Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you have a question that is not covered in the FAQs below, please contact me. (FAQs last updated Feb 2018)

Does the Agency Matter for Sidemount or Technical Diving Courses?

There tend to be small differences between the training requirements, or outcomes, of sidemount or technical diving courses at comparable/equivalent levels in different agencies.  These differences are generally quite subtle and don’t provide any long-term advantages or disadvantages in comparison.

I currently provide technical and sidemount diving courses through the RAID and PADI TecRec agencies. In some cases, equivalent level courses do have different prices and slightly different skill requirements.  However, the scope of syllabus, necessary dives and range of skills taught may vary.  

I create skilled divers, not ‘minimum standard’ clones and every certification issued has to be earned by the student.

What most experienced technical divers would state is that the choice of an instructor is far more critical than that of certification agency. It is the instructor who shapes your course – through the culmination of their breadth of experience, mindset, teaching ability and motivation to produce quality results.

In that respect, please take a few minutes to read through my advice on how to select a technical instructor.

Do I need to supply my own equipment for sidemount or technical level courses?

About 80% of students provide their own kit for sidemount and technical diving courses.  Some prefer to invest in their own equipment ahead of a course and complete their training in their own kit. Others prefer to select and purchase equipment once they’ve completed training and know exactly what they want.

It’s not typically a problem to arrange for a supporting dive centre to provide appropriate rental equipment – however, the benefit of conducting training with your own training is considerable.  Many of the skills and practices in the sidemount and technical courses are aimed to develop equipment familiarity and ingrained responses.  Obviously, if you subsequently dive in differently configured equipment, then you will have to ‘re-learn’ or adapt what you have previously been taught.

Recreational sidemount isn’t a big investment in equipment. There are a number of commercial harness/BCD systems available to buy at approximately the same cost as a medium-high end ‘regular’ back-mounted BCD. Other than that, you’ll just need an extra regulator 1st stage and be prepared to fit some different length hoses on.

There is a distinct benefit in having your own sidemount equipment when you attend sidemount training; as the initial set-up, and sometimes modification, of the rig is the key foundation to diving sidemount effectively.  Getting your own rig configured with the help of an expert eye will save you many hours, and less than optimal dives, doing it for yourself afterwards.

I am happy to consult with future students to help them select and configure their own sidemount rigs in preparation for training.  This is part of my service.

In contrast, technical diving is expensive – be under no illusions.  If you are serious enough to make the necessary financial and time commitment to undertake technical level training – then you certainly must be prepared to make a substantial investment in equipment also…either before, or after, your course.

If you are considering the purchase of technical diving gear, please feel welcomed to contact me for tips, advice and guidance.  I don’t sell equipment and I’m not on commission from manufacturers either – so don’t fear a ‘hard sell’ approach or advice that may not be in your best interests. Having good quality technical diving equipment, that is suitable for your personal philosophy and diving preferences is a critical factor in successful training. I strive to teach excellent courses and create happy, safe divers – nothing more, nothing less.

How many students per class?

I never teach more than 3 students per recreational level class.

Group workshops vary in size – depending on the subject and environment.

I believe that class sizes play an important role in the quality and value of a scuba course – they determine how much attention the instructor can spare for each student, the amount of available ‘practice time’ for skills and the level of safety supervision that each individual can receive.

In most instances, agency standards permit much bigger class sizes for instructors. The only benefit in that is more money for the instructor – sometimes that benefit is shared with students, as a cheaper course, but more often it is not. Either way, the quality and value of the course are diminished.

Value for money in training is critical – and a big class simply means that you’ve paid money to be floating around whilst numerous other students demonstrate and repeat their skills. I aim to give all of my students the maximum instructor-student time and attention. That’s a vital component in the process of creating competent and skilful divers.

How do I book training time and what payment do you accept?

Once you decided you want to book training course/s with me, I need a deposit from you in order to confirm your booking and reserve those days. Booking is conducted on a first-confirmed, first-served basis. Only when I have received a deposit can I confirm your calender booking.

The deposit will need to cover 50% of quoted instructor expenses and, 100% of travel expenses and agency materials/manuals (where required).

You can pay a deposit by international bank transfer or Western Union in $USD or PHP.

Balance payment of instructor expenses is required at the beginning of the course, in cash.

Any payments to the supporting dive centres (boat fees, equipment rental, gasses, diving fees etc) are paid on completion of training. Please confirm with me in advance, for suitable payment methods.

Where can training courses be held?

Training courses can be held at any global location that offers suitable dive sites and dive centre support.  I regularly dive in Subic Bay, as this offers a perfect training location for technical and wreck-specific courses.

However, if you prefer to arrange training at a more convenient location, please contact me to discuss the requirements. I simply need to ascertain the suitability of dive sites, quality of supporting dive centre and travel/accommodation availability.

What if I need extra training days/dives?

Extra training days or dives may be needed to complete the course requirements to an acceptable standard.

You pay for the training, but you have to earn the certification.

Unforeseen extensions are not included in the initial course cost quotation.  I charge the same daily rate for instructor expenses and diving fees are paid directly to the supporting dive centre.

I always maintain a ‘buffer’ of several days between booked courses for exactly this reason.  I strongly recommend for students to do the same, and retain 1-2 free days after the scheduled end of training and prior to departure.  If those days are not needed, you might opt to conduct further training dives anyway, to enjoy some post-course fun dives or to simply relax, dry-out and enjoy the sights,  sounds and non-diving attractions of the area.

The course pages for sidemount, technical, wreck and recreational programs provide comprehensive details about the minimum times and dives needed for training courses.


How is the typical training day?

All of my courses are personally tailored to the preferences of the student/s.  That means the pace of training can be altered in respect of intensity, timescale and demands.  Some students prefer to get the training completed as efficiently and quickly as possible, whereas others prefer a more laid-back approach.

A typical course day begins at 8 am with theory and practical application training.  There will be a break for lunch. It is normal to do 2 dives per day (max for tech courses) with further theory training before ending at 5 pm.

Evening lectures or group study may be required to complete theory and planning exercises. The knowledge development in technical level courses is quite ‘heavy’ and requires a substantial time commitment. If you wish to keep your evenings free for leisure time, then please factor an extra day or two into the schedule. You may also wish to obtain the manuals ahead of the course and begin with self-study in advance – I can ship manuals from the Philippines, but this is typically much more costly than procuring them in your own location.

If time is critical, I am more than happy to work/teach theory in the evenings. I can also schedule courses to run on half-days (mornings or afternoons only) for a longer duration – although you will still pay the same daily rate for instructor expenses.

When booking, please let me know any preferences you have.

What is expected of me as a student?

Technical diving courses require a lot of commitment and motivation – from both the instructor and the student.  This is the learning agreement that I have for students:

1)  Students should be on-time, prepared and properly equipped for theory and in-water classes, without performance deterioration from insufficient sleep or hangover.  You will not be permitted to dive if hung-over or excessively tired. Equipment should be ready for use at the designated time. No refund is given for course delays due to poor student timekeeping or the effects of alcohol consumption.

2) The use of illegal drugs, or prescription medication without official prescription, is prohibited during training.  The habitual use of narcotics prior to training may also cause course cancellation on medical grounds.  Substance abuse, violent behavior of any kind, bullying, and any sexually abusive action towards other students or dive staff is not tolerated – and will result in course cancellation without refund.

3) Students should complete designated theory and practical application coursework within agreed timescales. Failure to complete coursework to an acceptable standard and within a scheduled time-frame may lead to the need to extend course duration at the student’s expense.  This includes designated course pre-study, where applicable.

4) A positive and motivated mindset is critical for successful training. Students should demonstrate a willingness to learn and a high degree of focus upon the knowledge, skills and procedures they will be taught. Advanced diving training demands a high degree of attention to detail, precision thinking and superior self-discipline. Student attitude and approach to diving is an assessed criteria for certification on all technical level diving courses.

5) The instructor must be informed, prior to further training, if the student feels unwell or injured. The student may only participate in training if in good health and fitness. A self-declaration of medical fitness is required for all recreational level courses.  A signed doctor’s statement/medical form is required for all technical level courses.  If medical fitness decreases before, or during, training medical authorization may be needed before training (re)commences.

6) Students are responsible for all equipment and training aids loaned to them during the course. They are expected to treat those items with care and respect.  Damages due to negligence or mistreatment will be charged at appropriate local retail value.

7) Safety is everybody’s concern. Students are expected to contribute towards safe diving by following instructor guidance accurately, applying their training to the best of their ability and taking all reasonable steps to ensure accidents are avoided. Students are expected to be open and frank with the instructor about their personal comfort, stress and performance levels during training. Students should allow themselves to be pressurized into doing any task they don’t understand or feel reasonably comfortable with.

8 ) All student-provided equipment must be in full working order, adequately maintained and suitable for the task.  All specified items of diving equipment for a given course must be provided, or rented. The final say on assessing the suitability of equipment remains with the instructor.

9)  Students must provide certification cards and logbooks as verification of prerequisite training and experience at the beginning courses scheduled.  The website details course prerequisites, but if in doubt, please contact me to confirm.  Courses will be cancelled, without refund of deposit, if the student cannot verify the necessary training and experience on enrollment.

10) All courses begin with an assessment of student suitability for training. Students are expected to attend courses with sufficient diving skills to enable progressive training at a higher level than they are currently qualified. These include core skills; such as buoyancy, trim, water comfort, situational awareness and the application of all previously taught procedures and drills. Failure to demonstrate these requirements may require course extensions for remedial development to occur – or may lead to course postponement. Advanced level diving courses require progression of skills and should not be diluted with having to remedy deficits in basic skills.  Weak fundamental skills may also pose safety risks on overhead environment and technical level courses.  

Please contact me if unsure of performance expectations – I can advise on personal preparation methods and/or provide a pre-training clinic to ensure that core skills are satisfactory.

Where are no prices listed on your website – how do I know what you charge?

Some of my courses are personally tailored to meet the needs of each individual student.  Whilst course standards designate a minimum provision of training, a minimum dive count or minimum timescale, I do not believe in limiting training to the minimum standards. I teach each student to a level of mastery and my goal is to always exceed the minimum course standards.

Whilst the majority of students achieve the performance requirements within the ‘standard’ time-frame, I feel it is more effective to run courses without the constraint of ‘time limits’. For this reason, I charge personal expenses on a per-day basis.  This enables courses to be easily extended if the student desires.

I also teach in a variety of locations around Asia… so my expenses differ depending on where the course is run.

Manuals/materials and certification costs vary depending on the agency selected for certification.  In some cases, I do recommend for students, especially those outside of the Philippines, to consider getting their course manuals ahead of time, locally.  This can save money (cost of imported manuals to the Philippines) and save time in training through pre-study/familiarization of materials.

Also, I am an independent, specialist instructor – so all of my courses are run via hosting dive centres.  These centres are selected on the basis of quality and safety – but they may have varying rates for diving, gasses and equipment rental.  Whilst I will provide the organization and planning of courses, the student will pay all diving, equipment and gas fees directly to supporting dive centre.

Equipment rental can be tricky to price, especially at technical diving levels.  Often a student might have the majority of necessary equipment, but need to hire only a few small items… or they may want to hire items simply to practice with different equipment types (reels, torches, sidemount harnesses etc).

Some students prefer for me to arrange their accommodation and travel.  I am happy to do this and pass on any discounts I receive.

Wherever possible, I seek to offer group discounts.

For these reasons, some courses cost are priced via individual quotation.. on a modular basis, like this:

(paid to instructor)

  • Instructor Expenses:  __ days x ___ $’s
  • Instructor Transport (regional/international) – or can be booked directly by student
  • Course Materials
  • Agency Certification Fee
(paid to the supporting dive centre)
  • Training Dives:  ___ dives x ___ $’s
  • Equipment Rental (if reqd) per item
  • Gasses (Helium and Oxygen fills) – for instructor and student
  • Discounts (if applicable)
All of my courses are scheduled with personal attention to the student and the opportunity to consult at every step of the way. My aim is only to provide the best value for money and to save students from the unnecessary ’rounding-up’ of costs.
Think of it as a similar process to how a master craftsman quotes for specific work – rather than buying something ‘off-the-shelf’…