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Posted by Devil's Advocate on November 10, 2009 at 05:03:32:

It's been interesting reading the discussion about the reduction in the standards of scuba training over the years. I enjoy hearing from those who've been in the industry for a long time and can offer perspective on the issue.

It is irrefutable that the quantity and the quantity of training for new divers has declined over time. Agencies are motivated to broaden the appeal of scuba in order to generate revenue from people who want quick, easy and cheap certification.

However -- playing devil's advocate for a minute -- I've been thinking about the effects of watered-down training and whether it's really had the terrible impact on the sport that we generally assume it has.

Yes, some scuba divers perish in training or soon after certification. But there have always been inherent risks in scuba. Even when training was tough and men were men, there were fatal accidents during and shortly after certification. And even well seasoned divers with years of bottom time can make mistakes and die because of them. Simply put -- the occasional tragic accident at the Avalon underwater park not withstanding -- new divers are not droping like flies, thankfully.

I don't know that the fatality rates for new divers now are any worse than they were in the "good old days" but given our lawsuit-happy society, I suspect the rates are lower now. I doubt that the training agencies and their instructors would be able to stay in business if they were regularly being sued for providing inadequate training. I admit this is pure conjecture, so it would be intereesting to see some statitics on fatality rates, if they exist.

The flip side of the coin is how long people remain active divers after certification. I'm sure that shorter scuba courses have reduced the average length of time that divers remain active in the sport. The agencies -- or at least the biggest of them -- have made a conscious trade-off of quantity over quality, no argument there.

But would we have more divers active over the long term if scuba certification required, say, 60 hours of instruction over six weeks and cost well over $1,000? I don't know how many people would be able to make that level of commitment in terms of money and time for training for a new sport. Those who would sign up are a hard-core group who have a passion for the water and know from the start that they really want to dive and will stick with it for years. In other words, it's pretty much the same group who continue diving week in, week out, long after all the others in the one-weekend $99 certification special class have hung up their gear for the last time.

I'm not trying to defend the reduction in the standards; just analyze the impact. I look forward to reading the discussion.

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