DSAT Outlines Coming Revamp of TecRec Program at Pattaya Forum

Posted on 06/28/09 9 Comments
meetingHeeding customer feedback and finally bowing to market pressures, PADI’s DSAT technical diving arm is preparing an overhaul of its TecRec Deep and Trimix courses that will lower the entry barriers to the course and give instructors more flexibility.

Although final course outlines have not been finalized, the Tec Deep course will be broken into three parts, tentatively called “Tec 40,” “Tec 45” and “Tec 50,” signifying the depth in meters students will be certified to dive. The current Tec Trimix course will be similarly broken into two parts, dubbed “Trimix 65” and “Trimix 75.” DSAT hopes to introduce the courses by the end of the year.

Speaking at DSAT’s forum in Pattaya June 21, PADI Instructor Examiner and TecRec Instructor Trainer George Wegmann stressed that the final look of the revamped TecRec program has not been finalized, but that DSAT now had a “strong direction” for 2009. The organization formed the basis for the tiered technical program from feedback at previous DSAT roundtables in Australia and the U.S. While still soliciting input from PADI professionals, the agency is now traveling around the world with its “Essential Change ’09” presentation.

What makes the changes essential, from PADI’s standpoint, is simple economics. Several years after introducing its Tec Deep and Trimix courses, the agency still has only about a 10 percent share of the technical diving market. PADI’s Asia-Pacific region in particular posted very weak tech certification numbers in 2007 and 2008.

PADI executives believe the TecRec program’s tough prerequisites – crafted by the program’s founders amid claims they would put quality ahead of market forces – are to blame. As a result, entry barriers for the Tec 40 course will be adjusted to more closely match those of TDI’s Advanced Nitrox and similar courses from other agencies.

A ‘180-Degree Change’

Wegmann acknowledged that PADI is making a “180-degree change” and doing what it said it wouldn’t. However, he said he believes quality has not been compromised as the final requirements students have to meet before certification will not change. The structure of the Tec Deep course is simply being changed. The course content itself will stay the same.

“The most common feedback we got about the Tec Deep course was that it was too long and that more steps were needed,” Wegmann said, outlining the new three-part structure.

Tec 40 will likely carry the same prerequisites as the current Tec Deep Part 1, but will allow students to use recreational dive gear with a single-cylinder, dual-value setup. The course will use one mix with up to 50% oxygen. More significantly, however, students who pass the two-day, four-dive course will be allowed up to 10 minutes decompression at a maximum depth of 40 meters.

That did not sit well with some at the Pattaya forum who pointed out the current Tec Deep program’s first four dives are limited to 10 meters. Changing that to allow students to go to 40 meters and do decompression after just four dives is too radical, they said.

Tec 45 will require a full tech rig, remove the decompression time limits and allow accelerated decompression. Like the Tec 40 course, side mounts will also be allowed. This course will also have just four water sessions.

Tec 50 will complete the course with the final six dives and likely will be little changed from the current Tec Deep curriculum. Separate certifications for each stage are not required with the student is going to through Tec 50.

Trimix 65 is planned to be the equivalent of a normoxic trimix course.

DSAT is currently drafting instructor outlines but has no plan to produce any new student materials until after the first revision to the initial instructor outlines.

Caves and Rebreathers

Outside of the Tec Deep and Trimix courses, DSAT and PADI are also studying how to launch its own cave-diving and closed-circuit rebreather courses. Of the two, cave may come first, as PADI already offers a Cavern Diver course and because the agency has made a “wish list” for a CCR unit that is not only unavailable currently but, some at the forum said, may never be marketable.

DSAT Intructor-Trainer George Wegmann (left) with Aquanauts' Managing Director and Course Director Roger M. Smith and TecRec Instructor Dan Beldon at the "Essential Change '09" presentation in Pattaya June 21.

DSAT Intructor-Trainer George Wegmann (left) with Aquanauts' Managing Director and Course Director Roger M. Smith and TecRec Instructor Dan Beldon at the "Essential Change '09" presentation in Pattaya June 21.

Wegmann said PADI’s list calls for a nearly idiot-proof unit that even automatically turns on oxygen when a diver hits the water. Also on the list is a single-action switch to bailout, a preflight check and carbon dioxide sensor.

CCR divers at the Pattaya seminar expressed doubts such a unit ever will be affordably produced and that PADI’s lofty requirements may keep it out of the market for too long. Such criticism can also apply to cave diving.

Wegmann admitted that advanced technical courses have had a tough time getting approved due to deep internal divisions inside PADI. Many inside the agency believe it should stick to recreational diving and that tech is too dangerous and exposes the organization to too much liability. The formation of a new Technical Diving Division, which will put tech advisors in every PADI region to support dive centers, should alleviate some of that, he said.

The new TDD will also process applications for newly allowed Technical Distinctive Specialties. DSAT already has seen dozens of applications come in, but, for now, is not approving any dealing with cave or CCR courses, again fueling speculation DSAT will come out with its own versions.

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