Thoughts about the introductory diving programs and their dangers.
Last summer in Croatia I saw some people who were really newcomers of the underwater world. As their instructor prepared them for the very first intro dive I saw their excitement. Maybe some of them will be certified divers someday and will enjoy diving as I do.
Or not? Just after they finished I had a chat with one of those brave ladies who tried diving in the Adriatic. It wasn't her first intro experience and we discussed the differences. Equipment, dive group, length of the dive- maybe there aren't two identical discovery diving course in the world. I remember when my girlfriend attended an intro in Greece while I was diving. The boat was full of people, mainly beginners, they had the simpliest briefing what I've ever heard: "Don't touch anything, keep breathing normally, if any problem occurs somebody will get you out of the water!" Five "divers" went into the water in the same time, and divemaster trainees pushed them to the 2-3 meters depth. Everything was chaotic. The dive center knew the program wouldn't make too much people starting a course or even try another dive so they asked a lot money for the first intro dive and only a small extra for a second- majority of the guests didn't give another try after the first frightening diving experience.
A few months later we traveled to Tenerife. I organized my dive again, and my girlfriend wanted to make an intro. We finished the dive and then the instructor assembled her equipment, did a briefing, then went to dive. One qualified instructor with one beginner, slowly, calmly and their dive lasted for 50 minutes. It was the experience which helped my girlfriend to decide she really wanted to enroll an open water diver course. And when I talked to that girl in Croatia, we found out the intro experiences are so different. And the worst thing: an inexperienced guest simply don't know if her or his first dive is safe or a crazy and dangerous adventure. I asked this lady: did you see the certification card of your instructor? "No, but he was definitely qualified." I said I could only hope so. I was on a dive boat in Egypt where advanced divers with 25-30 logged dives made intros. If everything goes smoothly, their experience is enough. If something occurs they lack the knowledge to avoid the worst case scenario. But there are dive centers in the world who sell their programs but don't provide the proper crew or equipment.
I don't know the solution. It would be funny if a totally beginner would try to teach the correct way of introductory diving. But somehow we should try to take care of our friends or family members who want to do their first ever underwater breaths. So help them with advices, bring them to reliable dive centers and if we can, keep an eye on their first dive. If we choose well they can be divers in the future. But only those people will be our enthusiastic dive buddies who don't afraid of submerging after a terrible intro dive.