• Serena

Specialty training - the instructor low-down

Divetech's Kim Hanlon, briefing her dive students.

If you drop the term “dive specialties” into google you will be faced with thousands of results telling you there are literally hundreds of specialties that can be taught to divers. If you search in a little more detail you may come across dive forums and opinions ranging from “they are all a waste of time and a means to take your money – don’t do them!” to “get them all but you’ll never beat my tally of 50 dive specialty certification cards”. Where do you find information that is valid and useful and what training courses (after Open Water) are actually worth your time and hard-earned cash? Divetech decided to do the searching for you and have put together a list of the specialty courses we actually do think are worth your time and want to tell you why.


Dive instructor Ragime Powery, analyzing a tank of nitrox.

Commonly referred to as the “Red Bull of Diving” because many people feel more energized than when breathing plain old air, there are many health benefits to diving with nitrox that every diver should be aware of (particularly if you’re approaching the age when you can claim your free bus pass). When used properly we can benefit from a reduced risk of DCS, we can also prolong our time at depth without breaking all those rules you definitely remember from your Open Water training.

Divetech opinion – if you only do one training course after your open water certification, make it this one


Deep divers on Cayman's main wall.

You’ve passed your training dives, you have your cert card, you’ve reached the heady depths of 60 feet below the surface, you can’t wait to go deeper and there’s nothing stopping you! But is it safe to do so without an experienced pro taking you through deeper training? And not only because in many parts of the world you simply won’t be allowed to break your personal depth record unless you have a card that says you are trained to do so. Imagine the disappointment – you’ve landed in an exotic part of SE Asia, you’ve read about all the wrecks at 110 feet, and no dive centre will take your booking unless you join the shallow group who won’t even see a glimpse of the much anticipated wrecks. Your Advanced Open Water training gets you an official license to hit 100 feet – take it a step further and complete the Deep Diver Specialty to get your license to 130 feet (you can’t safely go deeper on only one tank). Everyone who takes this training comes away amazed at how much they learned about staying safe in the deep. And who knows what mysteries you may spy down there.

Divetech opinion – you don’t appreciate what you don’t know until you know it. Take this course


A diver over the wreck of the Doc Polson.

This won’t qualify you to dive to the Titanic, it also won’t qualify you to join the US Navy SEAL team and take part in top secret salvage missions, but it will teach you all the basics about safely diving around and inside a wreck. Most importantly you will learn how to stay alive inside – now surely that’s worth your money. Important to add though – choose the location for this training wisely, even a seasoned spin-doctor would struggle to justify doing this training on a teeny tiny fishing boat in 14 feet of water. A dive centre that has easy access to a wreck like the ex-USS Kittiwake would be a good choice we think……

Divetech opinion – an experienced wreck instructor can make this course the highlight of your dive career. You may never lay an exploration line again, but it’s fun to do it at least once; and you’ll definitely be far more aware of your surroundings the next time you find yourself face to face with a grouper in a bathroom 50 feet down.


Sonya, demonstrating her awesome buoyancy skills.

This is a staff favourite for so many reasons that we will just list a few here. Often overlooked in favour of specs that “sound” more interesting – yet if you have not yet mastered your buoyancy this little gem of training may be the most valuable course you could invest in. Ask any dive pro what the most important dive skill is and they will all reply “Buoyancy!”. With just two training dives needed this may not make you the perfect hovering mermaid (or man) immediately but it will stop you being the flailing turtle and is guaranteed to equip you with skills you will use on every single dive in the future. Recommended for new divers as an add-on to their Open Water course, divers who’ve had a break from scuba, any diver that doesn’t quite know how much lead weight they need, or anyone who has new equipment (pick an instructor who dives in a similar rig – we once took 18 lbs of lead off someone in this course and transformed his diving, all because he didn’t understand quite how his new BCD worked).

Divetech opinion – buoyancy skills are like learning to ride a bicycle, once mastered you’ll never forget. But we all had training wheels when we first started out.


One of the most popular courses for more experienced divers who feel like doing something a little bit different – you do need to have proof of 100 dives in order to be eligible to take this training. It comes in many forms depending on the agency – PADI “Self Reliant Diver”, SSI “Independent Diver”, SDI “Solo Diver”, but the training is pretty much the same for all. You don’t need to “want” to dive solo to do this training (and in some places in the world you are required to dive with a buddy at all times) but it still equips you with skills and knowledge you will not even have thought about before. Think about this – you’ve been waiting patiently for 10 years for your beloved first-born to gain their scuba wings, and all of a sudden you are chasing your brand new buddy underwater delighting in their enthusiasm for all things “fish”; when it may occur to you, are they going to notice if you have a “little” problem underwater? You may have a buddy you feel responsible towards, but you would benefit from a little self-reliance just in case they don’t feel the same. Or – your partner prefers the attractions of the golf course or spa to the local dive boat, so you always end up diving with whoever else is “solo” on the boat. You may get lucky and be paired with someone of great experience, or you may end up with “that” guy (we’ve all dived with them at least once, right?).

Divetech opinion – this training will help you become more self-sufficient, skilful, risk aware and – strangely – a much better buddy.


Dive instructors Jess and Scott, demonstrating rescue diver skills and scenarios.

Technically not a specialty – but it’s our favourite course to teach and we want to teach it to you! With an emphasis on preventing accidents before they happen you are introduced to the psychology behind diving, recognizing diver stress, and get a little insight into all the techniques the pros use when we’re in charge of a boatful of overexcited vacation divers. Plus you will learn the serious stuff and know what to do if you’re unlucky enough to be present at a real emergency.

Divetech opinion – find a Rescue Diver who says they regret taking this course. You can’t? Neither can we, so what are you waiting for?

And just for fun –


Joanna on an underwater scooter (DPV) dive.

Delusions of being James Bond? Make it a reality and zoom along the reef propelled by an underwater scooter – probably the closest you’ll ever get to flying through outer space.


Not all divers are created equal, and not all instructors are created equal – we all have our areas of strength, and areas we have less experience in. Choose your instructor wisely and feel free to ask their experience in the areas you would like to train in. For example – a Wreck Instructor who has experience in Cave Diving will bring added information to your course than an instructor who has never furthered their own experience beyond the Wreck training you are paying to do. A Technical Instructor will have many insights they can share with you on the recreational Deep Diver specialty. Take advantage of the knowledge and skills from the best instructor you can find. We love talking about diving and will always be happy to answer your questions.

Remember too that you are paying for training and not for a certification card – paying for the training doesn’t guarantee you will succeed on the first attempt but a good instructor will consider they haven’t done their job until they have guided you through the training to success. A great instructor will take personal pride in your achievements and will go that extra mile to ensure you are the very best you can be.

If you’ve made it this far congrats! You can get more information about the above and a full list of what we can offer by emailing info@divetech.com. I’m now going to go away and train to become a Zombie Apocalypse Diver Instructor.