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September 2006 Vol. 21, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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British Expert Calls Short Courses "Madness"

from the September, 2006 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Training courses for scuba divers were branded as madness by scuba experts in early August as a coroner heard how three divers died in separate accidents off the British coast.

Dr. Philip Bryson said he was amazed that divers could call themselves advanced after fewer than 10 sessions in open water. He singled out PADI for particular criticism. He said its methods had forced others to streamline their training programs.

Bryson, head of the Diving Diseases Research Centre, said: People want to be advanced divers. They want that certificate and they are willing to pay for it. We have people presently in diving who feel they are advanced but have no experience whatsoever. The diving community needs to be totally re-educated.

A police diver, Peter Tapper, told the hearing that the process moves far too quickly because there is an element of money. Concerns are mounting that the certificates are too easy to obtain and that some divers are being caught up in the rugged conditions around the U.K. after learning to dive in the less harsh Mediterranean or Caribbean.

Mark Jackson, 41, who died last year, had learned to dive in the Mediterranean and had limited experience. He embolized. His diving buddy, who ran short of air, had made only a handful of dives and was frightened and disorientated because she had never come across currents and swells before. Jackson had seen his doctor about high blood pressure, obesity, asthma, and depression but declared none of these on his PADI medical form. He had drunk a bottle of wine and several vodkas the night before and had complained of sweatiness and indigestion just before the dive.

Novice diver Albert Tythecott, 65, died in June, after coming to the surface too quickly from 21 meters. Christopher Sidgwick, 40, was wreck diving with friends. He became confused and breathed from his smaller back-up tank which was empty when he was brought to the surface rather than his main tank that remained full. He had completed a wreck-diving course at a lake two weeks before.

Bryson said British training agencies had to streamline their courses to compete with PADI. He said: PADI has brought that reduction in training down and they claim they have done it with valid data and that there are very few problems. Other U.K.-based diving groups that had longer training regimes have had to come into line. I do not believe that someone with eight dives should be classified as an advanced diver. That is madness, end of conversation.

In fact, the minimum number of open water dives for an advanced open water certificate is nine. Mark Caney, a PADI VP, said the system was tried and tested. We have a lot of data about the efficacy of our system and the vast majority are out there diving quite happily. But accidents do occur. In nearly every case, there is at least one instance where a main diving rule was flouted and that is nearly always the cause of the accident.

From an article in the Guardian, August 9, by Steven Morris, BBC reports, and other sources.

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