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Don’t be bamboozled by slippery marketing tactics when choosing a scuba diving shop

Posted on April 14th, 2010 by James Pennock (NAUI #10929)

As a dive shop owner here in Orlando one of the most difficult challenges we have is advertising the price of our Basic Scuba Certification class.  You think it would be easy; tally up the costs of doing business, tack on some profit, and throw it up on the website.  Unfortunately what makes it difficult is the fact there are still scuba shops that insist on using misleading marketing tactics.  These tactics are constantly misleading future divers on what the true cost of a Basic Scuba Certification class should be. 

These scuba dive shops advertise prices well below $200 for their basic scuba lessons, or offer “buy one get one free deals”.  What they don’t tell you until you arrive at the shop and they have your credit card in hand is that you will need to “provide your own” (a.k.a. buy from them) scuba mask, snorkel, fins, booties, and a wetsuit (which is optional if you don’t mind hypothermia).  This scuba apparel, if you buy the cheap stuff, is probably going to cost you another $275.  If you want something descent you will be paying at least $475 and up. 

Yes, these items mentioned are important to being a scuba diver and are considered “personal items” in the list of equipment needed for this sport.  The sales tactic used quite often is to make you feel that if you rented those personal type items they could most likely contain the bubonic plague.  Of course, any dive shop worth going to will have a program in place to disinfect all rentals, catching the plague should never be a concern that pushes you into buying scuba gear prematurely. 

A good dive shop will provide in the cost of the scuba course ALL rental gear; both skin gear (i.e. masks, snorkel, etc…) and scuba gear (i.e. buoyancy jackets (BCD), regulator, tanks, etc…) and give you the option to buy when YOU are ready.  I’d like to add one last note on this subject.  It is important during the basic scuba course to be able to try on several different types of scuba masks.  Another sales tactic to be weary of is that the way to test if a scuba mask fits is to place the mask on your face, and without using the head strap, breath in through your nose and the mask should create a natural seal around your face, not allowing any air to seep into the mask and staying on your face without the use of the strap. 

This technique unfortunately is only effective about 50% of the time.  The problem you run into is that every face has different contours, depths, and peaks to its surface, and our faces are constantly changing depending on our facial expressions.   When you actually start diving you will find that sometimes just by smiling you may allow some water to leak into the mask.  So now you are stuck with a mask that only works if you always have a serious look on your face.  I can tell you that won’t work because when diving there are so many things to see underwater that will make you want to smile!  The only sure fire way to test if a mask works for you or not is to actually have the opportunity to dive with it.

So once you’ve been surprise attacked by the cost of gear, the blitzkrieg may not be over yet.  You will find that you now have to purchase a “scuba student packet” that can cost anywhere from $45 to $120.  Is it over yet?  Unfortunately the surprises may still be coming.  You will find that in order to finish your scuba certification a minimum of two days of open water diving is required.  Chances are if you paid less than $250 for a class these dives are not included.  You can expect to pay anywhere from $75 and up per day of diving.  What we see here in Central Florida a lot is the cost of the dive is included but what they don’t tell you is that you are going to a “Florida Lake”.  Florida lakes, especially those in South Central Florida are on average 35-50′ deep with approximately 25’ visibility if you are the first divers in the water, if not, cut that number in half because all the activity from the other divers would have stirred the bottom of the lake up. 

Most lakes are free to instructors or at most may cost them $10 for parking.  At our dive shop we do not use Florida Lakes as part of your basic checkout dive but prefer you use them for specialty course like underwater navigation or “low visibility” diving.  We are not saying that Florida Lakes are a bad place to dive; it’s just that you get what you pay for.  Oh, and for those of you from up North or the mid-West, I realize lakes and quarries is all you have.  The point I am arguing is that these local shops have awesome dive resources available to them right in their backyards but are just being cheap, cheating new divers out of a great first time experience.

Final note, be cautious of the independent scuba instructor (an instructor not directly working for a shop), as their prices might be extremely low because they don’t have the same overhead (such as costs of maintaining the life support equipment YOU will be using, active insurance, etc…).  When all is said and done, what started as a $200 class cost can easily turn into $700 or more class cost. 

At  we are one of a handful of Orlando dive shops that have set the price at a rock solid $349.95 which is truly ALL inclusive.  We’ve not only included all the scuba equipment, dive trips, and educational materials, we even give free transportation to the dive sites which can also save you $30 a day on gas and tolls.  At the end of your last dive, to celebrate your graduation as certified basic scuba divers we even provide a complimentary BBQ. 

If you want to learn more about what questions you should be asking dive shops when shopping for scuba training or equipment you can visit the FAQ section of our corporate website at

Advanced Scuba Diver Certification

Posted on March 17th, 2010 by James Pennock (NAUI #10929)

I hear it all the time, “I’m not about achieving ranks, I just want to scuba dive and have fun”.  Well, I do agree with the statement, “Have fun”.  However, the Advanced Scuba Diver certification program is NOT about getting another patch on your jacket.  The program “is a continuing education certification course for divers to expand their knowledge and experience in more diverse and challenging environments than what was experienced in the Basic Scuba class.” 

When you finished your Basic Scuba class you should have only gone a maximum of 60 feet in depth.  Though there are many great diving destinations that can be enjoyed in the 60 feet depth range or less, there are far more that go between 80 and 100 feet.  Are you ready to go that deep unsupervised by an instructor?  At those depths do you know if you are more or less susceptible to Nitrogen Narcosis than the average person?

All your dives on the Eastern Coast of Florida are drift dives, dives where you can experience exceptionally strong currents immediately upon entering the water.  Do you know how to safely dive with these currents and use them to your advantage?

With our Advanced Scuba Diver certification, over the course of several months we take you to 4 types of environments that divers can expect to experience in Florida;

  1. Florida Spring
  2. Gulf of Mexico
  3. Lake
  4. Atlantic 

Not only do you enjoy the white glove service of an ADI scuba trip to each of these diverse dive destinations, but each trip offers a unique learning experience for you.  You will experience under the supervision of an instructor, how to safely conduct a dive to 100’. You will learn true underwater navigation techniques in a fun course setup specifically for this skill.  You will also get to see the difference in aquatic life between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as survey the exterior of some of Florida’s most exciting ship wrecks.

I would like to mention one more statement I hear quite often, “I plan on doing these dives on my own, why can’t I get credit for them”.  Unfortunately, I would like to think the answer is self-evident.  In an adventure sport like Scuba diving there are always inherent risks, especially when diving new environments as each environment offers its own unique considerations.  The reason you experience these new environments with an instructor is to ensure you safely and efficiently mitigate those risks.

Adventure awaits you here in Orlando with the American Dive Institute’s Advanced Scuba Diver certification program.  If you would like more information on this program please click on the following link ….

Oh, and finally, did I mention the Advanced Diver patch actually is pretty cool!

Should I own scuba gear?

Posted on February 17th, 2010 by James Pennock (NAUI #10929)

Before you invest in the entire scuba setup you may want to wait until you finish your scuba class. After class, if you know scuba diving is going to be for you we suggest either buying all your gear as a Scuba Gear Package, as this way you will most likely get the best deal, or piecemeal is fine too.  If you are going the piecemeal route the first thing you should have in your collection, if you don’t already are Mask, Fins, Snorkel, and Booties. Next would definitely be a good wetsuit.  What we do suggest even before your scuba equipment is a dive computer.  Today’s dive computers do amazing things and can really help keep you out of trouble.  After the computer we recommend your BC and Regulator.  Very last is your scuba tank.  We would only suggest buying a scuba tank if you are doing 20 dives or more a year.  Do you absolutely need to buy scuba gear after your class, the answer is No.  It can all be rented.  The advantage however to buying your own gear is that you will have equipment that you have chosen based on proper fit and comfort and after several dives you will know your equipment like the back of your hand.  Every time you rent, you never know if it’s going to be a good fit and you may be unfamiliar with the setup.  Here at American Dive Institute we ofer several Customer Loyalty Rewards Programs that can provide you with fantastic discounts on some of the industries best dive equipment.  If you have any questions on our rewards program don’t hesitate to contact us!

We love our fans at American Dive Institute!

Posted on February 1st, 2010 by admin

American Dive Institute has launched their new fan page on facebook. Please become a fan to support great scuba in Orlando, Florida at

How do I choose the right Orlando Dive Shop?

Posted on January 25th, 2010 by James Pennock (NAUI #10929)

When choosing someone offering scuba certification here in Orlando (or anywhere for that matter) we have put together a series of questions you will want to ask to help you in your decision making process…

Q.  How long have you been teaching scuba?
A.  Important but not as important as when was the last time they taught a scuba class.  Even though a scuba instructor might only have 6 months experience, it does not mean they don’t know what they are doing.  The key is to find out how long it’s been since they’ve taught. 

We’ve known instructors who have taken 5 or 6 years off from teaching and are so rusty they should have gone through the entire scuba instructor course again.  The concern is because unfortunately many scuba certifying agencies will reinstate your instructor status just by paying the membership dues.  So when someone says they have 20 years of experience, make sure it wasn’t 10 years ago that they last taught. 

Here at ADI we ensure our scuba instructors are up to date and must go through our own in-house instructor approval program regardless of what certifying agency they came from.

Q.   Are you current with your certifying agency and have active insurance?
A.  Ask the instructor to physically show you their documents showing they are an active member of their certifying agency and ask to see their insurance papers.  Instructors have to renew their membership with their certifying agencies every year and have to carry active insurance.  This is especially important if your instructor is an independent and not affiliated with a larger dive shop.

Q.  What is your student to instructor ratio?
A.   Most agencies on average can allow up to 8 students per instructor.  With an assistant the numbers of students go up even more.  If you have 12 students in your class you should have at least one instructor and one assistant or else be prepared to spend most of your time standing around waiting.

Q.  What is included in the price of my scuba certification class?
A.   The correct answer should be EVERYTHING you need to get certified.  Be wary of scuba certification class prices that seem too good to be true, because they usually are! 

The cost of a scuba certification course will vary from state to state, country to country because of factors such as dive site availability, special equipment needed for the various environments (i.e. cold water diving versus warm water diving), etc… 

Here in the Orlando area, you should be paying $300 to $400 for a Basic Scuba Certification group class, ALL INCLUSIVE (the $100 price variance is dependent on the dive sites you choose to checkout at). 

What you need to look out for are the dive shops or dive instructors who only post the cost of the instruction and do not include the costs of scuba equipment, academic materials, and checkout dives.  We see time and time again where a dive shop offers scuba lessons below $200 or offers a buy one get one free and on your first day of class you are pressured into buying $200+ in skin diving gear, $60-$100 in books, and charged another $100-$200 for the checkout dives.

Canon G11 Quick Review for Underwater Photography

Posted on January 6th, 2010 by A DeShazer

I have been in the scuba industry for the past 15 years and have found myself fascinated by underwater photography.  Lately, I have been in pursuit of an compact underwater camera with the features of an SLR. I have tried many brands, sizes and price ranges and found the best to date, is the Canon G11 with the Fisheye FIX G11 Housing, Fisheye FIX 15mm Wide Port and Sea & Sea YS-110alpha Strobe.  Photography as a hobby shares the desires of advanced photographers while looking for a professional compact system. My personal opinion, the image quality of the Canon G11 is superior to any other compact camera in its class.

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” – Ansel Adams

Canon G11 Price: $499.95 (Fisheye FIX G11 Housing Price: $1,099)


Effective: 10.4MP, Recorded: 10.0MP
1/1.7inch CCD
File Formats
RAW, JPEG, QuickTime
6.1-30.5mm f/2.8-4.5 (35mm film equivalent: 28-140mm)
Optical: 5x, Digital: 5x
Focus Range
Normal: 1.6 feet (50cm) – infinity
Macro: 0.4 inch (1cm) – 1.6′ (50cm)
ISO 80-3200
Shutter Speeds
1/4000 – 15 sec
Exposure Modes
Auto, Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, Scene
White Balance
Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Underwater, Custom 1, Custom 2
Built-in Flash
Memory Card Type
Video Resolution
640 x 480 @ 30fps, 320 x 240 @ 30fps
Video Clip Length
Up to 1 hour of 4GB
Viewfinder Coverage
2.8″ LCD
4.41 x 3.00 x 1.90 inch (112.1 x 76.2 x 48.3mm)
12.5 oz (355g) body only

10 Reasons to Choose American Dive Institute!

Posted on December 2nd, 2009 by admin

…And the Top 10 Reasons to Choose American Dive Institute is?

  1. Award winning instructors with over 20 years of experience.
  2. Quality Education!
  3. White Glove Service – Yes, we care about detail.
  4. Fun Classes – Watch our videos!
  5. Safety – We are the best and will prove it.
  6. No hidden fees – Gear purchase not required just offered.
  7. High-end Scuba Rentals (Atomic, Zeagle and Pinnacle).
  8. Exciting dive trips every month (ex. Key Largo, West Palm, Gulf of Mexico, Florida Springs, Disney DiveQuest).
  9. Professional, patient instructors here to serve you!
  10. Transportation offered for trips and classes.