Scuba Certification Course for Ginnie Springs Staff Members

SeanThis page is devoted to the beginning scuba class I do exclusively for Ginnie Springs staff members. There are no external links to this page, other than the one appearing in the email I sent you. Please don’t share this page with anyone other than Ginnie staff members.

This page answers several important questions, including:

  • Who can enroll?
  • What is involved?
  • When does it take place?
  • Where does it take place?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What do you need to do to get started?

There is a lot of information here. Take the time to read it thoroughly, watch the videos and follow the instructions.

But first…

I thought you might like to know a little bit more about the guy teaching the course.

  • To start, I’ve been doing this a while. This past March marked the 40th anniversary of my first visit to Ginnie Springs. 1976 was also the year I taught my first scuba course.
  • I spent 10 of those 40 years captaining and crewing dive boats, and running retail and resort dive operations in the Caribbean, Hawaii, Florida, the mid-Atlantic and Midwest. All totaled, I’ve captained charters for over 10,000 divers.

These are the boats I operated in Maui.


  • During that time I’ve also certified several hundred divers, including issuing over 1,000 dive instructor certifications at various levels.
  • I’ve also worked at the international headquarters of the three largest diver training organizations (NAUI, PADI and SDI) and have also developed training materials for Scuba Schools International (SSI) and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Of the more than 100,000 students who are certified to dive every year in the USA, it is a rare person who does not do so using learning materials I helped develop.


  • Closer to home, I’ve served as Training Chairman for the National Speleological Society Cave Diving Section (NSS-CDS) and on the board of the National Association for Cave Diving (NACD).
  • My current list of clients includes Dive Rite, dive stores in Louisiana and Ohio, Devil’s Den and Blue Grotto. My largest client is International Training, the parent company for Scuba Diving International (SDI), Technical Diving International (TDI) and Emergency Response Diving International (ERDI). I spend eight days every month at ITI Headquarters in Stuart.

ContactYour are going to want to enter my contact info in your phone. My email is My phone number is (352) 301-1460. I may be old but, yes, I text. (Hell, even my 94-year-old mother texts.) If I have your contact info in my address book, I usually pick up calls or respond to texts or emails right away. If I don’t, it’s only because I’m either on the phone with someone else or (surprise!) under water.

Enough about me. Let’s move on to answering those questions I listed earlier.

Who can enroll?

WhoThe course is open solely to current Ginnie Springs staff members, whose participation is subject to management approval. Because taking part in the course is contingent on students having access to both the Ginnie Springs property and equipment from the rental department, friends and family members who are not current staff members cannot enroll. If you have friends or family members who would like to become certified divers, I can recommend several local stores and instructors.

Be aware that, if at any time during the course, you terminate your employment at Ginnie Springs Outdoors, you will not be able to complete your training.

OkaySpecific prerequisites for the course include:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be able to perform moderate exercise without becoming winded
  • Be able to answer No to all questions on the medical history form or obtain a physician’s approval prior to in-water training (see below)
  • Be comfortable and relaxed in the water (especially with being in water too deep to stand up in and being under water)
  • Be able to swim 200 yards (the length of the Devil’s Spring run, up and back). You can use any combination of strokes and there is no time limit; however, you cannot use a snorkel or fins, or wear any sort of flotation device, including wet suits.
  • Be able to float, drownproof or tread water for at least ten minutes.

What is involved?

WhatThe scuba course involves three distinct steps. These are:

  • Knowledge development
  • Skill development
  • Open water training (skill application)

Knowledge development

Prior to getting in the water, you master all of the academic knowledge which new scuba divers need to have. You do this through eLearning. It takes roughly eight hours to go through all of the eLearning materials, but you can do this when, where and however it is convenient. Here is a video from a typical eLearning lesson:

Skill development

Learning to dive involves mastering roughly 20 fundamentals skills, such as mask clearing, regulator recovery, sharing air and equipment removal and replacement. The general procedure is that we first demonstrate the skills, and then give you ample opportunity to practice it until you are comfortable with it. Most students do this in a swimming pool. Our “pool” is the Ginnie Spring basin and the Devil Spring run.

Here is a typical skill-development session from one of our past classes:

Open water training

After you have mastered all of the necessary skills in a shallow, confined water setting, we apply them over a series of several open-water training dives. The first of these will be in the Santa Fe River, between Devil’s Ear and Ginnie. We will then move on to other sites around the area.

When does it take place?

calendarThe typical entry-level scuba course is over in just two weekends.

  • The first weekend consists of a Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday. During this time, students take part in two pool sessions, lasting two to four hours each. After the first hour or two, they are generally freezing.
  • The second weekend consists of four open-water training dives spread over two days. The dives are typically 20 minutes or less, and seldom more than 30. During most of this time, students typically do little more than sit on the bottom and wait their turn to demonstrate another “skill.”
  • Many such students become certified having spent less than an hour in open water.
  • What is worse, students spend very little of their time in open water actually diving, which is where real learning takes place.

Typical ClassThe bottom line is that the typical scuba student is afforded very little time to develop skills, and even less time to apply them in open water.

  • Not surprisingly, most newly certified divers lack confidence in their abilities and do very little diving following certification. A significant number drop out of diving entirely.

We don’t do it like that.

  • To start, we don’t have the time pressure. There is no dive store owner leaning on me to get the class done in as short an amount of time as possible so that I can move on to the next class. We basically have all summer.
  • Students in past Ginnie classes have typically gotten to make six or more dives and log up to 150 minutes of bottom time prior to certification. That is way more than the norm.
  • We also seldom spend more than an hour in the water during any given class, and we do it while wearing those nice, thick, warm suits from the rental department. The idea is, no one gets cold, because that interferes with learning…and it just plain isn’t fun.

laurenIn terms of scheduling, here is what we need to work around:

  • Obviously, weekends are out. All of you are working and Ginnie itself is just plain too busy. Fortunately, this leaves the quiet period during the middle of the week open.
  • I typically spend every other week at SDI Headquarters in Stuart. However, I generally have all of the weeks in between available to teach. This would have us doing a class every other week, and give you plenty of time to rest, relax and assimilate what you have learned in between. (This is a luxury students in most classes don’t enjoy.)
  • Because not everyone in the class has the same days off, I typically do two separate classes in any given week, covering the same topics and skills in each. This also limits each class to just two or three students, which is even better.

Before we get started, I will get a feel for what days everyone has off. We will then schedule the course accordingly.

Where does it take place?

CompassAs mentioned earlier, we do our initial in-water training at Ginnie. Sites like the Ginnie Spring basin and the Devil Spring run will be our “pool.” However, unlike the typical swimming pool used by most instructors, ours isn’t laced with chlorine and there is a lot more to see and do. Doing our initial skill-development here at Ginnie also helps you avoid developing several bad habits that are all too easy to acquire in a traditional swimming pool.

Following the initial skill-development phase of the course, we will do most of our actual open-water training dives at nearby sites such as Devil’s Den, Blue Grotto, Troy Spring and Manatee Spring. These sites are typical of the kind of places most divers in our area go for fun.

Devil's DenBy the way, one of the coolest dives we’ll make is the one that takes place immediately after you have met all of the requirements for certification, and I’m allowed to take you inside Ginnie cavern. This will give you an idea of what it looks like:

How much does it cost?

CostThe ability to become a certified scuba diver for an absurdly low price is one of the perks of being a Ginnie Springs staff member. This will help put things in perspective.

  • While you sometimes see dive stores advertise beginning scuba courses for as little as $99, the real cost, once you add in the hidden extras such as learning materials, equipment rental, open-water training fees, certification processing and dive site admission is generally closer to $400…and often more.
  • On top of this, you are expected to supply your own mask, snorkel, wetsuit boots, adjustable scuba fins and, possibly, a weight belt and weights. Any of these items worth having are going to set you back a total of around $300-$400…or more.
  • The bottom line is that the average student will spend $350-$800 getting certified.

grateHowever, because you work at Ginnie, you know that right off the bat you are going to save on dive site admission and equipment rental. It gets better, though.

  • For reasons I will explain shortly, I don’t charge for my time when teaching classes.
  • All I need to get from you is enough money to cover the cost of the online learning materials and certification card processing. These list for $140; however, you pay what I pay, which is likely to be less than $60.
  • When do I need the money? Not until just after Memorial Day.

The only other costs associated with the course are generally gas for getting to and from dive sites and state park admission fees (usually $4-$5/car). Commercially operated sites like Devil’s Den and Blue Grotto normally charge $40/diver…but I’ve always managed to get our students in for free as a professional courtesy.

SeanOkay, so why am I being such a nice guy? Well, the short answer is that other people are paying me to teach you. This requires a little explaining.

  • My “real” job is creating training materials and online content (chiefly video) for diver training organizations and equipment manufacturers.
  • To do this job effectively, I need firsthand experience training recreational divers. And this can’t be something I did 20 years ago. It needs to be recent experience using current materials and procedures.


  • Before the year is out, I will have trained and certified divers at levels ranging from beginner through Divemaster. The Ginnie staff class will just be one of these.
  • When pricing my services to clients, I factor in the time, travel and other expenses involved in staying current as an instructor. And then I stick them with the bill.
  • However, because I am so visibly associated with my training agency client (SDI), I can’t be seen as teaching in direct competition with their stores and instructors.

That’s why I offer my teaching time for free to students who might not otherwise be able to afford it. Doing so means I’m not taking customers away from anyone else.

The general consensus is that, when it comes to creating learning materials, I’m pretty damn good. (I’m not too bad as an instructor, either.) But there is no way I could stay that good if I did not teach on a regular basis.

There is one more reason why I do this. I often get some of my best models for training videos from my Ginnie Springs staff classes. Case in point: Kristen and David were students in a Ginnie Springs class I taught two years ago. They were so good that, after having gotten certified on a Wednesday, I was shooting learn-to-dive videos with them on Friday. Here is some of the footage:

What equipment will you need?

gear_iconThe list of equipment you will need to purchase or supply for this course is very extensive and includes:

  • Swim suit
  • Towel

Okay, just kidding. As you’ve already read, students in most scuba courses have to supply a minimum of mask, snorkel, wetsuit boots and adjustable scuba fins. However, because you have free access to Ginnie’s rental department, you don’t have to.

That having been said, if finances allow, it’s best to purchase as much of your own equipment as you can. That way you will not only have equipment that is familiar and fits, it won’t be something that 100 or more strangers have used before you.

The items just listed will be high on the list of potential purchases. I’d also recommend purchasing your own dive computer as soon as possible. Don’t plan on buying anything, however, until we have the opportunity to speak in person.

What do you need to do to get started?

Medical Form

The first thing you need to do is download and look over the medical history form that all students need to complete and sign prior to class. You don’t need to complete the form yet (in fact, I would prefer that you didn’t) — just see whether there are any questions that would require you to answer Yes.

The way this form is designed to work is that, if you can answer No to every question, you don’t need to get a physician’s approval to take the course. If, on the other hand, you need to answer Yes to one or more questions, you need to get a doctor’s approval before you can take part in any in-water activities.

Doctor Of course, some students elect to save themselves a trip to the doctor by just lying on the form. I’ve even known of instructors who tell students to lie on the form (which is stupid beyond all belief, were it to come out in a court of law). Nevertheless, I’ve had situations in which students mistakenly put a Yes on the form because they did not fully understand the question. For example:

  • One of the questions asks whether you get motion sickness. Under the right conditions, everybody gets motion sickness. You answer Yes to this question only if you’ve tried over-the-counter medications, following the directions to take them well in advance of heading out, and still found them ineffective.
  • Another question the medical form asks is whether you take any prescription meds other than birth control pills. The concern here is that some meds can have an adverse effect under pressure. Like most people my age, I take a few prescription meds, some of which could have a very serious effect if taken in conjunction with diving. As a consequence, I just dive drug free. You should answer Yes to this question only if there is no way you can stay off the drugs while diving.
  • The question that trips up most students is the one that asks whether you have difficulty equalizing. A lot of prospective students with perfectly healthy ears nevertheless say, “Well, I tried snorkeling but it hurt when I went down.” So they answer Yes, and consign themselves to a trip to the doctor’s. In reality, their ears are fine; it’s just that no one ever taught them how to equalize pressure on descent.

CavernTo save yourself an expensive, time-consuming and unnecessary trip to the doctor, do not fill out this form unless:

  • You can honestly answer No to every question, or…
  • You think you might need to answer Yes to a question, but we have first discussed it either over the phone or in person.

Download the medical form by clicking on this link. The form will either download to your computer or open in a separate web browser tab. If it opens in a separate tab, right-click (control-click) to save it and then open it in Acrobat.

Contact Info

ContactThe second thing you need to do is get me all of your contact information. Learning to dive involves a lot of paperwork. So, unless you want to spend an hour of your life you will never get back filling out forms, use the form appearing on this page to provide me with your date of birth and basic contact info. I’ll transfer this information to all of the necessary forms and then all you will have to do is sign.

Introductory Experience

The final thing I would like to do before we get started on any formal training is a short, introductory experience in the Ginnie Spring basin, to give you the opportunity to see whether this is something you actually want to do, and give me the opportunity to see whether there is anything you need to work on prior to the start of class.

These take about an hour and we do not go very deep. Here is some video of a prior introductory experience that Reggie did and I filmed, just to give you an idea of what we do.

We’ll set this up after I get everyone’s contact info.

Action item checklist

ActionHere is what you need to do right now:

  • Add my phone number and email to whatever address book your phone uses. It’s (352) 301-1460 and sinulogic@gmail.
  • Download and save the medical history form. Look it over. Let me know if you can either answer No to every question, or you think you might need to answer Yes to one or more questions. (Text or email if it is a No across the board; otherwise, call me.)
  • Complete the contact information form on this page so that I can insert this info into all of the paperwork for the course (and you won’t have to).