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Alex_Mustard

What dive qualification?

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I witnessed something funny a couple of months ago.

 

We had just boarded a Red Sea liveaboard and the dive guides were going through the paperwork with each of us. C Card, log books, waiver, etc...

 

One member of our party (a very eminent underwater photographer whom I'll refer to as Petra to keep her anonymity) produced an SSI (I think) card recognising something like 5,000 logged dives. Unfortunately for Petra, the card wasn't a certification card per se since it didn't show any level of qualification. And guess what, the dive guide refused to accept the card because it wasn't an official proof of certification ! :)

 

Good thing Petra had another card in her wallet otherwise she would probably have been stuck on deck all week while we were playing with her Magic Filters :(

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HI,

 

Is this the same Petra who had a buddy called Alexa????? :):)

 

I was also on the same Red Sea livaboard,

 

Andy :):(;):)

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Yer - that was the same trip that I had to convince them that a TriMix card and 2.5K dives covered an 'Entry Level minimum requirement'....

 

Or I too was playing on deck !......

 

They were just a bit enthusiastic.

 

Paul C

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I find this dissing of certs amusing (and I was one of them). Clearly there are yahoos with lots of certs and experts with only open water, but there is usually a pretty strong correlation between certs and dive experience. My point is that usually experienced divers usually have lots of certs and vice versa. It just isn't a perfect correlation.

 

Exactly, and while there is a correlation between having lots of dives and being a good diver, it's far from perfecr. I've dived with people who've been at it for 20 years and 2k+ dives who are absolutely horrible. Why? Because they don't care I guess, but the point stands. A more experienced diver is more likely to be a better diver, but all experience means necessarily is that they've successfully completed that number of dives, and not died. Congrats. Often divers seem to get more stuck in their ways as time goes on, with the attitude of 'well, it hasn't killed me yet, so I must be doing it right'.

 

Certs in of themself can be meaningless to categorise whether someone is a 'good diver' or not, but some certs do mean something. A dir cert means that someone has good buoyancy. An IANTD tech cert means they're probably pretty capable to that level of depth. Depth can be an issue with UWP, and just because someone has 2k+ dives under their belt it doesn't mean squat as to their ability to safely navigate dives beyond the narcosis/single tank zone.

 

You can definitely learn outside of certs, but at the very least a cert sets a baseline minimum for skills someone is supposed to have, more than someone telling me (not showing me a logbook) that they have x number of dives.

 

So what do I think an UWPer should have? The minimum cert to do whatever it is they want to do, and lots of practice to make them better than that :)

 

FWIW I have CCR Adv Tmx, PADI OWSI, CDAA Cave.

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I do tend to carry a BSAC 3rd class plastic card which was issued in 1983 - on the back it shows equivalence to CMAS** which seems to have satisfied everyone that I've shown it to - a minimum qualification, and one which does show I've been diving for some years. It proves nothing more though!

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Some very good points raised by Nazaar.

 

One problem with old dive cert cards is that you may well have changed appearance over the years. I am only 15 on my cert card - and I look nothing like that now - although the card always causes much merriment at dive centres.

 

Alex

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"One problem with old dive cert cards is that you may well have changed appearance over the years"

 

Not mine - it predates the time when a picture was added!

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I don't know what to say...

... but before I dived Bikini I took a technical course (IANTD Normoxic Trimix) that reinforced safe diving practice, despite roughly a thousand dives, mostly in the UK, before I got soft.

I think you have to match your experience to the dive, and in the end that can only be a personal decision. It's unrealistic to ask dive guides to police our claims.

As a medic I try to give the diving public enough information to manage their own risk (aka putting the fear of *** into them).

We have to take reponsibility for our own diving.

 

post-4522-1157487660_thumb.jpg

 

Tim

 

B)

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I first learned to be a photographer and wanted to takea photograph that was underwater. Then I started snorkelling and reasoned a tank of air would help. Certifications? I guess that explains everything really!

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I do tend to carry a BSAC 3rd class plastic card which was issued in 1983 - a minimum qualification, and one which does show I've been diving for some years. It proves nothing more though!

 

It hardly proves even that, really. One of my mates' dad once showed me his certification card dating back to 1973... and he hadn't dived once since! :glare:

 

It did prove that he had hair on his head at the time, though :)

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I still dive on my BSAC 2nd class (CMAS ***) dive card of around 1972 which has no pic either. I also have a much more recent PADI Nitrox card.

 

However, the main 'qualification' doc asked for at sites I have visited in the last few years seems to be an up-to-date log book. I actually stopped keeping a dive log shortly after I 'qualified' but took up the practice again around ten years ago when resorts and dive boats would ask to briefly see a recent log. It's also great now to correlate with all those bloody video tapes and memory chips - most of my recent log book write-ups involve this or that light/focus/WB issue etc etc!

Edited by NickJ

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...and talking of good books, I believe every diver should read "The Last Dive" by Bernie Chowdry. Depressing title I thought when I won it at a dive club quiz, but reading it is a real eye-opener. Very readable style, and some very salutory reminders about 'experienced' divers doing stupid things out of over confidence and complacency. If you are in the mood for similar tales, "Fatal Depth" is also a great eye opener.

 

I also like to read the DAN magazine accident accounts - again real reminders of very basic errors that can lead to fatal disasters.

 

We all need constant reminding (well I'm speaking for myself of course). Last weekend after a stressful work week, I took off to Bali without checking my dive computer which had dead batteries (luckily my buddy had spare) and I also did a night dive without attaching my trusty safety strobe, which wasn't needed, but might have been - duh!

 

Thankfully on the same weekend, 'experience' made some very hairy down currents at 35-40m, and later a hairy ascent in swift surface currents to no boat cover in sight, part of a great weekend with no issues. My paper qualifications were no help at all ....

Edited by NickJ

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Thankfully on the same weekend, 'experience' made some very hairy down currents at 35-40m, and later a hairy ascent in swift surface currents to no boat cover in sight, part of a great weekend with no issues. My paper qualifications were no help at all ....

 

How true. Experience too can also be misleading if one just looks at the number of logged dives. There was a recent incident where guests on a Komodo liveaboard boat (which shall remain nameless) in Komodo were seen clambering hand-over-hand over the corals at Crystal Bommie. There was a mild current, but nothing to get excited about. (I know - I was one of the ones who witnessed this, looking down on them as I swam by, upcurrent and with a housing.)

 

The operator was later challenged for not having done a better job of vetting and briefing the divers before taking them to this site. His response was that (1) ll the divers had at least 200 logged dives, most even more, and (2) that all the divers had seemed fine to him when he took them on a check-out dive the day before at a protected bay. It turned out that the divers were Europeans whose experience was largely limited to lakes and/or very easy dives in the Red sea. None had ever dived in any currents at all.

 

Frogfish

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HI,

 

Is this the same Petra who had a buddy called Alexa????? :D:D

 

I was also on the same Red Sea livaboard,

 

Andy :rolleyes::unsure::D:D

 

Alexa ? No. Must have been a different trip. Petra's buddy was someone called Denise. :D

 

One problem with old dive cert cards is that you may well have changed appearance over the years. I am only 15 on my cert card - and I look nothing like that now - although the card always causes much merriment at dive centres.

 

Alex, my offer still stands if you want an updated C card with a new photo so that people stop taking the mickey everytime you pull it out. And don't worry about the qualifying dives. You'll sail through the elective 'Underwater Photography' dive. It's a piece of cake ! :D

 

On a more serious note, I agree that old divers can get bad habits and old photographers can have some pretty environment-damaging ones. Maybe it's not just about qualification and experience, but also about an understanding of what behavious is unacceptable underwater. Is it time to pull the Underwater Photographer code of good practise out again ?

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It looks like there is some confusion here between qualifications/experience and attitude/ability.

 

I'm very fortunate as the vast majority of people whom I dive with are very experienced and are conservation/environmentally minded - although their qualifications vary dramatically.

 

I have met highly experienced divers whose knowledge of marine life is: lobster, large eel (conger in temperate waters, moray in the tropics), edible crabs and 'everything else' - even after 20 years of diving!

 

Equally, I have met underwater photographers who believe that the image is more important thab the well being of the subject.

 

This said, I have noticed a greater awareness of the marine environment gradually creeping into new divers over the las few years - no doubt as a result of increasing emphasis being placed on this during the more recent training schedules now being used.

 

But to assume that experience or qualification equate to caring about how you dive is sadly simply not always viable.

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Lots of good points made here. II definitely feel that, in the age of PADI, dive certifications in themselves mean very little. Just having a PADI basic open water card doesn't really qualify anyone even to dive, as far as I'm concerned. But I also know a lot of very experienced, highly skilled divers who have no qualification beyond basic open water.

 

Max Gibbs, one of the world's great authorities on fish id's, a very good underwater photographer for many years now, who normally does 500+ dives (mostly on liveaboards) a year (when he's not writing another fish book), finally had to get Larry Smith to give him a PADI "Advanced Diver" card (I think they call it something else now) because petty-minded American and Australian divemasters/cruise directors on some liveaboards - people with fewer total lifetime dives than Max normally does in a year) were insisting that he wasn't qualified to go below 24 meters with only a basic open water diver card. That's nuts.

 

And I've also run into people with PADI divemaster cards with less than 100 dives under the belts, who had terrible buoyancy control and in-water skills. The PADI organization has a lot to answer for. There is no good answer to Alex's question, and the main reason (in my view) is that PADI has rendered certification levels meaningless. And, in an extension of Gresham's Law (bad money drives out good), PADI's driving standards down has effectively forced the other certification organizations to dilute, dumb-down and make their own courses easier.

 

Mine? CMAS *; PADI AOW, Rescue Diver, Nitrox; IANTD Deep Air.

 

I'd very much like to take the DIR course if it's ever offered within 1000 miles of where I am.

 

Frogfish

 

 

I have scanned through most of the replies to this thread, and I do not see any resposes from dive operators. I am upset with the comment ' because petty-minded American and Australian divemasters/cruise directors on some liveaboards '

 

I personnally applaude those 'petty minded' folk, and would be very happy to employ them as they are following the standards applied to them and the industry by the certification agency that they use. I fully appreciate that there are some photographers that undertake thousands of dives, but let's for arguments sake say that one of them had a serious problem at 100ft? Who would be liable? If the diver was not appropriately certified, the operator of course. Just be thankful you don't have to pay for dive operator public liability insurance!

 

It is very easy to bash PADI for enabling an individual to gain their OW Cert in a way that you think diminishes the qualification, but then in the same breath get cross because PADI would like the same diver to undertake more training specific to deep diving, or to attain an Advanced Cert (with Navigation and Deep Training as compulsory skills). Be fair!

 

As a dive shop owner / operator safety and risk assessment have to be my number one priorities. I WILL NOT take any diver, and I don't care who you are, on a dive where we might meet any type of challenges until I have dived with you at least once in a calm, risk free (as it can be) environment. And I will not take you on a deep dive if you are not an Advanced Diver - I'm not insured if I do! I know the waters around St. Vincent, and that's what you pay for when you dive with my operation.

 

 

I will add that I have only dived in warm water. I have logged 1000+ dives in St. Vincent. I am a PADI OWSI Instructor, I take my job very seriously, and I follow PADI guidlines to the letter.

 

If I were to dive in cold water, or a new environment I would of course seek the appropriate training or professional guidance!

 

I appreciate that we are talking about the appropriate qualifications for photography. I would say other than your initial OW certification, the only other qualifications that you need are; the ability to understand your own limits, the humility to take advice from the professionals that you entrusted with your safety, (some of us may not dive as often as you or for as long as you have, but we dive our sites many more times than you!), and the patience to practice your bouyancy control, a weight check with your camera is always worth undertaking prior to your dive.

 

Thanks my two cents worth!

 

Kay Wilson,

Indigo Dive,

St. Vincent, WI.

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Part of the problem is that these certification companies are FOR PROFIT!

 

I have seen some places (especially at resorts) where they are like mills. Give them big $$$, Read this book, do these skills, here is your cert. Also there is no recertification. So, once you are taught poorly, unless someone teaches you better, you will never no or learn.

 

So should dive operations be charities?

 

I am not an employee of PADI, but I do like the system that is employed in order to teach ENTRY LEVEL diving. It is not the agencies at fault, per se. Poor training comes from poor instructors, who in turn are employed by poor dive operators. My only criticism of the PADI / NAUI / YMCA system is that these agencies do not employ Mystery Shoppers, but instead rely on questionnaire feed back or letters of complaint to manage the quality control of the franchisee's that represent them.

 

By the way, when was the last time you wrote to a Scuba Certification Agency to complain of poor service / training from one of their members? (All members of PADI should display their qualifications in a prominent location, so you can identify them via their membership number).

 

Lastly, good dive stores ask divers to undertake an initial review dive prior to doing challenging dives, but SOME folks get upset with this practice! So damned if we do and damned if we don't!

 

Maybe there should be a voluntary 'this is what you should expect from your dive shop' published some where?

 

Kay Wilson,

Indigo Dive,

St. Vincent, WI.

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I have to jump through hoops to "prove" that I won't kill or abuse my patients. For instance, I have to prove every year that I am immune to hepatitis B. I don't think that it's a big deal to have some documentation to show that I've done some formal dive training. The problem is that the documentation doesn't prove very much about a diver's skills in the water, and pace the IANTD "deep air" qualification mentioned in one of the posts above, it might be out of date (current techy fashion being gas switches for all, and normoxic trimix).

 

In the end an operator's guides have to watch their guests in the water, and see how they dive. I can put up with this, it's not an ego threat. I should think that the more dives you have done, the less of a threat it is: what do you have to prove?

 

Tim

 

B)

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I've see lots of good points, and I'm sure I'm going to repeat several people here.

 

Yes, of course, it depends.

 

If a diver just has OW, I doubt that they are ready to pick up a camera. To finish OW, you just need to have 2 open water dives, right?

 

And for AOW, you could be looking at someone with 7 open water dives, and that person, too, would scare me with a camera. Not me personally, of course, since I can swim away fast enough ;-)

 

Maybe, if someone had just run through the classes, doing no "extra" diving on the side, I would want at least AOW + a bouyance control class.

 

Or OW + a photography class (which would include more bouyance that photography skills in my mind).

 

But the reality is that the ppl best suited to dive with cameras will only rarely be easy to "point out" by certification. I've been diving with ppl that have lots of experience, both with and without cameras, in at least semi challenging conditions. These same ppl I wouldn't let on the reef if it was my choice to decide. And I've dove with others, with less experience, but who have made an effort to be considerate aware. They are better divers and better UW photographers from the reef's point of view (and maybe others, but that's another subject).

 

But what prompted me to respond was one person's comment about a new dive master with 150 dives, and no dives with current. Now that person, I might let bring a camera as a diver, but I don't consider them competent to be a dive master in a place with current. Maybe a dive master should have to log at least four or five dives in a new area before being allowed to lead a dive? I don't know how to solve the problem, but it is, I think, too quick and easy a path to dive master, and taking responsibility for other ppls lives underwater.

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...and pace the IANTD "deep air" qualification mentioned in one of the posts above, it might be out of date (current techy fashion being gas switches for all, and normoxic trimix).
I realize that current DIR orthodoxy is trimix for anything below 30 meters, but helium isn't readily available (or practical) for the live-aboard and local diving that I mostly do. On rare occasions, I sometimes do dives beyond PADI training depths, and also dives that incur mandatory decompression obligations When those situations occur, I'm quite happy to have had some relevant training and supervised experience.

 

I've done the Deep Air course - it might be my post you're referring to - and I found it to be valuable. If nothing else, it was useful to go through a rigorous approach to safe procedures for decompression dives on air. PADI simply skirts the subject. I see people on liveaboards all the time doing what in effect are planned decompression dives, but who were never trained in converting SAC to gas consumption at depth, estimating safe gas requirements for decompression diving, the Rule of Thirds, etc.

 

The IANTD Deep Air course was the first time I was trained in setting up and using double tanks, stage tanks, and using nitrox blends for decompression. The course also included practice in important basic skills that PADI courses tend to ignore, such as shooting a SMB, and a good review of diving physiology. It isn't the full DIR dive course, perhaps, but I felt it was valuable. And Deep Air is a prerequisite for the IANTD Advanced Nitrox and the Trimix courses. So if one wanted to go "techie" in that system, Deep Air is the standard course following basic nitrox.

 

Parisgal - I'm with you. Becoming a divemaster is way too easy.

Edited by frogfish

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It's interesting that you mention helium not being available where you are, Robert. There is a tendency in Europe now to recommend helium with everything without realising that it is not a gas that is readily available in remote places - where the bestr diving is. Added to that, the world is running out of helium so its new-found popularity will only speed up its eventual rarity.

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