The Pathway to SDI Leadership

 You can make it if you try

Here are our five leadership levels and the prerequisites for each. If you have any further questions, visit your local SDI training facility and talk about how you can become an SDI Professional Level Member… Good luck!

 SDI Divemaster (DM)

SDI Divemaster is the "entry level" to dive leadership. Already accomplished divers, divemasters work with divers who are experiencing the adventure of diving for the first time, and they lead certified divers on guided dives. During their term as divemasters, they also learn the people skills needed to effectively manage groups of divers, work the deck of a boat, shop floor, and the guidelines to help manage risk and make sport dives enjoyable.

Prerequisites: must be at least 18 years old*; has an SDI Advanced Diver certification (which must include: Deep, Navigation, Night / Limited Visibility specialties); be certified as an SDI Rescue Diver (or equiv.); must hold a current certification in SDI CPR1st (or equiv. CPR First Aid course); must have at least 40 logged dives in a variety of conditions and depths; and must have a current SDI medical certificate signed by a registered physician.

SDI Assistant Instructor (AI)

AI gain practical teaching experience working with an SDI Instructor to conduct many SDI programs including: Open Water Diver, dozens of SDI Specialty Programs, Rescue Diver and Advanced Diver Development Programs. SDI Assistant Instructors with the required experience and personal certification, may also teach more than ten SDI specialties as the lead educator (i.e. on their own). AIs play a very important role in SDI Leadership.

Prerequisites: must be at least 18 years old*; must be an SDI Divemaster or equivalent; must hold a current certification in SDI CPR1st (or equiv. CPR First Aid course); must have at least 60 logged dives in a variety of conditions and depths at time of graduation; must have a current SDI medical certificate signed by a registered physician; and must own at least the minimum instructional equipment as described in SDI Leadership Course Standards (Basic Scuba Gear).

SDI Open Water Instructor (OWI)

 The ultimate goal for the majority of divers interested in helping others learn to dive. The SDI Instructor Course will teach current Divemaster or Assistants Instructors the knowledge to safely function as an SDI Instructor with the abilities to teach SDI Open Water Scuba Divers, Advanced Adventures Divers, Rescue Divers, Divemasters and Assistant Instructors. The program is divided into two sections, an Instructor Development Course (IDC) and an Instructor Evaluation Course (IEC).

The IDC teaches you how to;

  • Schedule course
  • Successfully market scuba
  • Properly teach and design academic and in water sessions
  • Effectively utilize assistants.

The IEC evaluates everything you learned during the IDC.  This is typically a two day evaluation process and evaluates your abilities in:

  • Preparing and teaching academic sessions
  • Knowledge of subject matter
  • Pool/confined water lessons
  • Open water lessons
  • Emergency management abilities


Prerequisites: Certified for at least six months; at least 18 years old; must be certified as an SDI Divemaster or SDI Assistant Instructor (or equivalent); must have 100 logged dives in a variety of conditions and depths; must be qualified as an oxygen provider and have current certification in First Aid and CPR (SDI CPROX 1st AED Administrator recommended); must have a current SDI medical certificate signed by a registered physician.

SDI Staff Instructor Trainer (SIT)

A new level of leadership within our organization. SDI members at this level may conduct a Scuba Diving International Open Water Instructor Development Course (IDC), the first component of SDI Instructor education. They cannot conduct the second, an Instructor Evaluation Courses (IEC). Candidates for this level of leadership have extensive experience as a pro-level member of SDI and have displayed exemplarary leadship skills and judgement.

SDI Instructor Trainer (IT)

The most distinguished leadership level within our family of agencies. Full-time professional educators and divers with a wealth of experience and the proven ability to produce first-class instructors for SDI and TDI.


Get out there and DIVE!

“As the leaves here in the north start to turn, and the night air temperatures drop, it always seems to me that diving conditions improve… visibility goes up, the crowds thin out and travel is way more fun. I love diving this time of year!”  

Brian Carney says that if he had to pick one thing that frustrates him about the dive industry it’s the attrition rates in new divers. “They work hard to become certified, make a huge effort to pass their exams and open water dives, and then lose the thread and drop out.”


The cure, he says, is to make the most of local dive sites and stay “on top of the game.” Two things that help on that score are finding buddies to enjoy your adventures with, and developing good diving habits.

To find diving buddies, Carney, who heads all three agencies in the International Training group, recommends joining local dive clubs and joining dives sponsored by SDI training facilities and dive stores. Having a group of friends to share your diving with will keep you interested and will help you to remember the skills you learned during your initial training he says.

Developing and honing good diving habits is equally simple: dive a lot and upgrade your knowledge and skills by working with your local SDI instructor on courses that interest you.

“We all strive to become better divers and as comfortable as possible in the water,” Carney says. “There is no secret that the only way to reach that particular goal is really very easy: dive as often and in as many different locations as possible, and keep learning.”

Carney jokes that his group of agencies has the learning element sewn up, but practice is something the individual has to make a serious effort with.

“Our instructors are often asked how they got to be so comfortable in the water or what the secret is to great trim and buoyancy,” he explains.”I was recently asked by a newly certified SDI Advanced Adventure Diver interested in underwater photography, how people like Annie Crawley, Tim Rock and Kat Smith saw things in the water that other divers miss. The answer to all those questions, about trim, buoyancy, observation skills and a whole mess more is the same: Learn from a good instructor what techniques work then dive your brains out. There is no substitute for diving experience and there is no shortcut for that.”

Carney went on to explain that people wrongly suggest sometimes that continuing diver education is some form of shortcut. “That’s not exactly true,” he says. “Continuing education does not replace the experience gained by going out and diving, just as diving does not replace continuing education. A well-rounded diver in fact will balance both. Without any doubt, spending time with an instructor and getting a little additional education and then doing some diving using what’s been learned during the course is the shortest way to becoming a successful and accomplished diver. But without constant practice, you’ll never really improve!”

So the message is, grab a friend and get out there and dive this fall…

“If you are looking for the perfect specialty that will add something to every dive no matter where it’s done,” advises Carney. “My suggestion is a nitrox class. Nitrox is the most universally beneficial program for any diver.”

Nitrox is, Carney says, a great tool that allows divers to enjoy more bottom time and shorter surface intervals. But one of the real benefits is not often discussed, he says.

“One of the things that both experienced and newly certified divers get from a nitrox course,” he concludes. “Is that it reinforces the need for and practice of dive planning! And dive planning gets you thinking more about diving, and hey, it’s like magic. That gets you diving more!”


Scuba Diving International offers nitrox in traditional format or as an online specialty

Technical Diving International offers a more intense nitrox course in traditional format for divers who may be interested in moving into more advanced dive planning, technical diving or diving rebreathers.

Nitrox tank wraps

Promotion is over

August Dive Log


European divers open-up new cave system with record dive…

Exploration by TDI divers shows the potential of newly discovered cave system in the “sport fishing” region of Bosnia Herzegovina.

Early dives have discovered a huge system that currently has been explored to a depth of 112 metres (about 368 feet).

This dive set a record for the deepest cave dive in the region, but also has opened up the possibilities of interesting caves dives in an area where previously no caves were known.


Order your FREE Nitrox tank wraps TODAY

Have you heard that we are giving away two full-size nitrox tank wraps. That’s right, two FREE tank wraps to any diver who wants them.

HOW IT WORKS… Go online ( and fill in the registration form. We need your name, highest level of certification, address, email and the name and address of the facility where you want to pick up your FREE GIFT. THAT’S IT!

These tank wraps have a $14 retail value and all you have to do is walk down to your local dive store and pick them up. No taxes to pay. No handling. No shipping. Please allow two to three weeks for processing.

This offer runs until August 31. Hey, tell your friends…

Dive the other Florida

Last issue, we took our readers north to dive the wonderful wrecks of the Great Lakes, but this time, we head south to the sunshine state. Corals, big fish, colorful sponges… well, no. A little perverse, we’ve opted to show Florida’s other dive opportunities and once again are highlighting fresh water dive spots.


How one person turned her passion for dive travel into a thriving business

Jen Darby started diving in the late 1980s and immediately fell in love with it… and within a few years was making at least four “big” dive trips every year. One day, she figured out that most dive travel wholesalers mass market their trips, virtually ignoring her needs and preferences as a diver… was there a business opportunity there? Jen thought so…

Extra! Extra! Read all about it…     

You’re a diver and of course you’re interested in having all the latest dive-industry news delivered to your inbox for FREE? Subscribe to DiverNewsWire service today… it’s how we keep up-to-date with what’s current and important.

Sign-up for DiverNewsWire today by clicking logo…

Diving Tips… backplate and wings an option for sport divers

When the time comes to purchase personal equipment, many sport divers overlook one BCD option that offers several advantages over the traditional jacket style design. Originally the sign of tech diving, the backplate and wing has made inroads with single tank divers looking for flexible fit and functionality

READ MORE>>>       

There be Dragons!

Indonesia boast awesome dive sites, wonderful cultural experiences and the possibility of a head-on encounter with dragons.  Writer, underwater photographer and sage old wit, Bret Gilliam tells a vivid story about his near brush with mortality in the jaws of a Komodo.

Read the full article originally published in Diving Adventure Magazine issue four earlier this year.

Bret’s article, is typical of the quality and content you’ll find in all the articles in Diving Adventure Magazine, which is now published four times a year.

Reading Diving Adventure Magazine is the next best thing to actually diving, so you may want to consider what you are missing by not subscribing!

Read article as a pdf (large file)>>>

Subscribe to DAMagazine here>>>

Brilliant new website promotes diving to youngsters

SDI Instructor-Trainer Annie Crawley is one of the most respected underwater photographers and videographers working in the industry today. Her personal focus for many years has been the promotion of  the underwater world to kids, teachers and parents, and so the launch of her new website comes as no surprise. Check it out by clicking the link below.

Annie also developed two SDI underwater specialty programs (Video Production and Underwater Video)specifically for divers and snorkelers wanting to create underwater video. Contact your local SDI store to check out this interesting and useful course.





Dive The Other Florida

Florida is a truly blessed state from many points of view… not least of which from a diver’s perspective. It offers up great wreck diving, good warm water reef diving and has wonderful surface interval distractions. But its really unique underwater experiences can be had in and around Florida’s fresh water springs.

Even if you are heading to Florida to dive the Keys or the wrecks off the Atlantic coast or any of the other great destinations along the state’s beautiful coastline, plan a few additional days to drop into the water at at least one of the inland dive sites you’ll find in the north-western quadrant of the state.

North West and North Central Florida is famous among techies for its extensive cave systems. Those regions of the state are one big underwater honeycomb offering challenging dives in a variety of cave types and depths from nitrox to trimix level. But even for divers without cave or cavern certification, Florida’s spring country boasts many great dives.

There are a number of springs where open water divers are welcome. Ginnie Springs, Devil’s Den, Blue Grotto, Forty Fathom Grotto among them. Water temperatures hover around 72 degrees and visibility can top 100 feet.

But one of the most exciting underwater experiences to be had in this area is on Crystal River. About 70 miles north of Tampa, close to the Gulf Coast, this neat little town is mecca for watching and snorkeling with Manatee.

Manatee (sometimes called sea cows) typically inhabit warm, shallow, coastal estuarine waters and cannot survive below 15°C (288 K; 60°F). Their natural source for warm waters during the winter is warm-spring fed rivers. The West Indian Manatee migrates into Florida rivers such as the Crystal River, the Homosassa River and the Chassahowitzka River. The head springs of these rivers maintain a water temperature of 72°F year round. During the winter months, November to March, approximately 400 West Indian Manatees (according to theNational Wildlife Refuge Service) congregate in the rivers in Florida.

"Snorkeling with these gentle herbivores is a really unique experience," says Bill Oestreich. Bill a long-time TDI and SDI instructor-trainer, cave guide and captain, has been running manatee tours out of his store in Crystal River for many years. "We have regular customers who drop in here for a few days before going across to cave country," he notes. It’s an activity the whole family can share, Bill explains. "We get seasoned divers telling us that their first encounter with a manatee in the springs around here is one of the most memorable experiences they’ve every had in the water."

Unfortunately, human interaction with manatee is not always as benign, and several boat/manatee collisions each year result in manatee deaths. "The real story with this," explains Bill, "is for boaters in these waters to follow posted rules, stay away from restricted areas, and keep a sharp look out."

For more information about manatee tours, SDI diver programs AND TDI cavern, intro to cave, and full cave diver education, contact Bill "Bird"  or Diane Oestreich  via

Backplate and Wing

Working with a reasonably experienced sport diver recently on a TDI Intro to Tech™ program, I suggested she switch from an ill-fitting jacket style BCD to a backplate, simple harness and small wing suitable for diving with “regular” sport-sized single cylinder. Her initial response got me thinking.

“Oh, sure, I guess now that I’m getting into technical diving, I should look the part.”

I had to admit that my primary reason for recommending the switch had more to do with her comfort and buoyancy control than the optics of looking like a techie! Her traditional jacket-style BCD was a youth sized man’s model (she was very petite) and was never designed to follow a woman’s contours. Geared up to dive, she looked cramped and uncomfortable and it was obvious she was having trouble maintaining anything close to horizontal trim wearing it.

But her quip about looking like a techie, took me by surprise. I thought – incorrectly as it turns out – that most sport divers these days recognize that a backplate and wing configuration is pretty much a mainstream gear option for them even if they have every intention of diving well within sport limits.

Manufacturers are certainly doing a better job today of building BCDs suited to hard-to-fit divers than a few years ago. The majority design models for small divers, divers with curves and divers who are built like an NFL linebacker. Unfortunately, not every dive store has the space to carry a full inventory for their customers.

Here’s where the backplate and wing option offers a great, flexible and extremely functional solution: the system fits almost everyone perfectly. It can be customized easily and the same basic harness and plate can “grow” with the diver who progresses from single tank sport diving to deep trimix cave diving with doubles and multiple stages just by swopping wings.

Another huge advantage of this system is that for most divers, it helps balance the opposing forces of weight and buoyancy so that trimming out nice and flat in the water, and maintaining good control of buoyancy, is more easily accomplished than with some other styles of BCD.

One final plus, especially for people who fly to dive, is that a backplate, small wing and simple harness packs up small and travels well.

The trick is to build a backplate and wing package around both the diver’s needs and their body size and shape. When Greg Flannigan cobbled together the first backplate in Florida a generation ago, his intention was to produce a piece of gear that worked for cave diving with double cylinders. What he built was a stable platform that works with any type of diving.

There are three main components in the backplate system: Plate, Wing and Harness. Let’s look very briefly at each

The “standard” size backplate is about fits the majority of divers but smaller and larger dimension plates are available. Backplates also come in different materials and weights. Aluminum is a great choice for fresh water and for travel at a little less than two pounds. Stainless steel versions come in various thicknesses. The most common tip the scale at about six pounds. Steel plates obviously eat up more of your weight allowance on flights but do shift some ballast from your weight belt to your back… which many divers find more comfortable and helpful when trimming themselves for horizontal swimming.

Buoyancy is provided by the wing… usually a single bladder wrapped in a cordura nylon cover with a similar inflation and dump valves to those found on a jacket BCD. The secret to successful transition to this configuration is finding a wing that offers the correct amount of lift and has the right physical dimensions for its application. Basically, diving a single cylinder with a wing designed to work with doubles, will result in the wing looking like a taco with the tank as filling. There’ll be adequate buoyancy but little buoyancy control. Diving a heavy steel single or doubles with an 18 pound travel wing on the other hand will end in disaster since the wing cannot provide adequate buoyancy to overcome the weight of the equipment. In short, the diver will sink like a brick. A reputable store, like your local SDI or TDI dive training center, can help you make the right choices.

The harness is what holds the unit to the divers back. My personal preference is a single piece of 2-inch webbing with a few D Rings threaded on to clip off accessories such as lights and cameras. However, there are lots of variations including harnesses with padded shoulder straps, which may be a option worth considering if you dive in a 3mm wetsuit or dive skin.

In the past few years, the market has driven manufactures to offer a huge variety of backplates, wings and harnesses. If you think this type of configuration sounds like it may be the solution for you, contact your local dive shop and check it out.

Happy Diving


liveaboardJen Darby left a perfectly stable government job and started her own wholesale dive travel agency. This move would have the less adventurous among us asking: “Is she nuts?” But for Jen, the move paid off and for many years she successfully marketed, sold and lead dive trips to destinations all over the Caribbean.

For most, that would constitute a great career shift but Jen was restless. “After years of working and traveling the world as a group leader,” she explains. “I decided to sell my first company and for the next few years I spent a lot of time in Papua New Guinea and eventually started a new company, Papua New Guinea Expeditions. That in turn led to my next company Liveaboard Adventures.  I have been lucky enough to spend the last 18 years traveling the world with most of my time spent on liveaboards so I know this was a good "fit" so to speak.”

Jen’s reputation as a dive travel service is based mostly on her abilities to provide something different for her clients. She never sells a prepackaged trip unless it’s one that she is leading… and therefore has hands-on control over while it’s running. She points out that her clients have limited vacation time that they want to get the most out of. Her trick is to listen to what they want their vacation to be, what they want to experience and then create an itinerary that meets those needs.

“Personally I don’t think you can do a good job of booking a trip for a client and give them the information they need unless you have been on the trip yourself.  I now spend my time leading groups and booking individuals to the best diving destinations in the world like Raja Ampat and Komodo Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Red Sea & Egypt, Fiji, Solomons, Costa Rica, Galapagos, South Africa and almost anywhere there is adventure travel.”

One question that people always ask anyone intimately involved in the dive industry has something to do with where are the best dives and what is the best destination. Jen is in the perfect position to answer but her take is very diplomatic. “Every destination has a best dive, there is no way to say there is one best dive anywhere in the world.  In Papua New Guinea I love the Witu Islands, for Indonesia I love the diving off the wall of the Pearl Farm where we were lucky enough to find Ladybugs on our last trip along with shopping for Pearls, where else in the world can you do that. I can tell you for a fact the ladies on board loved the combination of shopping and diving.  Then there was the dive in Raja Ampat where we had the M&M’s in one day, Manta’s, Mobula Ray’s and a Marlin on our last day of diving. We came out of a swim through at about 80 feet and as I looked up and out into the blue there the marlin was, just hanging out maybe 10 to 15 feet away.”

Backing up her take on best dives, Jen points out that there are great spots much closer to home. “I take my family with me on some trips and we just returned from a family trip to Cozumel where we did Punta Sur Devils Throat and it is probably one of the most fun dives in the Caribbean.”

Jen’s company stands out because she takes the time to customize trips to fit her clients’ needs.  “I never try to send someone off on a basic seven-night trip to a popular resort or liveaboard unless I know this is what the customer wants,” she explains.

Her aim is to provide trips that will be remembered as the trip of a lifetime. As she says, it takes a little more time but the end result is very satisfied customers.  This is what Liveaboard Adventures and Papua New Guinea Expeditions excels at.

For more information, contact Jen Darby, Liveaboard Adventures – Papua New Guinea Expeditions, 311 Dorset Drive Cocoa Beach FL 32931. 866-510-DIVE (3483)


Cave divers open new system

inside the cave

The Krušnice spring is located in the western region of Bosnia and Hercegovina, and is about three miles from town of Bosanska Krupa, a popular tourist area.

This region is karst country (limestone and dolomite) and showed enormous potential to host diveable caves but until recently, no substantial cave systems had been found.

That changed in 2006  when a combined expedition of  TDI Czech Republic, The Czech Speleological Society  (CSS) cave divers found an upstream gallery leading in to a massive gallery.

The following year, the group reached a large underground room whose dimensions exceeded visibility and have yet to be verified. This year in June, cave divers of TDI Czech Republic, TDI Hungary and CSS found another important  downstream gallery. A second expedition has been focused on upstream explorations.  In three dives the team explored an upstream gallery to the depth of 112 metres and the cave continues!

The deepest Bosnian cave dive was accomplished by two divers on July 10th, 2008. The exploration divers were Szabolcs Storozynski  and Laszlo Muelner of TDI Hungary and support divers included Jiri Stetina, Michal Piskula and Jiri Moninec of TDI Czech Republic.This discoveries showed the enormous dimensions of the this newly discovered system which is now the subject of a systematical and scientific project.

Advanced Adventure Summer Promotion

Offer starts August 1 and runs through September 30… take advantage and sign up for your Advanced Adventure Specialty today!

Print this coupon and present it to your local SDI Dive Center.

AA Coupon

Ranks of Instructor-trainers growing worldwide

ITW Singapore

There were nine candidates for the Singapore ITW conducted last month. It was a truly international group with candidates from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines,Thailand and Italy.

Paul Montgomery, director of international business development, joined organizer Alex Yeo,who runs the SDI/TDI S.E. Asia regional office, in running the workshop.

"Alex, who was recipient of 2007 Regional Office of the Year award, is always a pleasure to work with," Montgomery said. "Our open-water training was conducted off the M/V Samudera Quest in Pulau Hantu, and the whole ITW was well organized, easy to run thanks to Alex’s work and the dedication of all nine candidates."

ITs are our top-level professionals able to run both IDC and IEC for Scuba Diving International instructor candidates. Depending on experience, an IT may also be able to conduct Technical Diving International instructor courses. If you are interested in finding out more about IT workshops (the next North American ITW will take place in Maine Spetermber 12 through 19) please contact your local representative or email