SDI or PADI? Things to consider
What is the difference between SDI and PADI?
Entry level students often ask us the difference between SDI and PADI. Today, I would like to address that question and the reason we choose to do the vast majority of our recreational diving courses through Scuba Diving International.
I have heard the phrase ‘I want to get my padi’ or ‘I did my padi with X or Y dive shop,’ so many times that if I got a nickle each time I hear it, I’d be able to take my wife out for a fancy dinner at least once a week!
Today, I want to clear the air, and get rid of any misconceptions or misunderstandings about scuba diving agencies.
Keep in mind that Beyond Diving does offer training courses through both PADI and SDI at our Playa del Carmen dive center. You are probably wondering how that can be, so let’s begin.
Let’s talk about the WRSTC –
The WRSTC (World Recreational Scuba Training Council) are the nice folks who set the bar for all scuba diving training agencies. They tell every agency (who in turn tells all of their professional members) what the minimum requirements are for each course taught. Therefore, most training standards are pretty much universal. The core curriculum of the courses is basically the same across the board.
Now you’re probably wondering…
‘Who to choose?’
‘Which is the safest?’
‘Can they be safe or good if I’ve never before heard of them?’
Let’s really drill this down. What really effects market share in our mass consumer world?
Perhaps you have a friend who has completed their PADI Open Water Diver training and another who completed theirs with SDI. Both loved it and are looking to dive again. They have invited you along on a dive trip to Playa del Carmen with them, yet you are not a certified diver.
You did your research. You checked Tripadvisor and Scubaboard, and narrowed it down to a few dive centers in Playa del Carmen. You can’t wait to complete your open water course in Playa del Carmen, but you are totally confused…you ask yourself:
‘Can we all dive together if we were certified through different agencies, and who should I choose – PADI or SDI?’
I’d like to explain the reasons why at Beyond Diving we prefer to teach SDI courses.
The team at PADI do a really great job at promoting their brand. Those PADI posters you’ve seen, that dive show you attended, those magazine spreads you’ve read. These all stick in your head, and have turned the name “PADI” essentially into a generic for “scuba diving certification”.
SDI on the other hand, have a much smaller marketing budget. A budget that they gain from smaller dive agency fee’s, smaller certification cost fee’s and smaller staff budgets (I guess they don’t have a big fancy marketing team working from a new shiny office). Yet, they still do a fantastic job creating a buzz about the agency, keeping in touch with the instructors and dive centers affiliated to the agency, and most importantly, making themselves available to all members. Not to mention every person who works at TDI-SDI Headquarters is an active diver, dive instructor and/or instructor trainer for different levels of recreational and technical diving.
So just because you are aware of one more so than the other, is it fair to say that they offer a different service? A service that is less safe, that has less quality? Less educational value?
OF COURSE NOT!
We prefer to teach SDI because of these reasons:
Student Focused Learning:
SDI Instructors can modify their teaching methods to suit the students pace of learning but PADI run their courses in a strict set order. To give you an example, think of it as McDonald’s and your favorite local eatery. You go to any McD’s in the world, and you pretty much know what you’re going to get with very little room for modifications (if any), but if you go to your favourite restaurant, you can get your food made according to your needs and wants.
Order is good, isn’t it? Or why should this matter to me?
Imagine you are taking a PADI course, and you have problems with Skill A. Well, according to PADI standards, Skill B cannot be started until Skill A has been mastered. If you continue to struggle with said skill, then the course starts to loose its fun factor, you stop enjoying it, your confidence goes down, and that sucks.
With SDI’s proven methods, your instructor can move on and come back to that particular struggle area at a later time, making you feel more comfortable, less stressed – ultimately more safe and in control in the water at any given time, which greatly increases the level of fun and enjoyment.
In Playa del Carmen, currents can sometimes reverse, pick up or die down, so it is important for us to be able to be flexible when conducting our training dives.
SDI started from technical diving:
SDI is the sister agency of TDI (Technical Diving International). This means that it was created following the strict protocols and procedures needed for conducting advanced technical dives. While we don’t expect you to become a technical diver right away, we will train you with the hopes that some day you will and a solid foundation.
Instant Certification E-Card:
With SDI, besides you getting a physical card in the mail, you will be able to download your electronic card free of charge. This means that although the card might take a few weeks to get to you, you will have the card in your phone ready to go. Also, in the event of you losing your card, you do not have to worry. You have it in your phone. You can dive anywhere in the world, even if the next dive center you choose is only offering PADI courses. PADI actually charges you over US$20 for an electronic version of your card.
The benefits of chosing PADI over SDI?
Well, that one is really up to you.
Let’s go over the similarities once again…
Both are governed by the WRSTC – so PADI & SDI have quality of training and safety – check!
Both offer the same format – videos, theory, knowledge reviews, confined water training, open water training, exam – check!
Both have been around for over 20 years – professional and have longevity – Oops I missed that, well, here you have it!
DID YOU KNOW?
You can even move between certification agencies, do your Open Water with SDI and then switch to PADI for your Advanced course, all the way up to professional Instructor level. Keep in mind that through SDI, to earn the level of “Advanced Diver” you must have 25 dives and 4 specialty ratings (only 1 of them can be a specialty that doesn’t require dives – such as Equipment Specialist). With this, you can actually call yourself an “Advanced Diver”, whereas with PADI, the Advanced Open Water Diver rating is achieved after completing 5 dives (deep and navigation are compulsory) in the course. In SDI, we call that “Advanced Adventure Diver”.
Which is better PADI or SDI?
Well, honestly when it boils down to it, it’s your decision. There’s no difference in training quality, world wide recognition or experience level.
We always recommend that you make your choice based on the instructor rather than the agency. Pick the dive center you feel most comfortable with, the one who you have connected most with. The one that is the most informative, the one that doesn’t ‘bash’ the competition based on a negative, mostly uninformed, fictional view of other certification agencies.
To reiterate, at Beyond Diving we can teach both PADI and SDI courses, we just prefer SDI based mainly on the flexibility allowed and in the agency’s roots in technical diving.
Internationally Recognized – Dive anywhere in the world
Interchangeable – you can get certified as an Open Water Scuba Diver with SDI, then Advanced Open Water Diver with PADI. Or even better, stay and progress with SDI.
Safety – Science, Skills and Techniques are essentially the same
Insurance – if your insurance covers scuba diving, you’re covered!
Theory (AKA book learning)–
SDI: E-Learning or Manual.
PADI: E-Learning or Manual.
Water Flexibility and Skills –
SDI: Yes. The instructor can adapt the course to fit the pace of learning, ensuring a student focused training program. Students are taught to always maintain neutral buoyancy and horizontal trim. The courses are taught with the use of dive computers.
PADI: None. Skills performed in rigid sequence with no wiggle room for changing water conditions or student learning pace. Neutral buoyancy and trim are generally not introduced into the course until it is well on its way. If you do change, you break standards. If you teach more than what is required in the course, you break standards. Courses are still taught using dive tables only, adding unneeded complexity and [in my opinion] antiquated materials in the age of dive computers.
Certification Cards –
SDI: Sent to your home (physical card), and free electronic card to keep in your mobile devices.
PADI: Sent to your home, 90 day temporary card issued, extra charge for electronic card.
SDI: Yes. And if you get stuck along the way, they have a nifty “Chat with an Instructor” button which will connect you to one of the instructors at HQ to answer your questions. The transcript of the chat is then emailed to us so that we may follow up with you.
PADI: Yes. However, if you get stuck, you might have to wait hours before you get a reply from your instructor to answer the questions you may have.
Ultimately, the decision of taking a PADI or an SDI course is yours. If you train with Beyond Diving, you will get a course that is second-to-none. Regardless of the agency. It is very commonly said that the instructor, rather than the agency make the difference, however, we truly believe that the right instructor coupled with the most advanced and best method of teaching can and do make a gigantic difference in your training and future enjoyment as a certified scuba diver.