What is the best scuba diving training organisation? PADI, NAUI or SSI?
This is the number one question asked by many beginners. There is no doubt that PADI is the most well known (the marketing is really good!), but the ultimate goal of all training organizations is the same: to train professionally responsible divers. The framework of teaching is all similar, and the accreditation is also up to international standard.
That is to say, if the dive centre you visit is PADI certified, your diving license of NAUI or SSI is also eligible, and vice versa. (No organization has the power to purchase the sea, alright?)
Next, let me explain why and how all diving organizations are similar, and the differences of PADI, NAUI and SSI respectively.
In fact, this question has been answered million times, so let's dive deep!
The development of scuba diving began in the decades around World War II, when humans mainly snorkeled and fished. The first commercially available scuba gear was introduced in the late 1940s by Mr. Cousteau and Gagnan as "Aqualung".
However, there was no formal scuba diving training and certification organization at that time, except for military training.
In 1959, Skin Diver Magazine announced that the National Diving Patrol became an official organization to guide underwater sports and reduce diving accidents through professional education. In 1960, Mr. Tillman (he had been freediving since ten years old in 1938 !) established NAUI and held the first diving instructor training in Texas, USA.
#1 Now we get down to the business - the relationship between PADI, NAUI, SSI.
In 1966, non-profit NAUI instructor John Cronin and his friend Erickson set up the first for-profit diving organization PADI, and then PADI spun off NASDS. Bob Clark of NASDS founded SSI in 1970 with several colleagues. Finally, NASDS merged with SSI in 1999.
So, in fact, every organisation is planted from the same seed! All training courses are derived from the same teaching basis.
And now there are three major accrediting bodies that have established minimum requirements for recreational diving training. They are WRSTC, RSTC and ISO, which further bring scuba diving training to globally recognised standards.
What are WRSTC, RSTC, ISO?
The World Recreational Diving Training Council (WRSTC) was established in 1999 to develop recreational diving training standards for various scuba diving certification bodies around the world. The WRSTC restricts its membership to national or regional committees. The committee panel consists of individual training organizations that represent at least 50% of the annual diver certifications in the country or regional group to which the committee belongs.
National or regional committees are called RSTCs.
RSTC is responsible for the development of Standard Medical Statements (in collaboration with the Subsea and Hyperbaric Medicine Society), and training standards for Diver and the following recreational diver levels - Introductory Diving Experience, Supervised Diver, Open Water Diver, Enriched Air Nitrox, Entry Level Rescue Diver, Assistant Diving Instructor, Scuba Diving Instructor and Diving Instructor Trainer.
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an international standards establishment body that formulates international standards for industry and commerce around the world. ISO announced 5 standards for the diving industry in 2007: 3 for recreational diver training and 2 for leadership diver training.
PADI, NAUI and SSI all meet the standards of the 3 accreditation bodies!
So at the end, from the perspective of a recreational diver, there is not much difference between learning diving with PADI, NAUI, or SSI.
BUT. PADI, NAUI, SSI do have their own characteristics.
The advantages of PADI are that they are widely known, and the diver network is the largest in the market. PADI decentralised to diving instructors, and the certification process takes place between the instructor and PADI headquarters. Because of the company's value, PADI has sold their business three times in six years. The current owner is Mandarinfish Holding which place focus in the development of China Mainland. The student databases is also developed in Wechat system.
In addition to the ancestor of recreational scuba diving, NAUI encourages diving instructors to strengthen training based on the strength and weakness of the students, and the teaching mode is more personalized. As a non-profit-making organisation, the course fees are generally lower than other organisations in the market (of course, prices should not be your only consideration!). Another things is, NAUI is recognized by the Hong Kong Labour Department, which is critical for licensing as a local commercial diver.
SSI, Scuba Schools International, has a history of more than 50 years. It is not as well known in Hong Kong, but it is actually very active in Southeast Asia. The head office is located in Europe and pays great attention to the privacy of personal data. Thank to the direct supervision of Hong Kong branch from Europe headquarters, many diving professionals have choosen to join SSI!
Each level of SSI certification requires a certain number of dive logs, this makes sure that all students have enough confidence and experience to be certified.
Last but not least, SSI's digital platform is maturely developed. Their MySSI APP includes all diving materials (digital textbook), quizzes, diving skills videos, as well as dive logs, diving buddies, diving license cards and diving plans. In recent years, it has also been acquired by the HEAD and has become sister company of MARES - an evidence of their commitment in the diving industry.
Each organisation is internationally recognized, and you can make your own choice considering the above factors.
If you prefers digitalization (that saves a lot of trees too!), SSI is definitely your first choice!
But the most important thing is still the diving instructor, who is the first person to introduce you to the great ocean.
See you in the sea!