If you are a dive instructor, or spend much time on popular scuba web sites with chat rooms and member forums, you know that there is an ongoing and probably never ending conversation about just what constitutes proper training for a new scuba diver, and also for more advanced levels of certification. Most non-professional divers are interested in the subject too.
We all know that training comes from a variety of sources: books, class room instruction, on-line instruction, informal reading, and of course, diving itself. Let’s face it, after all the course materials, after all the pool work, competence comes from diving in open water conditions. That diving may be in a formal instruction setting, a mentoring setting, or just getting some bottom time with a friend. However, very little in scuba is really “self taught.”
Diving with a competent cave diver to get knowledge and experience is what one does in class, but can also do out of class. Caving presents an area where substantial training is essential for safety, and that training cannot be self-taught. Other “specialties,” such as deep (but not deco) diving and dry suit diving may lend themselves to be developed without a formal class, but a course is always useful. The diving activity really dictates the level of training that is “proper.’
Taking a basic course, even a basic specialty course, is not, in my opinion, enough to independently dive in a highly specialized, heightened danger environment like a cave or even wreck penetration. For those types of activities, a proper class followed by dives with other experienced divers leading those dives will lead to competence to make those kinds of dives independently. Any diving in which special equipment, special planning, additional safety considerations, and even different movement techniques may be required suggest more training than some may care for, including additional dives beyond a basic course. Proper training is training that a diver needs to become competent and safe in diving in a given environment independent of an outside leader.
Some people have expressed the opinion that less training is ok for a “tag along” diver, a diver who only goes on dives led by more qualified divers. However, each diver needs to know what to do in the event of emergency, buddy separation, or other situations that can arise. Everyone on a dive needs to be competent and properly trained for diving in the conditions and to engage the tasks of that dive. Each diver needs “proper training” so that they can be safe, can protect themselves and can be a buddy to others. . Proper training is training that a diver needs to become competent and safe in diving in a given environment independent of an outside leader. So get the training you need to do the diving you choose. Properly trained and qualified divers are safe divers. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking with it.