haha, not tryin to put you down, but PADI courses kinda have a bad rep...
not the courses themselves, but the whole structure, the courses are very good, but basically they don't require any experience, just money....
to prove my point, i'm a CMAS certified 3star diver and my dad is the owner of a CMAS diving school, last year we had a PADI instructor join our club, here's some of the mindblowing stuff that occured:
he only had 15dives (while i'm a mere 3-star with almost 300 dives)
on his first dive he jumped in with 4pound of lead short so he had to carry a brick all the way,
his 200bar 15liter was empty within 30minutes (while on a similar dive i could last 1,5-2hours with my 12l...
he used a computer but didn't know shit about decomp tables, he didn't even carry them with him,
he had no double setup (which is required in cold water since your first stage can freeze up, so you must be able to close that valve and still breathe through the backup)
he needed help putting on his fins, he crawled over the bottom, i don't think i saw him use the inflator once,
compasses weren't necessary, his natural orientation was good enough (ended up half a mile from where we entered)
on the parking lot while rigging his gear, he left his bottle unattended, it fell, hit a rock and one of the valves opened, scary shit, but he was lucky, a 200bar tank is basically a bomb if it breaks....
his goggles would fog up like crazy, i doubt he was able to read his instruments
on one occasion i was diving with him on 20m (60ft ?) suddenly i lost him, so i perform the lost buddy procedure (dunno how its called in english) i look around, bang my tank, i ascend several feet, look around again, still no bubbles, so i perform a controlled ascend, i do my safety stop on 3m (10ft?)
i surface and there he is chilling, asking me where i was :D the guy apperently got disoriented underwater and decided to take a look on the surface, ascending without any stops and not finding it necessary to warn his buddy (he was actually the dive leader, imagine he had done the same with a beginner...)
and other crazy stuff, i could go on and on ....
so long story short, padi is great if you wanna learn it quick, but remember that there's no substitute for experience.
In our club we refer to PADI as Pay And Dive Immediately :)
that being said, the other way around has also happened, we had a padi rescue diver in our club who worked for the fire brigade and had over 500 dives, damn impressive guy, he could plan a dive and dive it exactly as planned, 30min dive in murky water, predicting to go this deep, stay that long, see this, this and this, current going that way, entering here, surfacing there, and bam, he did it like he said ...
so i dunno about the US, but if you're seriously into diving as a hobby and not just a pass-time on vacation, look into CMAS or the US equivalent where you're actually "trained" not just educated/certified ...
Belgium represent !
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