If you know anything about scuba diving, or have been researching scuba for the first time, you’ve probably heard of something called PADI. Maybe even before you heard about SDI or it’s hugely popular technical diving agency TDI. PADI started over 50 years ago and SDI over 20 so they’ve been in the market longer.
But SDI changed the market back in 1999, and in a BIG way.
Before we dig into the differences between the two agencies and why Scuba Adventures chose SDI over PADI, you should know that when discussing competent agencies in the U.S. alone, it’s not just about these two.
There are other agencies that offer similar benefits and have unique advantages.
You may be surprised to know, when it comes to scuba certifying agencies in the U.S. there is a surprisingly large amount of certifying agencies nationwide. Most you wouldn’t be familiar with, and some you would… like the YMCA. Yes the Y!
Just because you’re aware of one scuba diving agency more than another, doesn’t mean one has less quality and less educational value.
Some might argue that several agencies one-up PADI in certain areas anyway!
When we purchased the Scuba Adventures it was already associated with PADI, so we had the perfect opportunity to stay or bring in another agency.
It’s actually more work to make a switch to another agency such as SDI, SSI, NASE, NAUI or another worldwide leading agency. But if there is value…it’s worth it.
And there was.
After a proper evaluation, we felt our dive students would benefit more from the SDI training and procedures, so we invested time and financial resources to move the entire existing staff AWAY from PADI and cross them over to SDI/TDI.
So, what’s the difference between SDI and PADI?
To be completely fair, there isn’t that much!
Yeah, we said it.
They are much more alike, than they are different. The differences are in fact subtle, but we think, important.
The ownership at Scuba Adventures has over 100 years of dive experience and certifications from NAUI, PADI, SDI, NASE, TDI and a few others.
Why did we make this decision and investment?
We will break it all down for you.
How SDI and PADI Are Alike
Both Agencies Follow The Same Global Certification Requirements, WRSTC.
The World Recreational Scuba Training Council (or the WRSTC) regulates the minimum standards for all recreational diving courses.
*These worldwide standards are approved and followed by all leading certifying agencies especially like PADI, SDI, SSI, NAUI, NASE, IANTD, PDIC, RAID, and SNSI!*
Member agencies of WRSTC work to ensure there is a minimum expectation of learned skills and consistency in teaching. They collaborate to educate and communicate on behalf of the dive training industry.
Both PADI and SDI have representation on the WRSTC’s United States council and they are the ONLY members on the Canadian council as of 2020.
WRSTC forms councils to help ensure that all member agencies teach the same core skills and have common requirements to become a safe, certified diver.
Certifications Accepted Across The Globe
Can you dive anywhere? Yes!
Each student receives the same capabilities after their certification, no matter the agency.
The agency equivalents of the Open Water course allow students to dive with a buddy, anywhere in the world, up to 60 ft.
With any of the top agencies, you can dive anywhere in the world.
SDI is recognized worldwide with more than 24 international offices and thousands of SDI dive shops.
By the way, ISO is not a Scuba thing it’s a worldwide quality standard.
Perhaps THE worldwide standard for ensuring key processes are documented and followed rigorously. So, its endorsement of SDI is important.
The SDI Advantage
As you can imagine, there are still certain variations between agencies. Our dive shop has been both a PADI and SDI shop. The leadership team as certified divers with TDI and SDI for years before buying the shop, so we had a lot of history to rely on.
So how do you choose between the SDI and PADI?
A Modern Learning Approach
The first decompression tables were developed in 1907. In over 100 years, technology and knowledge continues to advance.
SDI chooses to embrace this technology to make diving an even safer sport for new divers.
That’s why SDI starts divers with dive computers from day one.
Tables are still important for divers to understand the science behind dive computers and in case their computer dies or fails. But just teaching tables is like handing students in the 2020s an encyclopedia and ignoring the advancements of computers. Or like cars not having airbags.
Dive computers not only allow divers to maximize their dive time, they warn divers if they ascend too quickly, if they exceed their no decompression time and how to make decompression stops in the unlikely event they exceed their decompression time.
They are essential dive equipment.
SDI students learn by using dive computers even as open water students. They were the first agency to implement this requirement.
In addition, SDI is a renowned leader in e-learning. Their programs are cutting edge and challenging. Don’t expect to find any fluffy questions students can blow right through. You want to learn properly…SDI’s e-learning prepares you for the first day of class like no other.
Another great plus to being certified by SDI is they are able to personalize your certification experience.
PADI’s teaching approach has gained criticism for being too “cookie-cutter.”
It’s very common for students to struggle with at least one skill during their certification.
From PADI’s standards, you are unable to move onto another skill until you have successfully completed the previous. This means some students get stuck and even sometimes overwhelmed with a skill.
SDI allows their instructors to be a bit more flexible with skills.
As long as the student completes the skill during the course, they can reorganize the order to allow for divers to become more confident in the water and slowly work up to completing the skill they are struggling with.
This is a HUGE benefit to an instructor and student. And they both appreciate the flexibility.
So How Do I Choose A Scuba Certification Agency?
Did you know all the way up to the professional instructor level, you can swap between certification agencies for each course?
Which means if you’ve done your open water course with PADI, you can do your advanced with SDI and so on.
Although there are a few differences between agencies, they’re few and far between.
We’ll let you in on an industry secret
Those in the dive community know that it’s more important to select the right dive shop and staff, than to worry about which agency the shop uses to certify.
Mind = Blown
Rather than focusing on the agency, focus on the instructor teaching the class.
The instructor, size of the class and professionalism of the shop are going to greatly affect your experience.
It’s highly possible that you will love your instructor and proceed through the Open Water Certification with flying colors.
It’s still not a bad idea to ask about who is teaching the next 2-3 classes and ask the dive shop to describe each of the instructor. Ask about experience, strengths, who they match up well with etc. Describe your student and attempt to make the best match.
After getting certified, you will meet many of the other instructors and can determine who might be a good fit for your continuing education. Some students stay with an instructor their entire career, some bounce around inside the dive shop to take advantage of everyone’s combined experience.
Having a strong connection with the owners, instructors, retail staff and the dive shop’s community is way more important than the logo on your certification card. If you are able to connect with a dive shop and it’s community, you have an opportunity to develop life-long, like-minded friends.