I thought to myself that it might be fun to see what info you can find on the net about technical diving agencies. As South African techies we are accustomed to having limited (if any) choice when it comes to a technical agencies with only two of the ‘international’ agencies having made it to our shores, TDI and IANTD. This is not the situation over the pond where there are a number of agencies to choose from, some with as impressive (if not more so) pedigrees as our established brands.
The question is, how many do you know about ? The agencies are listed by age, oldest first.
- ANDI (1988) (American Nitrox Divers International www.andihq.com). Started in 1988 by Rutkowski and Ed Betts. Interestingly ANDI and IANTD share a founding father (and agency) namely Dick Rutkowski and IAND (International Association of Nitrox Divers, which was began in 1985). Rutkowski sold IAND to Tom Mount (who was an ANDI Instructor Trainer) in order to commit fulltime to ANDI. As an agency, ANDI's courses cover nitrox (or safe air as they term it), trimix and rebreathers (but not cave diving). Another interesting feature of ANDI is that they refuse to provide paper cross over’s of instructors (their site is definitely worth a read). Gerhard is off to the States in a week or so to get his instructor rating on the new Hammer CCR with Joe Radomski (the technical head of ANDI) so I will hopefully be able to report back a bit more on other side of technical diving across the pond.
- IANTD (1992) (www.iantd.com) or in its longer version, the International Association of Nitrox and Technical divers. Evolving from Dick Rutkowski and IAND, IANTD these days is synonomous with Tom Mount who bought it out in 1992 and created the IANTD we know today. Their courses cover the full range of technical i.e, trimix, caves and rebreathers. The international site provides a look up of instructors and so allows you to find the instructor nearest to you (it is the only site I found that allowed you to do that).
- TDI (1993) (www.tdisdi.com). Technical Diving International was founded in 1993 by Bret Gilliam and Mitch Skaggs and is one of the largest technical agencies out there (and I believe the first to arrive in South Africa). The TDI course structure offers a suite of building blocks supplemented by good manuals (I particularly enjoyed the rebreather manual). Their courses cover the full range of technical i.e, trimix, caves and rebreathers.
- NAUI (1997). Well known as a sport agency NAUI have had a technical division since 1997. Founded by Timothy O’Leary the NAUI technical board is sprinkled with names like Bruce Wienke and Bill Hamilton. There program covers all aspects of technical diving (and yes, it is available in South Africa – soon you to be on www.tekdiver.co.za). Personal experience with NAUI technical here in South Africa indicates that it promises good things, such as no paper cross over’s for instructors (visible and proactive maintainance of standards is something I am passionate about...which means I am furiously practicing long forgotten underwater snorkel skills for my impending cross over), high quality manuals and good customer service. Their courses cover the full range of technical i.e, trimix, caves and rebreathers.
- ITDA (1997) (www.itdahq.com). Otherwise known as the International Technical Diving Association. I have to admit that I only found out about this agency by doing a web search. It is British based agency established by the late by Rob Palmer in 1997 and appears to be very popular in the UK and Europe.
- GUE (1998) (www.gue.com). Established formally in 1998, Global Underwater Divers have become iconic in technical diving in part due to the reputation their founders established with their branded methodology, DIR (Doing it Right). These days Jarod Jablonski promotes DIR training and some hectic exploration (their favourite site is WKPP which has some impressive dives). Unfortunately there are no certified GUE instructors here in South Africa (at least not that I am aware of) although there are some intrepid divers who have done a course or two on their own bat.
In addition there are two notable cave diving only agencies (once again based in the States).
- NSS-CDS (www.nsscds.com)which is the cave diving section of the National Speleological Society
- NACD (www.safecavediving.com). Otherwise known as the national association for cave diving. This is an interesting site (and organisation). Did you know that they have an award system available to their divers (the Wakulla Award) based on the number of successful and safe hours (or logged dives) in a cave ?