Diving:

For any questions relating to our dive courses please visit www.oysterdiving.com or e-mail info@oysterdiving.com

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