Last year the media in the United Kingdom was focused on so called fast track training methods. With a rash of deaths at Stoney Cove in Leicester, everybody and their dog was giving their opinion on each type of training scheme. Even "The Times" decided to run an article on how unsafe diving was and the deaths showed an irresponsability on the part of the training organisations.
What I find amusing is that the week after that article was run, "The Times" was publishing adverts for Profesional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) training courses, the exact same ones that it slated the week before, an amazing turn around!
The talk about fast track training took another bizare twist when the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) announced that it was introducing a new training system in its schools called "ocean diver". This was direct competition for padi training standards, which the BSAC claimed was in the interest of the clubs survival as padi train the majority of the worlds divers. Fair enough I said to myself, but I also though it a bit odd as a few months earlier they were saying how different their system was to other competing organisations. Now I don’t like politics and I have looked at what the BSAC have introduced to the ocean diver package and it does look good on the surface, but like any system of its ilk, its open to abuse. The reason why people get injured in our sport is that cowboys want to make money and exploit the unknowning beginner.
In all fairness the bsac pride themselves on being the safest diving organisation in the world, but in changing their system they have opened the door to cowboys and no matter how much they can check, they cannot check each school and operation using their name. The move to ocean diver was a sound financial idea as the club needs to compete on the international market.
PADI have got the game right, for the amount of people they train to be divers, they do very well for themselves. They initiated in the warm water markets, but moved to setting up schools in the cooler water around northern europe, which is fine if the school that take the trainees in are responsable, but you will always get cowboys.
Personally the diving market is changing, with the sport becoming larger in the publics eye. With technical diving becoming easier to do, the diving organisations have to adapt to survive. I feel PADI will always be one of the largest organisations as they know how to train "temporary" holiday divers, but some of the smaller organisations may have a few surprises in store for the big guys.
Above all diving should be fun and safe, whether it took you 3 days or 3 months to learn your skills. The sport is becoming very fashionable and just looking at the growth in package deals and equipment suppliers demonstrates that. With a sensible attitude we’ll all have fun.