Nitrox Diver – It’s all academic

Ice vs Tropical Diving

Going down the path of our organization’s history we have heard numerous times, “Why are you doing it this way?” “Hey, we don’t do things like that, we do it like this.”

Nitrox was a course that originally required a two tank dive in order to receive certification. That was great if dive centers wanted to offer the two tank dive in conjunction with the certification and it was 80 degrees outside, but in all reality were those dives even necessary?

Diving is fun, which is why we do it. But we also believed in being effective and efficient in our educational programs and therefore came to the conclusion that a course that is purely academic, which does not have any practical purpose for any underwater skills, should not require two dives. If an instructor or a dive center would want to make the dives part of their curriculum, they had the option do to so, but we would give them that option rather than make it a mandatory standard.

Nitrox courses became a huge success for those places up north, just shy of polar vortexes and polar bears, where a student could take the course in a classroom or online and earn the certification after passing a knowledge review and properly analyzing a tank. Upon completion of the course the student would be well-versed in the fundamentals of theory behind the gas, the mixes, the partial pressure and the effects it had on the diver at depth. It was important to ensure that the nitrox divers understood the dangers of diving nitrox while also being able to reap the benefits associated with the enriched air. In order to do this, mask clearing, fin pivot and regulator retrieval were not necessary…therefore why make them dive? What information would the instructor evaluate by watching a diver dive nitrox? None. By eliminating the dives, we were allowing divers to take nitrox classes year-round and in rough weather conditions without the need to get wet.

This decision was simply one of those “It makes sense” moments that we’ve had throughout the years and recognized while developing the program… it was all academic!

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6 replies
  1. Carl
    Carl says:

    We continue to see the dumbing down of curriculum, the shortening of courses, and the ability of novice divers to get advanced certs with almost no dives under their belts. Maybe those two “useless” dives for Nitrox cert would be used to help a novice diver improve basic skills like buoyancy control or ascent speed. It just becomes another controlled training experience, and one that might just give a gem of knowledge to a diver that might have been injured without. Weekend C cards and advanced certs without dives is fool hardy !

      SDI/TDI/ERDI says:

      Thank you for your feedback, Carl.
      Yes, you are correct, every dive will improve a novice diver and every dive allows a seasoned diver to stay sharp.  On that same note, a diver being active by staying academically involved in the “off“ season makes a better diver than a diver totally inactive from the sport unless underwater.

      Realizing this, SDI-TDI wanted to make sure this theory-based course was available and practical all year-round for people that would not be able to find the safe or ideal conditions to complete it because of their location. We wanted people that were unable to dive, to be able to continue to learn – knowing that these newly certified nitrox divers would now be able to dive the enriched air as opposed to air on their next two dives. As a reminder – with the SDI diver program, a diver may not earn the advanced rating until 25 logged dives have been completed and submitted for their instructor to sign off so we highly encourage diving whenever safe and possible.

  2. Armand
    Armand says:

    My view is a bit different from Carl’s. I don’t consider this a dumbed down approach. When I took my basic nitrox class I had been diving over 25 years and did not need/want to work on basic open water skills, that is what AOW and master diver type courses are for. Also, the agency that I got it through at the time offered the certification cards in two versions, with or without actual dives, both of which mean the same thing when you present them for fills, etc, so this is not a new concept. Most buddies I know that are new to the sport are getting their nitrox certs wrapped into their openwater classes anyway. I commend the academic only approach in this case. In a case like DP or Trimix, I would agree that dives are necessary since there are some detailed skills which need to be very in tune. I do feel that having a real live person teaching the academic only class (as opposed to say, strictly an online course) is beneficial, there are some important points that need to be driven.

  3. Steve
    Steve says:

    Exactly I would agree with Armand I to had been diving for twenty plus years before considering a need to get Nitrox certified so recently when deciding to add advanced Nitrox to my certification I was surprised to note that there is a requirement to complete four dives as part of the course only two are required for basic Nitrox while its always good to practise basic skills advanced nitrox is only an extension of the theory already learned and used I believe that these dives are only added to allow instructors get their cut of the pie the initial cost goes straight to the certifying agency be it PADI Or TDI or any other training organisation and the Instructors charge of each dive completed before signing off on the course therefore actually generating a market to sustain an artificial industry If there was any doubt it would have been dispelled when hearing one dive shop owner (who shall remain nameless ) complain that he could never live on air fills alone

  4. Carl
    Carl says:

    Guys, I knew my comments might stir the pot ! I guess my comments are geared more towards true novice divers where every dive adds to their experience base. I, similar to the other commenters, have been diving for about 30 years. Unlike them, however, I saw a value to Nitrox mixes as soon as they became available, and picked up that cert at that time. I made the mistaken assumption that most ALL experienced divers would have picked up their Nitrox certs early on. I recently dove a live aboard in Cocos that would not allow divers on air, and only provided Nitrox fills, believing the science of the mix. NO, I know what you are thinking, NO extra charge for the fills. And on that boat, with ALL very experience divers, there were still several that did not have Nitrox certs and took the course, as a modest fee, essentially by force. My assumption was that most new divers would be encouraged to diving Nitrox, and getting their certs early in their dive careers, all due to the strength of the science, encouraging safety in diving, and supporting an industry that gets lots of bad press for each and every accident that takes place. Again, I surely appreciate the perspectives of the other comments, but just took a different take on the state of the industry. In the future, I feel Nitrox should be mandatory and TriMix will not be reserved for “crazy technical divers”, as the science there is equally compelling. DCS is a condition that CAN be eliminated, much as Polio was in the past ! That will leave us with barotrauma, other diver error conditions, etc … But overall, diving will be safer and better accepted that ever before.

  5. Wesley
    Wesley says:

    When I took my Nitrox course, I thought “wow this is a lot of good information” but wondered why there were no dives required to get the C-Card. Once I was through the course I could see why. The basis of the course is to teach the high PO2 and the CNS risks involved with high PPO2. There really is no need for a dive when you do all the critical work with the analyzer and a calculator. The skills needed are awareness and judgment. I take my students out on dives as part of my course but that is only so they can practice the steps and enjoy putting what they learn into use. (e.g. Using the analyzer,filling out the tag, filling in air fill log book etc)
    I just enjoy the dive and teaching the voodoo gas classes. Dives are an option for the students.


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