The Recreational Dive Leader


This initial chapter in the Leadership Manual effectively establishes the framework within which a recreational dive leader functions.

Of course, in order for one to reach this point as a leadership candidate, an individual already will have been actively involved in recreational diving for some period of time. Undoubtedly the candidate has accumulated an impressive assortment of c-cards, and the candidate’s log book will attest to significant experience in real world diving activities. Yes, in order to qualify for this leadership course, it is expected that an individual already is an accomplished diver. Based upon all of that prior training and experience, a leadership candidate might truly believe that he or she already has
a pretty good grasp of what recreational diving is all about.

It is important for the leadership candidate to recognize, however, that everything learned about diving up to this point has likely been from a diver’s perspective; now is the time to re-focus upon diving from the perspective of a recreational dive leader.

As noted, the information in this chapter establishes the framework. It starts with an overview of recreational diving. It then introduces the reader to various issues related to the professional side of recreational diving that have existed all along, but may have been previously overlooked or unrecognized by the candidate. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, it helps to define appropriate expectations.

The Recreational Dive Leader: Part 1

Topics Covered in this Chapter:

  •   Introduction
  •   An Overview of Recreational Diving
    •  Some Basic Terminology
    •  A Bit of History
    •  Sport Versus Technical Diving
  •   Review Questions

An Overview of Recreational Diving

Some Basic Terminology

As recognized by most authorities both inside and outside the dive industry, there are four distinct categories of diving: recreational, commercial, scientific and military. Recreational diving is clearly differentiated by the fact that it is a hobby-type activity in which participation is based upon personal enjoyment, while both commercial and scientific diving conversely are vocational pursuits. Naturally each category of diving is subject to its own protocols and participant qualifications.

Even within the dive industry, some have misconstrued the term recreational diving as applying only to a specific and limited range of sport diving activities, and have mistakenly labeled technical diving as something other than recreational diving. In fact, technical diving is an advanced form of recreational diving. Accordingly, throughout this text the term sport diving will be used to identify the more traditional aspects of recreational diving, and thereby segregate such activities from the advanced practices and procedures of technical diving.

An Overview of Recreational Diving

A Bit of History

old_diver Modern scuba (an acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) was invented by Emile Gagnan and Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1943. Some earlier systems certainly existed, but left much to be desired; as a French naval officer Cousteau himself had experienced the dire shortcomings of more primitive underwater gear. Following deployment by Allied forces in the latter days of World War II, scuba came home to the civilian world with some of the returning veterans.

In the earliest days of recreational diving, the typical dive instructor most frequently was an ex-military diver, and the early civilian training programs naturally mimicked the military regimens. It was not unusual, at that time, for recreational diver training to be extraordinarily lengthy and detailed, as well as physically demanding. Consistent with its military heritage and philosophy, diving at that time was not intended for the average person. Clearly, the extensive prerequisite training served as a barrier for many, and active participation was effectively limited to the select few who could measure up to those standards.

However, it was soon recognized that sport diving actually could be tech_diversomething quite different than military diving, and thus the training should be treated accordingly. Los Angeles County was home to the first civilian diver training organization in the USA in 1954 and by the mid-1960’s several other certification agencies had appeared, all under the new banner of recreational diving. A primary goal was standardization and sanctioning of sport diver training. Anxious to attract wider participation, yet with a vigilant eye towards safety, ongoing efforts have been made to dramatically streamline entry-level training while simultaneously narrowing the types of activities deemed appropriate for sport divers. In the process, sport diving evolved into the avocation that we know today, with its standardized training requirements and its well-defined parameters and limitations.

Undoubtedly, during the ensuing years, a few participants felt unnecessarily constrained by the boundaries of sport diving. Some of these individuals started to look elsewhere for tools and techniques that would help expand the range of their personal diving activities. Their focus was turned back towards military diving protocols, as well as forward towards the more recent developments in commercial and scientific diving.


The term technical diving was coined by AquaCorps magazine in 1991 to identify certain advanced diving activities that were clearly outside the mainstream of recreational diving. Though the label itself was new, in fact, technical diving already had been around for a number of years and was continuing to grow in popularity.

An initial focus of early technical divers was nitrox, an alternate breathing mixture for air, the value of which already had been demonstrated in the military and scientific diving arenas. Specialized training organizations first offered nitrox training to sport divers in 1985, using materials from NOAA (US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration). Initially, nitrox was shunned within the recreational diving community, and as recently as 1991 these specialized training organizations were actually banned from a major dive industry event. Of course, since that time nitrox has gained far wider acceptance, and by 1995 nitrox effectively had made the leap from the technical realm into mainstream sport diving. Today most sport diver training agencies have established their own nitrox diving programs.

In the meantime, those early specialized organizations continued to expand into other areas of advanced diving tools and techniques, and eventually evolved into today’s technical diver training organizations. In particular, TDI (the technical affiliate of SDI) can trace its roots directly back to those early nitrox pioneers. Slowly but surely technical diving has gained wider acceptance and now is properly recognized and appropriately positioned as an advanced form of recreational diving.

An Overview of Recreational Diving

Sport Versus Technical Diving

As will be readily apparent to most readers, sport diving represents the majority of overall recreational diving activities. It is widely enjoyed by many participants, often in warm and exotic locations, typically using a relatively simple scuba system and often requiring only basic entry-level training. There is a clear consensus among certification agencies concerning the scope of sport diving; in fact, sport diving most often is identified by its well-established parameters and limitations. The standard scuba system for sport divers is open circuit scuba with a single cylinder. Novice divers are usually restricted to a depth of 20 meters or 60 feet, while the maximum depth limit for all sport diving is frequently cited as 40 meters or 130 feet. Sport divers are cautioned that they should always avoid entering any overhead environment. Most significantly, sport diving is exclusively no-decompression (or no-stop) diving. The governing principle in sport diving is that the participant will be able to make a direct ascent to the surface at any time.

Conversely, technical diving often is characterized by the fact that it involves activities and environments that are beyond the boundaries of traditional sport diving. Tech Equipment It might include staged decompression, alternate breathing gases, or penetration into the dark recesses of wrecks and caves. By its very nature, technical diving frequently requires additional and specialized equipment far exceeding the traditional scuba system of the sport diver. However, the equipment by itself does not necessarily make a technical diver; this equipment is simply a means to an end, allowing the technical diver to participate in these advanced diving activities. Naturally, these types of activities also require appropriate training beyond the more basic knowledge and skills addressed in traditional sport diving programs, as well as a more disciplined overall approach. Technical diving is not for everyone; however, for those willing to make the proper investment in training, equipment, and progressive experience, it can prove to be a rewarding endeavor.

Despite the obvious differences cited above, sport diving and technical diving also share much in common. The same principles of physics and physiology apply in each case. Much of the equipment is the same, or at least similar in function and use. Every recreational diver appropriately begins his or her training with the Open Water Diver course. Both sport and technical diving have a progressive curriculum of continuing education, yet each also offers a variety of programs that allows individual divers to tailor their training to match their personal interests. And of course, both sport diving and technical diving are recreational pursuits. However, it was soon recognized that sport diving actually could be something quite different than military diving, and thus the training should be treated accordingly.

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Chapter 1 Quiz

The Recreational Dive Leader: Part 2

Topics Covered in this Chapter

  • The ITI Family of Dive Training Agencies
    •  International Training
    •  Scuba Diving International
    •  Emergency Response Diving International
  •  SDI and TDI Leadership Levels
    •  Divemaster
    •  Technical Divemaster
    •  Assistant Instructor
    •  Instructor
    •  Course Director
    •  Instructor Trainer
  • The RSTC and WRSTC
  •  Review Questions

The ITI Family of Dive Training Agencies

International Training

3 Company Tags

International Training, or more simply ITI, is the parent organization for three separate diver training agencies: Scuba Diving International (SDI), Technical Diving International (TDI), and Emergency Response Diving International (ERDI).

ITI is headquartered in Stuart, Florida, United States, with regional and local offices located in more than 28 locations around the world.

The ITI Family of Dive Training Agencies

Technical Diving International


Technical Diving International (TDI) is the oldest of the three dive training agencies under the ITI banner. Formed in 1994, its roots trace back to the early nitrox pioneers. From the very beginning its primary goal always has been to provide recreational divers with the most accurate and up to date information regarding the tools and techniques of technical diving, with critical information delivered through a clear, practical, and no-nonsense approach. TDI is now widely recognized as the world’s largest and most innovative technical diver training agency.

The current TDI curriculum includes Intro to Tech, Nitrox and Advanced Nitrox, Decompression Procedures, Extended Range Diving, Trimix and Advanced Trimix, Closed Circuit and Semi-Closed Circuit Rebreathers, Advanced Wreck Diving, Cavern and Cave Diving, Gas Blender and Advanced Gas Blender, and O2 Equipment Service Technician.

The ITI Family of Dive Training Agencies

Scuba Diving International


Scuba Diving International (SDI) was formally launched in 1998. It was created in response to requests from TDI instructors and TDI dive centers who were anxious to see the same type of clear, practical, and no-nonsense approach introduced to the sport diving arena. SDI quickly rose to the position of being the industry’s innovative leader. It was the first agency to mandate the use of personal dive computers during all confined water and open water training. It was the first agency to offer a certification program for 10 year old divers. It was the first agency to offer on-line academics for the Open Water Diver course. And it was the first agency to offer a Solo Diver certification.

SDI has an approach to continuing education that is somewhat unique and clearly sets it apart from most other sport diving agencies. That approach is apparent with the SDI Advanced Diver Development Program. Based upon underlying specialty diver certifications, combined with actual diving experience, the standards for SDI Advanced Open Water Diver and SDI Master Scuba Diver are among the highest in the industry.

For those seeking a more traditional advanced program for newly certified Open Water Divers, SDI offers an Advanced Adventure Diver specialty certification that includes core deep and navigation dives, plus three other elective specialty-type dives. Additional SDI specialty diver courses include Advanced Buoyancy, Boat, Computer Diver, Computer Nitrox, Diver Propulsion Vehicle, Drift, Dry Suit, Full Face Mask, Marine Ecosystems, Night and Limited Visibility, Research Diver, Search and Recovery, Shore/Beach Diver, Underwater Hunter, Underwater Navigation, Underwater Photography, Underwater Video, and Wreck Diver. Naturally SDI also offers a Rescue Diver course, plus a variety of emergency provider programs encompassing the critical skills of first aid, CPR, oxygen administration, and automatic external defibrillators.