PADI’s Best Lesser Known Specialty Courses

We all know (or we should know) the value of a drysuit or nitrox certification, but there are so many other great specialty courses on offer for divers. Here are a few of the best.

Everyone can usually name the latest blockbuster movie, yet for every big-name flick, there are equal numbers of excellent movies that you may not have seen or even heard of; PADI’s best lesser known specialty courses are the same. There are blockbuster specialties, such as nitrox and wreck diving; these and other well-known courses are popular for good reason, as they have many benefits and enhance diving experiences. There are many specialty courses that are just as valuable, however, only many divers don’t know about them. Here we’ll take a look at some of PADI’s best lesser known specialty courses you may not be as familiar with, and why you should consider them the sleeper hits of your diving career.

Equipment Specialist

You don’t need to be a dive pro to reap the benefits of the Equipment Specialist class. While this specialty course is not a manufacturer’s technical-servicing class, you’ll learn how to take care of your equipment so it lasts longer, as well as proper storage and transport of equipment to prevent hoses and valves being damaged. You’ll also learn basic trouble-shooting skills, from fixing fin straps to more complicated tasks, such as changing O-rings on a high-pressure SPG to correct air leaks, changing out a corrugated inflator hose on a BCD if it cracks, cleaning out stuck or leaking dump valves on a BCD, cleaning the inside of a second stage, changing a second-stage mouthpiece, and swapping out or reseating displaced diaphragms. Knowing how your life-support equipment works and knowing how to fix it will save you time and money, and may save a dive as well.

PADI prerequisites: Junior Scuba Diver/10 years old. This is a non-diving specialty and the recommended duration for the course is six hours.

Search and Recovery

In the Search and Recovery course, divers will learn how to execute four different search patterns with a buddy; the circular sweep using a line and reel; the expanding square (with and without a compass); the u-shaped pattern; and the jackstay. Divers will learn which pattern to use depending on the size of the search area, the size of the object missing, and whether the object was lost immediately or earlier in time. You’ll also learn how to safely rig a lift device to a missing object and use it to bring the object to the surface slowly and securely. Divers often drop items such as fins, masks and cameras, so you’ll soon be everyone’s best buddy when you show off these new recovery skills.

PADI prerequisites: Junior Advanced Open Water Diver/12 years old. There are four dives in the course and the recommended duration is 24 hours.

Sidemount Diver

Still a niche specialty but one of the fastest growing over the years, sidemount diving is not just for technical or cave divers — it offers recreational divers many benefits as well. Carrying an extra tank on the side of the body, as opposed to doubles on the back, reduces stress and fatigue when gearing up. The extra tank also offers a redundant air supply, which is great for those who enjoy wreck diving or deeper diving. Add nitrox and you really reap the benefits of an extended bottom time, as you have more air and an extended NDL for deeper divers. For divers who tend to stay shallower, such as photographers or videographers, sidemount diving offers a measure of safety and conservatism, as often you’re so engrossed in the shot that you neglect to check your air supply, or you may drift away from your group while shooting. This course is also a fundamental step for anyone considering technical or cave diving, but even if you don’t plan to dive caves or tec, you’ll still become a fundamentally better diver as you’ll become more conscious of your trim, streamlining, and propulsion in the water compared to diving with standard scuba gear.

PADI prerequisites: Open Water Diver/15 years old. There are three dives in this course and the recommended duration is 12 hours.

Fish Identification

Just like a movie is more interesting when we know the characters and art is more interesting when we know the artist, so too is the reef a more interesting place when we know the names of the fish, their behavior, and their place in the ecosystem. In the Project AWARE Fish Identification course you’ll learn responsible environmental practices, how to identify fish groups and families, common characteristics of local fish species, fish-surveying techniques, and strategies for data collection. This is a great course for the entire family and really enhances dive trips to tropical destinations.

PADI prerequisites: Junior Scuba Diver/10 years old. There are two dives in the course and the recommended duration is 12 hours.

Underwater Videographer

Once thought to be only for aspiring professional videographers and dive pros, the videography specialty is suitable for anyone now, following the advancements in technology that have put high- quality, affordable cameras in the hands of many scuba divers. SeaLife, GoPro, Canon and Nikon all produce cameras that allow divers to capture high-quality video content. In this course you’ll learn how to properly care for your camera equipment, pre- and post-dive, to avoid damage, scratches and flooding. You’ll also learn to control lighting and exposure for shooting underwater, how to compile a storyline, compose and take specific types of shots, such as dolly, pan, tilt and truck, and the basics of editing.

PADI prerequisites: Junior Scuba Diver/10 years old. There are three dives in this course and the recommended duration is 12 hours.