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How to find an excellent SCUBA class

Discussion in 'New Divers and Those Considering Diving' started by Walter, Jun 3, 2009.

  1. Walter

    Walter Instructor, Scuba

    To find a good class, you'll need to interview instructors you are considering hiring to teach you to dive. Since you don't know much about diving, you'll probably need a little guidance with the interview. Here's my guide to finding an excellent class:

    How do I find an above average course and how will I know I've found it?

    Interview potential instructors. Most people never ask any questions beyond price. As the old saying goes, "You get what you pay for." Excellent instructors will usually have a higher priced class for a number of reasons. The instructor is dedicated toward providing you all the time you need to master necessary knowledge and skills. Extra pool time can be expensive. Keep in mind; the instructor is trying to make a living. His time is valuable.

    Consider alternatives. While many instructors teach through dive shops, some of the best are independent instructors or affiliated with colleges, universities or YMCA's.

    Questions to ask the instructors:

    How long have you been teaching? Most instructors improve over time. They learn new techniques and get ideas from other instructors and through experience to improve their classes.

    Do you certify all your students? Only instructors who are in a hurry and care nothing about your safety will answer yes. You want an instructor who will require you to be safe and knowledgeable before issuing a c-card. An excellent instructor might tell you that he is willing to keep working with a student until the student either qualifies or gives up.

    What skin diving skills will I learn? While there is some disagreement on this point, many professionals believe a solid foundation in skin diving will not only make you a better SCUBA diver, it will make learning SCUBA easier.

    Will I learn confidence-building skills? There are some skills which have no direct application to a typical dive, but which do build your confidence as well as your abilities. This, combined with an understanding of the panic cycle, will make you much less likely to panic.

    Do you teach the panic cycle? Panic is the most dangerous aspect of diving. Many instructors do not understand panic and believe there is no way to combat it. In actuality, panic is understood. It is though learning the panic cycle and by increasing skill levels that panic is avoided.

    Do your students swim with their hands? This will let you know if the instructor pays attention to details. Good divers do not use their hands for swimming.

    Do you work on trim? Divers should usually be horizontal in the water. Good instructors will see that students are striving towards good trim. Poor instructors often neglect it.

    Do you overweight your students? Many instructors overweight students. It is not a good practice.

    What method do you use to correctly weight your students? Any answer that does not involve actually getting in the water means you want to avoid that instructor.

    How many people will be in my class? Small classes are better. You'll have more individual attention. Unless the instructor is using certified assistants, more than four students are difficult to watch.

    How many certified assistants will you be using? Unless the class is relatively large (more than 4 students) this should not be an issue. An instructor should have a certified Divemaster or Assistant Instructor for every two students over four. There are times when divers working on their Divemaster or Assistant Instructor certifications assist with a class. This is normal and not an issue, but they do not count toward the assistants an instructor should have when working with larger classes.

    Will I be learning skills kneeling on the pool bottom or mid-water? This question is not critical, but will let you know if you've found an instructor who has a great deal on the ball. The over whelming majority of instructors (even good instructors) teach skills kneeling on the bottom. Don't eliminate instructors who do. Some instructors have realized your mask will flood while you are swimming, not when you are sitting on the bottom. You need to learn skills in the manner in which you'll be using them.

    Do you dive for fun or just when you are teaching? Instructors who've stopped diving for fun are burned out.

    Questions to ask yourself:

    Is the instructor patient? While talking with your potential instructor, you should be getting a feel for his personality. Patience is an important quality for an instructor. You want to avoid instructors with a drill sergeant demeanor.

    Would I be happier learning from a man or a woman? Only you can answer that question, but in general it is not usually a serious consideration. There are excellent instructors and there are poor instructors. Men and women fall into both groups.
  2. Davidstealey3

    Davidstealey3 Divemaster

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Maryland

    i agree with everythig he has to say except for this statement.

    some shop owners do not have another job so they sole source of income comes from diving ( owner of a store or instructor ) and some shops have higher rent then others to pay for. the best instructors dont allways have the highest price. some of my instructors have been easy on the pocket and an excelent teacher. ask your friends and family that dive who taught them and if they would recomend them as a teacher. also you can join other forums and web groups to get other oppinions

    the only thing i can add to this statement is to ask the instructor what is included in the price of the class. some course prices is just the class and does not include the student packets or quarry fees if aplicable (sorry for the bad grammer ) or gear rental. this could be a deciding factor when it comes to chosing an instructor or shop .

    good luck to all who read this post and happy diving
    Brian Smith and GI0Ria like this.
  3. Tom Smedley

    Tom Smedley Tommy ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives:
    Location: Montgomery, AL
    Just come to our shop.
    kevindsingleton likes this.
  4. Walter

    Walter Instructor, Scuba

    True, but then I didn't say "always."
  5. Davidstealey3

    Davidstealey3 Divemaster

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Maryland
    i know, just wanted to point out why one might be more costly then another.

    you did do a hell of a job on this post, i would even say one of the best i have ever read on here

    so let me retract my always, and put usually
    Brian Smith likes this.
  6. acwest

    acwest Divemaster

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    In some places, there is also the option of club-based instruction. In England, they have BSAC, for example, and I know of a few clubs that do training here in Toronto. If you can find a club that does this, it is often a very good thing, as the instructors aren't working for the money (there isn't any) they are doing it for the love of diving. The training tends to be rather more thorough than you will get from a shop, because it isn't about economics.
    Jonwainwright likes this.
  7. Chris Hipp

    Chris Hipp Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Mesquite, texas
    From my experiences, college based courses are a very good way to learn. The class is spread out so you aren't trying to learn everything in 3 days. Your instructor is usually getting paid by the school so they are not under the same pressures that a dive shop instructor would be. Plus, I took my open water class for $60 in school, if you can find a dive shop that can beat that....I won't even finish this sentence, because you can't.
    Scuba_Bill_671 and GI0Ria like this.
  8. azchipka

    azchipka Captain

    # of Dives:
    Location: Durham, North Carolina, United States
    Other good questions:

    How many people have you certified?
    An instructor who has been teaching for 20 years may have certified less people then an active instructor who has been teaching for 5 years.

    How many specialties do you have (not that they can teach)
    This shows that they see the value in continued education

    Which gear should I buy
    A good instructor will ask you about your future diving plans. A bad instructor will start making suggestions before knowing your plans.
  9. D_B

    D_B Kimber/TekDiveGirl storyteller and memory keeper ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: San Diego, Ca.
    Interesting point about how many people have you certified, but maybe a better question to ask is how many have you not certified ... ask what happens if you, or another student is having difficulty.
    Just asking for the number of people they have certified each year could mean many things, not necessarily that he's a good one
  10. japan-diver

    japan-diver Dive Charter

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Okinawa, Japan
    Two of these three will not apply much. Some of the worst instructors I have ever seen have the highest student counts as they are chasing numbers and certify everyone that has ever come in contact with them. The guy who has been teaching for 20 years and certified 50 quality divers a year consistently is probably a much better instructor than the guy who has punched out 500 a year at certification mill for 5 years and now is really burnt out.

    The number of specialties an instructor has or has taken again does not show commitment to education, I would be much more interested in their diving history and if they dive on a regular basis - a direct question on what do they do to keep current on new trends in diving and teaching would be better than have you collected a bunch of specialty cert cards. I am much more impressed by the instructor who take a college course in Fish Id or Reef Critters than a Naturalist specialty.
    Octopusprime and kakakekekoko like this.

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